After the delivery of the eServ-SmartPay integration Project and about 5 months of support, things were relatively calm with Reliance. This gave me more time to work on other products and pay more attention to the other customers. Out of the blue, one day, my peace was broken by a call from my boss. He handed me list of issues that Reliance had with Siemens systems. I analysed the list and found that most of the items could have been a possibility. However, we could not have accepted the claim without adequate proof. And the rest of the issues were with the GABS, the Post-Paid Billing system. GABS issues definitely needed a new change order, as they were all additional requirements.
This call was followed up by a call for discussion with Neelima. Neelima was the Corporate Productivity and Quality Manager and she happened to visit Kolkata on that day. I met Neelima at Soma’s workstation. Soma was the Productivity and Quality Manager for the Kolkata unit. Neelima asked me many questions about the process followed for Reliance and I answered her to the best of my abilities. It was always very difficult to make out what was going on the mind of Neelima and you could hardly make out anything from her expressions. Anyway, she told me that everything seemed okay and I took her statement at face value.
While all this was in motion, I had failed to notice that there was another entity that was in our office premises that day. Around lunchtime, I was introduced to Mr Arup Sengupta, the Account Manager for Reliance. Arup da was also the Head of Marketing Unit for Telecom Division of Siemens in India. Arup da told me to finish lunch quickly as I had to join him for a meeting at Reliance. I quickly finished lunch at our canteen and was ready. After lunch, I joined Arup da to travel to the Reliance Office. For the first time, I entered the huge conference room at Reliance that day. Till that day, I did not know that Reliance Office had a conference room. We were sitting in the conference room for some time. Then, one by one Reliance Team started to come into the conference room. There were only 2 people (Nirmal da (who was the Executive Vice President for Reliance IT) and Mr Raju Saha (who was the Deputy General Manager in Reliance IT)) from among 7 people who entered the room that I knew. From among the remaining people, I recorded the names of 2 people – Mr Bhaskar Guha (Head of Reliance Telecom Limited) and Mr Swaminathan (Finance Controller for Reliance Telecom Limited). We all shook hands and sat down. The scene seemed very cordial when all of a sudden Mr Raju Saha took off with the list of issues that I had gone through in the morning. Every time Mr Saha stated a problem, Arup da asked me to respond. I started by asking what was the impact and trying to probe what was the real concern. However, I soon found that I was not being answered. Instead, Arup da replied to them stating that “Partha would take care of it. Give him some time.” Very soon, the conversation turned focus to one person in the room and that person was I. I was soon listening to remarks like Partha was the worst Project Manager Siemens had appointed and he did not know anything and was only good at sending status reports.
I was very surprised at the ensuing conversation. Arup da would pat me on the back from time to time and tell Reliance that Partha will learn, as he was still new. However, my mind was soon filled with a severe doubt. I was soon not sure whether it was 7 versus 2 or 8 versus 1. Arup da seemed a part of Reliance and he joined them in making me look like a complete idiot. I could do nothing and just kept my patience and tolerated the situation. After about 1 hour, the ordeal was over. We shook hands and left the conference room and returned to our office. I was totally shaken from inside.
After returning to office, I smoked a number of cigarettes in the staircase and tried to understand what had just happened. I could not understand anything. Arup da came to my workstation and shook hands and announced that he was returning to Gurgaon that evening. I sat down at my workstation and opened the system and started to check the problems stated in the list. I realised that the system could be definitely improved. However, what existed at that moment should not have really caused operational concerns like the ones discussed at the meeting. At around 8PM, I called Nirmal da and requested that I would like to spend 2-3 days with the operational staff and see their activities to understand the issues better. Nirmal da told me not to bother and work on the GPRS system that we were developing for Reliance at that point of time. This confused me even more. At around 12 Midnight, I left office, a completely destroyed person.
Next morning, I came back to work and resumed work on the GPRS system and the TAP system for Dialog besides some other issues from Bhutan Telecom. By lunchtime, I realised that life was back to normal and everything was back to normal. I was soon doing what I was supposed to do – manage the customers and develop the products – and everybody was behaving as expected with me. So, I soon forgot the incidence.
After about 6 months, again I got a list of issues from my boss, which Reliance had forwarded to him. The same day, Arup da was in our office. Again he told me to join him after lunch for a meeting with Reliance. We again met in the conference room of the Reliance Office. Reliance Team was again the same. Once again, Mr Raju Saha took off with the list of issues and was firing on all cylinders. Arup da was once again telling them “Partha would take care. He is still new to the system”. Again the allegations were made that Partha was the worst Project Manager that Siemens had appointed. The only difference this time was that I just kept quiet and did not ask for any explanation as I had done one the first occasion. At the end of the meeting, I was once again a completely destroyed person. I came back to the office and sat at my workstation and cried privately.
However, this time, something different did happen. Subhayan came to my desk and told me that I needed sending someone to Reliance the next day to collect a cheque from Reliance. Like a flash, everything was clear to me. Arup da would come all the way from Gurgaon to Kolkata to collect the payments and this was the drama Reliance would stage to make his life difficult to delay the payments. Arup da’s behaviour was also clear to me now.
As usual, life was back to normal the next day. I told Sandip to collect the cheque, as he would anyway go to Reliance. However, my boss told me to go and collect the cheque myself. So, I went to Reliance and collected the cheque. Soon after having collected the cheque and when I was seated in our car, I got a call from Mr Neeraj Vyas, our General Manager, telling me to be very careful with the cheque as it was very heavy. I held the cheque with both hands all the way back to our office and gave it to Subhayan.
I now knew that this drama would be replayed about every 6 months. Around this time, Siemens was preparing to set up the Managed Services Division and was expecting to get a huge contract from Telecom Italia. Mr Amitava Dutta was appointed as the head of the Managed Services Division and declared as the Location Head for Kolkata. There was a huge recruitment drive and we got news that people were being recruited at exorbitant salaries. This was a major issue, as I had to face many questions from my team members about why there be no consideration for their salary revision. Siemens rented the 13th floor in the Millennium City Building (We were all seated in the 12th Floor). Soon, the new office on the 13th floor was ready with 256 seats. We found that the workstations were smaller than Siemen’s standard and were told that this was adequate for the Managed Services Staff.
A delegation came from Germany to check the readiness. I was told to explain to the German delegation the process for support that we followed for Reliance. During this meeting, one point of discussion was the level of ability in Telecom Field, especially Telecom Operations that existed in the new team. It was soon established that the team did not have adequate expertise in Telecom Operations. This gave me a brilliant idea.
I always knew that Mr Raju Saha yearned for a job in an organisation like Siemens. Besides, he had very good experience in Telecom Operations. I thought that if I could remove Mr Saha from Reliance, I could make my life easier. So, I discussed this with my boss and told him that we could have better control on the Reliance Account if a new person came in place of Mr Saha. He agreed and soon I was discussing the idea with Mr Vyas and Arup da. Everyone agreed. I discussed the idea with Amitava da and he was also very keen to hire Mr Saha.
So, I took the next step. I called Mr Saha and painted a very rosy picture of the position with all lacing from Italy and Germany and whatever I could think about. Mr Saha was never a good actor and expressed his enthusiasm straight away. The fish had bitten the hook. I told him that there would be no need for him to send his bio-data. We could do all that later. Instead, I requested him to meet Amitava da in ITC Sonar Bangla for a chat over coffee. He agreed. I arranged the meeting. The meeting happened as scheduled. I was told that only minor formalities remained and they would be completed soon. So, everything was going according to the plan.
I used to follow-up regularly to find out the progress. Mr Saha also used to follow-up with me regularly. I was getting impatient as the HR was taking just too much time. I was unable to understand the delay. One morning, on reaching office, one of my team members informed me that the Telecom Italia project was not happening, as the negotiations had failed. The whole team would be dismantled. I was aghast, as Mr Saha would stay in Reliance. I called Mr Saha and informed him that the deal was off.
Mr Saha continues to work for Reliance and is doing very well. Over the years, we became good friends and till date we enjoy mutual respect. Though, till the last day of our Reliance engagement, we were like Tom and Jerry (I was of course Jerry). I thank The Almighty that Mr Saha did not join Siemens. A number of people lost their job in Siemens as the Telecom Italia project did not happen. If this had happened to Mr Saha, I would have possibly died of shame.