Whenever I faced difficult choices I always remember my brother Parvinder. He quoted Alexander of Macedonia, "I do not make right decisions. I make decisions, and then make them right"
That he conquered most of the world known to the Greeks by killing a million people is a great human tragedy, but as a military campaign it was a fantastic success.
The hall mark of successful people is that they may not always be efficient, but they are always very effective.
I am a great admirer of both my Uncle Manohar Singh ji and my father Man Singh ji for amongst their many strengths they were also highly entrepreneurial and innovative. Born in a remote village in Burma they studied only till the fourth grade before their education was rudely interrupted by the Japanese invasion of Burma.
Self taught, they were not very efficient but boy! they were highly effective. They emulated the approach taken by other successful people blending it with their own ideas. Their credo was , 'If someone else can do it so can we.'
Returning back to India from Burma in 1964 as refugees the brothers transformed themselves from traders into successful industrialists. The keen eye and gut feeling of the trader when married to the systematic and scientific approach of the industrialist propelled them towards great success.
We four brothers who inherited the business were groomed by our elders and actually were quite similar to them. Yet so different in the implementation of that wisdom. I being an engineer always proceeded logically and worked with data. This led to efficient approaches but not effective for seizing opportunities in the marketplace. I often lost the birds in the bushes as also the one in our hand because of my approach.
In 1990 Eaton Transmissions of America was going through a rough phase in the UK. Eaton was continuously losing money and lots of it. They needed to bring their costs down. Labour cutbacks, and automation etc had helped a bit and for a while but insufficiently to stem the flow of red ink.
They needed to reduce the cost of their procurement which represented 45% of their cost. They needed new and cost effective suppliers. Fate brought Veraf Khambatta into our lives and he put us and Eaton together.
There followed a spate of visits from both sides and the discussion went on and on for nearly 18 months.
Eaton loved our facilities and our capabilities but were scared of working with India. We were enthralled by the mouth watering opportunity of the size of business but were disheartened by the very low and unprofitable prices offered by Eaton.
Eaton had bench-marked procurement prices to what they were purchasing from Huta Stalola Wola of Poland. Poland at that time was in serious trouble. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent shift from communism to a new and uncharted era had idled factories and entire towns /cities. The Polish factories were so desperate to stay afloat accepted the work at ridiculous prices. A windfall opportunity for Eaton but a headache for us.
Eventually a new and dynamic buyer at Eaton called John Anderton took the initiative and stuck his neck out. He improved the value of the offer made to us and simultaneously took responsibility for delivering attractive results to his management at Eaton attractive results. However the revised prices were still unattractive.
I was handling negotiations on behalf of our organization and refused to sign the deal. I almost threw in the towel, when Varinder my elder brother who is a brilliant marketeer counseled me. He asked me to accept the prices but for a smaller size order. We took the business at the prices offered, and yet delivered world class quality and delivery performance. Eaton was simply bowled over and we soon became their preferred supplier.
The tough prices forced us to adopt path breaking programs to reduce costs and boost performance, which was a boon to us in the long run.
Subsequently the Poles realizing the error in their earlier approach reviewed their prices, adjusting them upwards which also benefited us. Both of the above factors converted a seemingly unattractive business proposition into a highly profitable and mutually beneficial partnership.
Several years later as we beamed with joy and happiness at achieving good profits on an annual sale of 5 Million Pounds. I recalled the wise words of Varinder, "You can't win the match if you are not even playing the game."