Trip to Mullaiyanagiri

From the company, we had organized a one day trip to Mullaiyanagiri for employees on Sunday, 8th June. 25 out of our 38 employees have been able to make it for the trip. 10 ladies and 15 gentlemen, their age ranging from 20 years to 55 years. Here, I like to summarize the facts and share my opinion on the trip.

After a hectic season ending this summer, we wanted to have a break from routine and have a relaxing session. The group otherwise formally organized with hierarchy, powers and responsibility, will now be informally organized with personal friendships and similar interests.

Usually in business operations it is me who takes final decisions or takes tough calls, where the buck finally stops. But for this trip, I had delegated the responsibility of organizing the trip to my younger colleagues and future leaders Nanda Kishore, Vinod and Shiva Kumar. They are trekking freaks themselves too. I only briefed them about the time duration – 1 day i. e. Sunday without affecting our regular work on Saturday and Monday, people – our employees only and not their families, place – scenic place nearby and budget – 800 per head. They went ahead, selected the place, went there one month in advance to understand the place, booked the bus, arranged for lodging and food, arranged to pickup and drop employees from far away places.

Though a few of us visit other places almost every weekend, for a few it was a once in lifetime, once in a blue moon kind of opportunity. One colleague remarked, for the first time since my college 10 years back, I am freaking out like this. For me, it was otherwise, I didn’t go out till I completed college as I was not allowed. The company management is very happy for providing them that opportunity and their gratitude in return.
Many of us know each other professionally but we don’t know each other personally. Those who are working in our branches at Mangalore and Sullia may not know those working at our factory at Puttur. This was a great chance to know each other and personally. I am surprised at how each of them have different personalities at work and outside work. Some of them who meekly obey orders from superiors at work, now participate freely.

We started from our factory at Puttur on Saturday night 10 p.m. picked up people along the way. Travelled through Charmadi ghats to reach Chikmagalur at 3 a.m. We checked into a lodge only to get fresh and complete our morning activities. They charged 100 per head for the same. Got ready by 6 a.m. Travelled to the base of mullayanagiri hill while enjoying hills, valleys, sunrise and panoramic view of chikmagalur city. Had breakfast at small canteen at base and started trekking to the mullayanagiri peak 4 kilometres away. Everybody enthusiastically marched along, playing many pranks along the way.

We saw many tourists like us that day since it was a Sunday. Being the highest point in Karnataka, it should certainly attract many visitors. We could see lush green mountains, green either with grass or trees. I observe that ghats that are on the western side of malnad have more trees and ghats on the easter side of malnad have more grass.

Mullayanagiri peak has a small temple on top. It also has a couple of caves where one go a decent length inside the hole of hardly 1 metro diameter. Such a cave experience was first time for me, for a claustrophobic, it can be quite an experience. Once can reach the top through well laid out steps, instead we climbed form the back side of the hill to reach the top to enjoy a full 360 degree view of other landscapes visible from top.

We started descending down at 10 a.m. Reached the base at 11 a.m. We had ordered for lunch at the same place where we had breakfast. Since we had to go to Bababudanagiri next and had nothing to do here, we had an early lunch at 12 p.m.

Mobile tower on top of Bababudganagiri is clearly visible and just a 2 hour trek from Mullayanagiri but along road one has to travel 20 kms. Road is still under construction, so we had to park our bus well before Duttapeeta and go by public Jeep. He also took us to another place 4 kms away with a small lake and view point. Finished that part of site seeing by 3 p.m. and it was time to come back.

Weather was excellent for site seeing. It was bright and sunny, there were no clouds so far off places were visible. There was no rain, so cameras could be taken out without fear. Rainy season is yet to arrive formally, so all the streams and rivers were with no water. At that altitude, humidity was low, so unlike in Puttur/Mangalore where we would sweat profusely without doing anything, there we were not sweating at all. it made it that much easy that we were trekking easily even under mid-day sun. But when we were heading back after Mudigere along Charmadi ghat rains had come and it stopped us from enjoying the breathtaking views of the ghats. While going up the ghats we couldn’t see because it was night, while coming back it was rains. Can’t complain about it when we chose to travel in rainy season.

Dinner was ordered at Suprabha’s uncle’s place at Somanthadka off Ujire. Thanks to their family for arranging it. After dinner at 8 p.m. we reached Puttur at 9.30. People were dropped to their respective places by 10.30. A satisfying and pleasurable trip comes to an end. Bad thing being, People had to come back to work on Monday as usual after this.

Thanks to the organizers who made the trip such a jolly ride without hiccups. I would like to highlight their responsibility and sacrifices. After such a tiring journey, they dropped people to heir home with their personal vehicles. They gave away the best opportunities to us while they took away what was left. On a 22 seater bus, they sat near the driver, didn’t sleep for a moment in their entire night journey. They freshened themselves up at the bus-stand while rest of us did it at lodge to save time for us. They came first and went back last. Not many appreciate them for the good things they have done, but any shortcomings are immediately observed and mentioned. It is not easy to hold 25 people together throughout the journey and make everybody happy, but they did it. This will give them a good experience of how to lead in their organizational duties in times to come.

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What is the Salary?

Cocoguru has now grown to a 25 member organization, with immediate plans to increase the size to 35. When it started operations a year ago, it was about selecting whoever was willing to work with us, without regard to their skills and attitude. We were lucky to get a few good people, and few of them were groomed to be disciplined and develop a sense of ownership towards their roles. Now, with the base set, we will select more people selectively. In this post, I discuss about my experiences/frustrations with those selections and expectations from candidates. It is a mighty challenge to get good people to work for a startup especially in a rural area.

In the job advertisements, we would mention the company name, address, working location, vacancy position, qualification, contact details, few times salary range also. Candidates will do well to observe the details carefully before applying. Rather what we see is that they apply blindly and then back out during later stages of selection process due to the very facts already disclosed to them. Good candidates visit the website, find out the company’s product offerings, perform background checks with references, sometimes with existing employees, visualise themselves working here for a long term.

The classic opening question
The job market has tilted so decisively towards sellers i.e. employees that they start calling the shots. This is how a conversation begins
Candidate – “Is this Cocoguru?” (Many times they don’t even bother to pronounce the name)
Me – “Yes, Sir”
Candidate – “You have advertised for a vacancy, right?”
Me – “Yeah, Right”
Candidate – In either a disinterested tone or rude tone, he then asks “What is the salary?”!!!
Me – Unhappy that the discussion is entirely off-direction, I ask “How much do you expect?”
There goes the conversion meaninglessly, each one trying to defend his ego and finally ending the conversation in a bitter manner. The classic opening question leads to an immediate conclusion.

In my theory, money is not everything as it is made out to be. It is merely a currency of “value”. Businesses should make good profits to reflect the value they create to its customers. Employees should take home good salaries for doing a valueable work for the company. Focus should be on creating value and money will follow.

In the above example we have seen how bad the conversation went. Instead it could be much more fruitful, if it went in the following lines
Candidate – “Hello, my name is Vaibhav, I saw your advertisement in today’s Suddi Bidugade, and I am interested in applying for the position of Sales Executive”.
Me – “Okay. Good. Tell us more about yourselves.”
Candidate – “I am from Sentyar, a B.Com graduate, having 6 years of experiece in Line Sales, last 4 years with Dash Marketing Agency selling ITC cigarretes in and around Puttur, Sullia and Subramanya.”
Me – “Why do you want to leave your present job, when it is so easy to sell cigarretes where demand is more than supply that too for a brand like ITC?”
Candidate – “I am liking my job as it is giving me opportunities to meet new people and I have developed good relations with a few retailers. I am only looking for better prospects.”
It would be blunder to say something like “Cigerrate is injurious to health, but Coconut Oil is good for health.” Because we know, you are looking to change for your own benefit and not for our benefit or that of people’s health at large. It will only prove that you are lier.
Me – “How do you plan to increase our sales?”
Candidate – “Sir, what is your present distribution setup? What places do you cover?”
Here, the candidate has not only given a overview of himself, but also has shown keen interest to know more about the company and the job he is going to do.

Brain Drain
Dakshina Kannada is a district that has so many bright talents and great educational institutions. So many top ranks in SSLC, PUC, CET etc go to them. Result percentage is also highest perennially in Dakshina Kannada. But they migrate to cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Gulf and America. For all the talent they have, they are happy to work for someone outside. They don’t take risk to build a dream company at home or work for someone who wants to build such a company here (read Cocoguru ☺). It is right if suitable opportunities are not available here, but to squander them when available is bad. Only salaries are compared between 2 opportunities in Bangalore and here. Luxury of being at home with family, lesser travel to work place, staying away from hustle bustle busy city life and much lower cost of living are not considered in the decision making equation.

Influence from a well known person may help get a job in government sector, where performance and results don’t matter. Some candidates who are otherwise not worthy of the job, try to have influence in their selection. Will that influential person be responsible for what the candidate delivers in the job? No, rather he threatens us with negative consequences when he is not selected.

Fixed Salary, Routine Job
Since we have only seen the candidate once and at most had an interview. It will be difficult to determine his worth for the company. So, we place him on probation for a lesser salary, with the intention of increasing it to generous levels once he proves him selves and is made permanent. Even once he is permanent, there will be periodic Appraisals to review his performance and salaries will be increased inline with his performance. Sadly, the candidates don’t think long term, they only compare the salary during probation and assume it to be his lifelong income. Similarly, he has fixed his skill set to what he has acquired till now, without any aim of acquiring new skills on the job. He comes to office with the intention of performing routine jobs where Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are defined. Anything beyond the routine takes him completely off-guard.

Office Work vs Field Work
The number of enquiries for office work like Accounting far exceeds that of field work like Sales. Logically, hard work gets paid lot more than easy work. A sales man when he exceeds his targets gets more money in the form of commission. An accountant can at best get his annual bonus on superior performance. When we opened our factory last year for operations, about 50 ladies from nearby areas walked in looking for easy packing kind of jobs under a factory roof. They were willing to work for as low as 80 Rupees per day. The same people are not willing to work in a nearby farm for 250 Rupees a day. Not only about the nature of work but it is also a question of their prestige. They perceive Factory job to be a lot more prestigious than agricultural or household work.