Thursday, 1 May 2014

NOT A FULL STOP BUT A COMMA !

13 April 2014.Take off  of Qatar Airways mid night flight QR516 to Kochi was smooth as ever. Geetha sitting beside me looked relaxed, who has set her sleepy eyes through the window to see the brightly lit Doha skyscrapers fading away from her eye shots.   I know that her mind is not fully relaxed . Neither mine. We had our own reasons .....

Many changes come to our life as it rolls down. Some are thrust on us while some are chosen. Can we get disturbed minds even on chosen paths in spite  alternatives are available? We do at times. Breaking away of a long, continuous and active association of 30 years with a firm and a country where you spent your prime period in life is not that easy. It was not thrust on me when I opted to live in a foreign country three decades back and it is my choice to have a change now. Geetha who was Foreign Press Reviewer at the Ministry of Culture all these years loved her job and colleagues but resigned on her own. Yet....

Bye to thirty years in Doha where I could lead a team of a company to professional heights thanks to many factors- some expected but mostly unexpected .Thirty years during which I could interact with hundreds of professionals and others hailing from varied cultures, countries, faiths....a treasure I consider bestowed to me. Thirty years in a country where the climate, mannerisms and ethical were so different to India. Thirty years which changed my outlook towards the corporate world and life - approach from a Govt service engineer to what I am today - thanks to rigorous exposure to different faculties of corporate business.... Thirty years during which I enjoyed living and working in Qatar and traveling around the globe...Thirty years during which I have grown from a young man to a bit old...

We are going to remain residents of Qatar keeping the NRI status for future, still it will be a change for us for the days to come, hopefully better for us. I shall continue to be a Director of Al Balagh and subsidiaries, the firm where I have been all these years but  on an advisory role ... definitely  not on a 'live wire' basis. It is a time to shift the mode of the gear of life to go a bit slower....We are back to a better , socially enriched , colourful life. Not a full stop of active life but a comma!

In this blog I thought of publishing the valedictory speech made on the day officially the colleagues bid bye. Sorry if it is boring but still thought better it is published......Read



                                                              Sheraton Hotel,Doha

Respected Chairman, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and family members,

I know that today no one will tell badly about me. But your appreciative words went beyond to the extent I had a doubt whether you are talking about me or someone else. Thank you for your kind words. Allow me to do some introspection now.

After my engineering degree, when I got a position of Assistant Engineer in Kerala Public Works Authority at my age of 24 which is a gazette rank, I thought it was the end of choosing a path for my future career. In a country where a Govt. job was covetable and respectable, while I had an opportunity to rise to the position of Chief Engineer of the state, I did not want to leave it under any circumstances.

As few years passed, although I used to enjoy my bachelor days with a dept. jeep in my custody and an own Chek motor cycle named Jawa, I was finding difficult to fall within the framework of the Govt. service. Corruption was rampant and I found myself an odd man out in the service. Since I was brought up by my parents and grandparents to be honest with a strong conviction that way, it was difficult for me to change. I got married and my wife too came from a similar background and without long we had two children. In order to cope up with the situation, to make money required to make a good house of our own but remaining honest in a govt. service, I decided to avail 5 years leave from service and look for a lucrative job in any of the Gulf States. It was intended that once I have that money I will return to India for sure where a respectable career and colourful life is assured. It may be of interest to you now to know that except me hardly few among thousands of engineers of Kerala Public Works authority did leave the 'comforts and luxury' of the Kerala Govt. service and went abroad looking for a career or if at all they all have returned to the dept. sooner or later.

While looking for an right opening I noticed an advertisement in a newspaper: “A reputed construction company in Doha is looking for a civil engineer”. I applied for the position, was interviewed by my predecessor Mr. TK Thomas who was good to tell me that I am selected for the position soon after the interview. I did not know much about Doha and Qatar. I still remember the day I spent in Kochi public library with an encyclopedia to know more about the country and Arabs. Thus looking for a short but lucrative career, I came to Qatar in 1984.

Within a week or so I had to face three bare unpleasant truths which were not expected. First, the firm where I joined is not reputed as advertised, it was small one with hardly 31 employees. The main office was functioning in a small space about 30 sq. meters. Second, Qatar itself was a small country in area with a small economy compared to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Oman. Third, the price of crude oil was the lowest ever- less than USD 10 per barrel and those days everything depends here on oil price especially the development works.

My first impulse was to return to India, cancel my leave and join back to department. Giving myself a time of one month for that, I started working in a small project of Al Balagh with Qatar Petroleum at Dukhan. Soon I realized one fact. The standards of engineering practice in Doha were much superior to what was then in India. Products especially used in finishes also the best in the world. I have found out that even if I look for a professional career in gulf elsewhere later, thorough knowledge of these products and British standards and codes are essential. I decided myself to continue for a year for this reason. Learning the new codes and working in the project in all eagerness continued.

Although I considered myself a good engineer, since my back ground then was from the client side working for Govt. soon I realized that I do not have any knowledge on engineering management or construction management or business management. I was professionally ambitious and I was convinced that such knowledge is essential for future growth. That was the time in India no Open University or distant education scheme was available or in Doha forget about a business school; even a good book stall was not available. I could find a solution for this joining the Library of British Council which I and my family, who joined me in 1986, used extremely well for years to follow, in spite I was racing against time always.

Al Balagh contracting continued to make progress working with Qatar Petroleum, Ministry of Defense and Public Works Department especially when we did two schools. In 1993, that’s over 21 years back, quite unexpectedly the owners decided to appoint me as GM, when Mr. Thomas opted to end his career with Al Balagh. The employee strength then was 91 with one division which was contracting division with a C grade.

The core Al Balagh support team at that time was very small-D Souza, Manohar, Santhosh in the main office while Suresh and Baby in operations. There were two or three more in office and projects that used to come and go but never remained long with us for obvious reasons   . During my first year in the new seat, we tried to continue the existing policy but failed badly in the financials. In the second and third year we tried to take more jobs on contracts at lesser margins like many other companies those days, trying to bring down the costs of overheads but result was even worse. Work, work and  work, that’s what the core team used to do but unfortunately no tangible results, came our way. That’s when I decided not to quote any more cheaply under any circumstances like others. We failed initially to get many jobs because we were not ready to take up at the prevailing market prices, a situation which was very difficult for me to explain to others.

Without long we could identify the soil where we can grow. Certain clients started to appreciate our jobs. Slowly but steadily we started to grow further. Staff and workers joined us more and more but thankfully all followed the existing core team spirit. We invested regularly in resources like camps, workshops and plants and machinery. From a C Grade Company we rose to B grade in 1995. And then ultimately A grade, the highest in Qatar, was awarded to Al Balagh in 2001. We never looked back thereafter. From our first diversified division which we started in 1996, we could rise to the development wave which hit Qatar’s economy in early years of this century thanks to the wisdom of HH the father Emir Sh. Hamad .More and more divisions and joint ventures were formed and well established. Clients started appreciating our products and services openly. Many prestigious projects were given to us without tenders but on negotiations by the most elite clientele of the country. Last ten years our growth is astonishing culminating to what we are now.

Awards and appreciations came many times to us but the biggest was, as you all know, came last year- the best national company awarded by none other than Qatar Olympic Committee. That’s the time I decided myself that my role in the current position is over here. It was difficult for me to make such a decision, in the same way it was difficult for me 30 years back to decide to come here.
Yes, it was a very long journey. A journey full of challenges, hardships, uncertainties and bottlenecks. Thank God we have reached ashore safely.

When I look back the reasons for our success, it leads to four mainly:-
·      *  Quality workmanship of our workers and technicians.
·     *  Sincere hard work of the team Al Balagh without looking on watches for years which reflected down to all the employees. Many have left while many are here.
·        *Supportive and accessible owners and
·       * Honest and intelligent Qatari client representatives whom we dealt with.
In this context I thank each one of you in this hall for your contributions - big or small- without which it would not have been possible to reach where we are now.

Al Balagh will continue to grow exponentially in geometric progression in years to come, I am sure, climbing the band wagon of aggressive development plans our most respected Emir His Highness Sh. Tamim Bin Hamad Althani has envisaged for Qatar for the future. Let Al Balagh continue to remain as one of the best national companies, if not the best. Let more and more divisions and joint ventures flourish under the umbrella of Al Balagh keeping our company motto – professionalism and quality – always high. My heart will continue to wish for this wherever I am.


                                                     Mr.Sherida and me

I am not going to say bye to Mr. Sherida now since it is impossible for a younger brother to do so to an elder one any time in life. But here I wish to thank him in open for what he has done to me and what I admire in him.
 *First his 100% trust in me.  Many times I was estimating, negotiating and signing on documents here on behalf of the company which ran to millions and billions of riyals of financial implications to the extent at times he is in London or Paris!
*Second, I admire his honesty which is always crystal clear. Without looking at the consequences he always stood honest, come what may. Perhaps this could be one of the facts behind the successful chemistry which worked out well between us all these years.
*Third, he is very considerate for the poor and the needy. Not just limited during the Ramadan days but throughout. To cite an example, once we were staying at Taj Mahal hotel, Mumbai on a business trip in two adjacent rooms. In the evening before he said he is going for a walk, he knocked on my door. He was carrying a plastic bag with something in it. He asked for the complementary fruit bowl which contains assorted fruits in the room which was mostly untouched by me and put those fruits also into the bag and started walking out of the room. I asked what he is up to with those fruits. He said he will give these fruits to the poor sitting beside the road! He was doing this exercise everyday without fail while in Mumbai! I understood later that he and Madam were doing this act all over the world while on travel where the needy for food were there! Being an Indian I never thought that I have to learn lessons on charity from an Arab until I met Mr. Sherida.
*Fourth is his urge for knowledge. He is a voracious reader. He is a true follower of Islam in this matter which says ‘If knowledge has to be acquired going to China, one has to do that’ meaning one has to be in pursuit of knowledge whatever be the difficulties .Always for years I have seen him ordering books on varied topics from overseas. I do not have any doubt that he will be one of the best customers of Amazon.com in Qatar.
*Fifth is his habit in keeping excellent relations with his friends and relatives. He has hundreds of friends overseas mostly British and Americans. On every first of December every year when he finalizes the list of friends with the secretary, to whom he has to send Christmas cards reminds me that Christmas is around the corner. I have witnessed him doing this for the last 25 years since he came back from his Ambassadorship in UK. He has few Indian friends who were his colleagues in QP probably 50 years back but still in active contacts.

Probably I am afraid that I have to stop these narrations here since we are running short of time. Having said all these I have to go tangentially off the subject to specifically mention a person who silently backed me and supported me all these years. Rain or sunshine, heat, dust storm or chilling cold of life, this person was with me all along. But for the undiluted, selfless backing of this person, simply it would not have been possible to achieve what I could all these years. Some of you know this quiet and silent person. That’s my wife, Geetha who herself has been employed with Ministry of Culture as a foreign Press Reviewer for the last 28 years.

May I ask her to come to dais and join me with your permission…..
Thank you….



We wish good health, happiness, peaceful life to Mr. Sherida and Madam. We wish all his children, grand children and family members all the best. We thank all of them for the excellent and very warm relationships we have between us all these years. We consider these relationships as a gift given to us by God which we shall always cherish.

We wish all the Qatari and other guests here and their families continued good health and happiness in life.

We wish the team Al Balagh – past and present- and family members all the best in life. We thank you all for the wonderful support and contributions you all have rendered in making Al Balagh what is now.

I am leaving my position in Al Balagh without any tears in my eyes or lump in the throat because I have done my best for it under the given circumstances and vice verse. I will continue to be a part of Al Balagh as long as I am wanted. If the management thinks my exposure here over the years will continue to benefit Al Balagh in future ventures or projects in one way or other, I am available for my contribution as an advisor.

Now we begin another - could be the last - oblivious phase of our life, probably which will lead us into the sunset of our life. But we look forward for a good life but would happily settle for what is destined for us. It is a good feel that we are leaving Qatar knowing that a brighter dawn is awaiting Al Balagh and Qatar.

God bless Al Balagh. God bless State of Qatar.
Thank you all for everything.  Shukran Jazilan !     



 



 

4 comments:

  1. Jaison, Good luck and best wishes with your semi retaired life. It gives you more time to do the things you always wanted to do. I beleve in using a comma, where ever we can, rather than a full stop. welcome to the club. Hope to see you in August when we visit Kerala. Regards, Valsan.

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  2. worth to go through
    Ajeesh Jose

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  3. Vivek wrote: "Sad that i could not meet you before you left as i was away. you are an inspiration to many to young generations.thanks a ton for your advises when ever me met. love and regards to geetha chechi as well. take care!!"

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  4. Shaji wrote: "Indian. May I know Please,who discovered the name Al Balagh Group. My guess an Indian. Hope you enjoying......."

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