“A matter of belief”- 15 April 2014

When Suresh Kumar first talked aloud about starting a small industrial unit of his own, his friends encouraged him, but advised him to be stringent in giving wages to the workers. “Don’t be unnecessarily generous. Workers deserve to be put under strict vigil and they should not be paid too much. In that case, they get lazy and do not work as per your requirement.

Somehow, Suresh Kumar did not appreciate the way the unsolicited advice was offered. Secondly, what he did not like was the attitude of his friends towards workers. As he made up his mind to launch his own small unit for fabrication of steel structures as per orders, he decided to run the show with dignity. He did not have much money to start with. He did have a small plot in the industrial area, on which he launched his unit in a small shed. He chose his workers carefully, promised them decent remuneration on a monthly basis, and then started marketing efforts.
In a few months, there was enough work for the small unit that started running in two shifts as against one in the initial weeks. In less than two years, Suresh Kumar got known as a successful entrepreneur, which aroused jealousies as well among other entrepreneurs.
In Suresh Kumar’s unit, the atmosphere was often cheerful. There were reasons for that. One, Suresh Kumar gave his employees really good salaries and facilities. And, he kept his own behaviour cheerful all the time, no matter the pressures of being a new entrepreneur. He did not allow his tensions to be visible to his employees. In both the shifts, during the lunch break, he also spent time with employees, talking to them about their families and their concerns etc. Whenever an employee was in financial difficulty, Suresh Kumar was there to help. Then, sometime later, he also launched a fund from which to extend help to the needy workers or their families.
When Suresh Kumar got married, every employee got a gift from Suresh’s father, and everybody felt that he was an integral part of the employer’s family.
For others, all this was something never heard of. For, in most other units, the atmosphere used to be always tension-filled, and industrial relations strained.
Then came a point of test. Trade unions called a strike for enhanced wages. The workers in Suresh Kumar’s unit did not want to go on strike. For, their wages were good and the treatment they got was superb. When Suresh Kumar knew of the problem, he suggested to his employees something that surprised all. He said, the workers need not join the strike but could work with black badges on — to express solidarity with workers’ cause.
When the trade union leaders knew of that, they held a gate meeting outside Suresh Kumar’s unit, and felicitated him for his open-mindedness.
The point that emerges from this story is simple: If the entrepreneur treats his employees well and honours them by giving appropriate wages with dignity, his unit never fails to return the loyalty. For, loyalty is not a one-way process — from employee to employer. On the contrary, it operates both ways — from employee to employer, and from employer to employee. By his straightforward approach, Suresh Kumar proved it very well.
However, the issue is not just about giving good wages; it is about believing that the workforce deserves good wages. This is where a critical difference is made.


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