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ULAGANATH MADAN

Ulaganath Madan was born in Madras on 1st January, 1937. His father was at that
time Technical Adviser to the South Indian Cocoanut Crushers’ Association and later
retired as the Secretary of that body.
Ulaganath spent his early years at the Madras Christian Mission School and was an
outstanding student up to the time he left for Delhi in the 8 th Standard. A temporary
setback in scholastic brilliance ensured. His father sent him to a Public School in the
U P Terrai Region for his last two years, Ulaganath stood 2 nd in India for the Senior
Cambridge Examination conducted in Dec. 1953.

He stood first in Bombay University in 1956 and was awarded the degree B.A.
(Hons.) in Economics. He represented his College, Wilson College in football and
played for the University Cricket XI. He was also Secretary of the College Debate
Society.

Being the only child of his parents he was dependant on his father’s advice in a
choice of career. Madan (Sr.) was very keen that his son joins a reputed foreign
company and instructed his son to apply to several of them. Ulaganath would have
preferred to continue his studies. His flair in debating, his consummate skill behind
the rostrum led him to believe that he would succeed very well in the legal
profession.

Deferring to his father’s wishes, he decided to follow up his applications to the


various companies and left for Calcutta, where he could stay with his maternal uncle.
Shortly after arriving in Calcutta in July 1958, his attempts proved successful. He
was offered a Management Trainee position by a leading conglomerate whose
activities varied between the manufacture of and sale of heavy engineering
equipment and the management of tea estates, auction house and export of tea.
This company also imported and sold to Indian customers a range of machine tools.
He was asked to join the area which specialized in the import and sale of machine
tools. Within a week Ulaganath was frustrated. He did not have the competence to
understand the intricacies of machines.

Case material of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad


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“Get your head down and get cracking. We do not want moaners around”.
Ulaganath spoke to his uncle that night. The uncle promised to see whether he
could find another company more suited to Ulaganath’s talents.

Some days later Ulaganath was told by his uncle, “I met old Charles Brickworth at
the Club last night and told him that I had a very promising nephew who was looking
for a break in a sales career. Go and see Charles. He is the Sales Manager of
Imperial Glory Engineering Works Ltd. He’ll do something for you.
Ulaganath met Charles a week later. Charles liked him very much. He told him “If
left to me I’d give you the job straightaway. But we have the bloody Head Office to
reckon with. I’ll send your bio-data to Simpson. He’ll collect some 10 to 15
youngsters like you and ask you some nonsense, then four or five chaps will ask you
all sorts of baloney for half an hour and then give you a bloody letter of
appointment, I could jolly well give you now”.
Ulaganath went through the process of selection and emerged as one of the two
lads recruited as Management Trainees. Ulaganath was asked to report to the
Calcutta Sales Office of the Company and to Simpson. His terms of appointment
were that he would be a Management Trainee for 3 years at the end of which on
successful completion he would be absorbed as a Junior Covenanted Manager. The
first year he would receive a salary of Rs 300/- and Rs 375/- in the second year and
Rs 480/- for the third year. These salaries were one of the highest offered by any
Company for Management Trainees. On being covenanted Ulaganath would receive
a monthly salary of Rs 625/- and a car would be provided for his official and private
use. Progress in the company depended purely on merit.
Imperial Glory manufactured and sold a wide range of consumer and industrial semi-
durables and were in the process of diversifying into the manufacture and sales of
toilet preparations. Shortly after Manager of the new division called up Ulaganath
who was on an induction tour of the factory and asked him to see him. Ulaganath,
I’m the new General Sales Manager of the Toilet preparations division. You come
along with me. I have cleared it with the bloody Head Office. No need to go around
these bloody factories and more. Let’s get down to some hard selling”.
Ulaganath spent the next 3 years organizing dealer networks in Calcutta city and
made remarkable strides in the introduction and sale of shaving requirements. Solely
responsible for the sales of the product range, he had made a successful dent into
the entrenched market of the more established manufacturers. His sale of safety
razors, shaving cream, shaving soaps
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had crossed Rs 5 lakhs per annum and was 10% of the Calcutta market. He had
earned the reputation of being an ace salesman.
Charles in recommending him for his covenant reported that Ulaganath was “the
best salesman the company has”. The aura of “Ace Salesman” had been acquired by
Ulaganath and was recognized by all concerned in the company.

James Cockburn, the new Personnel Manager spoke to Charles in June 1962.
“Charles, we are wasting Ulaganath in your set up. Jim is screaming in Madras. He’s
got nobody worthwhile selling our electric fans and motors in the South. The
business is going to the dogs. I think Ulaganath’s the chap for the job.” Charles
agreed to release him provided he could promise Ulaganath that at the end of six
months he would be made Assistant Sales Manager for the Madras Sales Area.
“Sure, Charles, the boy’s a winner. Might make some of the senior boys worried, but
we must encourage talent. Go ahead and tell him that subject to satisfactory
performance he’s on the way to Middle Management in a year’s time.

Fortune smiled on Ulaganath. The only competitor packed up business and went into
liquidation. He exploited the old contacts he had in Madras and South India. His
father moved in with him and helped him in meeting the senior management of
companies that bought the range of products. Ulaganath knew all the dependable
stockists throughout the area and before long had put the division on a sound
footing. Profits on sales had quadrupled.

He was shown the report on performance that preceded his appointment as


Assistant Sales Manager in April, 1963 :
“Extremely knowledgeable and very capable of directing his division’s
activities clearly and intelligently. Highly dependable and self confident and
proved beyond doubt that he has capacity to take on greater management
responsibilities. Despite the problems and difficulties experienced this year,
he performed very well and closely and effectively coordinated the work of
his division and factory and improved, on sales target set for him. An
outstanding performance”.

Ulaganath is intelligent, resourceful, honest and has tremendous drive ………


…………….
has established himself with major customers. Very mature ……….. distinctly
above average performance”.
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His report for 1966 mentioned :
“Ulaganath has established himself as a leader ….. He brooks no delay in
himself and therefore in others …….. A jolly good chap to work with. His
juniors are slowly realizing that a rough exterior hides a good heart. He has
won the respect and confidence of all customers, with adequate assistance,
to show as a competent Sales Manager”.

1966 saw a rapid Indianisation and most Englishmen returned to the parent
company. There was a reorganization of the business, some parts of the company
were sold off to Indian interests. Product divisionalisation was discarded and the
company’s activities divided into 6 zones. Zonal offices were set up. The Zonal Sales
Office would sell all the Company’s products. Manufacturing activities within the
zones were brought out of the commands of the product managers in H.O..
Ulaganath was promoted and transferred to Delhi as the Sales Manager. He reported
to the General Sales Manager who in turn reported to the Chief Executive.

Ansuman Balesar was appointed Production Manager, North. He had been the
factory engineer of the Calcutta Factory as a young man in his late twenties. He was
born and brought up in London and had qualified from the prestigious Imperial
College. He had a cultured accent, fine manners and a way with the Europeans.
Most of his colleagues, Ulaganath in particular, resented him on the ground that he
was a favourite with the erstwhile British Managers.

There were several problems which cropped up between Ulaganath and Balesar.
Their usual conversations which ended up in near fisticuffs followed the pattern:
U : What do you think you are? Why are you not producing 16” fans
required by
the Public sector customers? You are merrily manufacturing 48” fans
that are having dull sales. Are you just producing what you like or are
you an instrument that I use to cater to the markets and market
demand?”
B : “Come on, you have only to book orders. I’ve to make them
economically,
ensure that my cost center is functioning efficiently. And your
customers do
not pay on time. Do you know the heavy financing charges we’ve got
to bear - some of our customers pay about 6 months after delivery. I
am planning my output according to what my Commercial Manager
tells me is most economical.”
U : “Don’t try to confuse me with all your commercial numbo-jumbo. You
do what
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the market wants. Business will not wait for all the sophisticated
production planning you do. Why are you not stocking the bought out
blades in sufficient quantities?”
B : Since our suppliers are very prompt we can afford to wait to get
components as
and when we require them. I say, why don’t you go to that course the
Staff
College is organizing. You’ll understand how business is run better, if
you do
something on those lines. Have a chat with the Head of Personnel
Division.

In 1966, Ulaganath was sent to a Management Development Programme run by one


of the Institutes of Management. The Head of Personnel was told by Ulaganath that
the course was excellent and he had gained a lot. Y.K. Sharma, a nephew of the
Head Personnel Division had also attended the course. Meeting his uncle three
months after the course, he said, Your chap Ulaganath had been at the course with
me. He’s a jolly and good fellow. Must have a very high entertainment allowance.
He feted us all and how? He had a group with him everyday at the bar from 8.00
P.M. till the bar closed. He made a lot of friends. One of the chaps who attended the
course with us saw him in Delhi and Ulaganath has sold Rs 20 Lakhs worth of goods
to him.Damn good, salesman, Ulaganath”.

Ulaganath’s next report read:


“His job is to increase sales, keep customers happy, fight competition and
ensure a satisfactory growth rate – he did this admirably during the year …
….. All like him because he is intrinsically good at heart and it is because of
his anxiety to get things moving and done, there are these occasional
outbursts – similar to where commander in the battle-field would do to his
troops behind with the enemy in front”.

In 1970, the Company faced with interminable squabbles from manufacturing and
sales units, decided that there was need for a reorganization. Ulaganath was
appointed Sales & Commercial Manager at Bombay. He would report to the Resident
Director, West. The factory had a Factory Manager, also reporting to the Resident
Director. The position of General Sales Manager and General Production Manager
were abolished.
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Sales of all company products grew rapidly. The Resident Director complained to the
Chief Executive : “Ulaganath is a very good salesman, but I have to spend half the
day sorting out problems between him and the Factory Manager. He has no
commercial insight, as a matter of fact, some of his inventory is piling up, decisions
and pricing are suspect. Though turnover is increasing the return on capital
employed is diminishing. I wonder whether we should revert to having a Commercial
Department reporting to the Factory Manager?”
The Resident Director writing Ulaganath’s report for 1972 said “As a Sales
Manager he has performed above average but his contribution to the
Commercial Area has been below the average I’d have expected from him.
His organizing and planning skills leave much to be desired. He delegates
responsibility, but is very demanding and pushes his subordinates whenever
required.”

In 1973, Balesar who was the Factory Manager, Calcutta, was appointed Resident
Director, Bombay. Ulaganath was most upset. He rang up the Chief Executive and
asked for a meeting with him. He flew to Calcutta and told the Chief Executive : “I
find it difficult to understand how you can appoint that whipper scapper Balesar as
my Boss. I’m older, have longer years of service. My contribution is fantastic. I’ve
increased sales at a rate of 25% per year at least wherever I’ve worked. Balesar
interferes with my commercial function. He is only interested in increasing profits,
has no feel for what the customer wants. He’ll ruin the market and spoil the
relations I have built over the years. Please transfer me to Calcutta, I do not want to
carry his can when the market collapses”.

Ulaganath was transferred to Calcutta in early 1974. The Resident Director,


Calcutta, reporting on his performance, said:
“Has made significant contribution in the selling side of his responsibilities.
His personal integrity and loyalty ti the Company is beyond question ….. He is
more a hands on than planner and thinker. I have had to intervene on
several occasions to derive any meaningful results from our Business Plan.
He is not capable of coordinating the sales function and factory production
planning. I do not see him growing any further”.

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Ulaganath seeing this report on him asked to see the Chief Executive. “How can I
continue in the Company? He moaned. “I’m neglected. Everybody criticizes me.
See the amount of sales I’m getting. The chaps who work for me have so much
respect for me. They know I stand for no shirking. Everybody works very hard. We
keep the factory on their toes. That the Factory
Manager and his boys don’t like. Why is everybody so critical of me when I’m giving
them all the sales they need to keep us humming?.”
The Chief Executive told Ulaganath : “When you came to see me last year you were
upset with my having appointed Balesar to the Board. Baleswar is not making the
sales strides you have, but his return on capital employed is increasing more rapidly
and is now the highest in the company. If you had continued at Bombay you’d have
shared the glory”.
Ulaganath went into a tantrum, “So even you are questioning my commercial
judgement? Baleswar was lucky. He cashed in on the inflation. Do you think I do not
know what is sound commercial judgement? One of my instructors at the course I
went to said, that there was no one he’d seen with such deep insight into
commercial and environmental matters. The trouble is that none of you pay
sufficient attention to the customer. He is supreme. He is your God. He can give you
the profits you want. Why don’t you recognize that. And is there anyone in the
company who can deal with them like I do? They eat out of my hand. Understand
that”. He blazed out of the office.

Three weeks later the Chief Executive received a letter from Ulaganath:

“Dear Sir :

After a fortnight’s scald and heart searching I’ve come to the sad
conclusion that
I can no longer serve you in the manner you wish me to. I have
decided to accept a job of Marketing Director of a small
pharmaceutical company in Bangalore. Please accept my resignation
effective 15th August. I leave with a very heavy heart. I grew with this
Company and participated in its growth. I learn’t my trade here.

Yours sincerely
Sd/-
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The Chief Executive looked at the letter and rang up the Head of Personnel Division.
“Shree Ulagan has put in his papers. Can I have your recommendation on what to
do? Okay, I will wait for a week. You are right, have some work with the Resident
Directors”.
The Head of Personnel Division gave the following recommendation:

Head of Personnel Division 12th July, 1974


To : Chief Executive
Ref: Ulagan’s Resignation
I have gone through Ulagan’s record with us and discussed it with the Resident
Directors under whom he worked over the last few years. From these I conclude that
Ulagan shows a progressive deterioration in effectiveness as the years go by.
Throughout he has remained an excellent salesman, abrasive in his internal
relationships, a hard and difficult task master who was impatient with his
subordinates.

The expertise he has gained over the years is very valuable to the Company. My
own assessment is that he will leave unless we can assure him that he will be the
next Resident Director. From all accounts he is not competent to make it. His
attitudes are such that any suggestion that he attend a T – Group laboratory will be
misunderstood by him.

Recommend that his resignation is accepted.

Sd/-