With love and affection

My Dear Thermaxians,

As I step down as the MD & CEO of Thermax, let me express my gratitude to each one of you, my dear friends who steadfastly stood by me throughout this journey. We worked as a team… to fulfill a mission… worked tirelessly to protect and grow our company. Your sense of ownership and commitment has helped the management to navigate our company through some of the worst industrial turbulences.

You have been an incredible part of my journey; I owe my successes to all of you Thermaxians. You have not just made my 28 years memorable but also the last few days in the company truly special by bringing back the nostalgia of moments, right from my joining the company till today.

Thank you for making me the Unny I am today – Anu, Meher and Pheroz for empowering and nurturing me, the Board members for mentoring me, customers for challenging and guiding me and all the leaders of Thermax for setting the stage so that I could perform to my fullest potential. My gratitude to my EC for believing in me, the entire leadership team and all of you for always putting your best foot forward in every aspect. I have learnt immensely from our TCAs and vendors on all occasions. And a special mention goes to the financial institutions, analyst community, media and industry bodies for their valuable advisory and timely probing to nudge me in the right direction.

Your efforts have made Thermax, a highly respected Energy and Environment solutions provider of India with the potential to be a global leader of tomorrow. It is also comforting to me personally that the mantle of leadership is now in the able hands of Ashish. May I seek your support to him – the same way you have extended to me – to steer Thermax towards global leadership in our chosen domain.

Wishing each one of you success in all your endeavours.

With love and affection,

Unny

Kalsubai – A trek in the clouds

There’s an old saying that ‘health is worth its weight in gold’. This is clearly a belief that my colleagues from B&H Materials and I hold in good stead. Fitness has always been close to our hearts and over the last year, our team has taken concrete steps to stay fit. It’s really all about challenging oneself and getting out of the comfort zone by performing activities that are likely to improve your overall fitness. This was the motivation that drove us to climb Maharashtra’s highest peak – Kalsubai. At 5,400 feet above sea level, it is a considerable challenge to reach the top. 

We started preparing for the summit since February 2019 with weekly treks to the Sinhagadh fort in Pune along with two hours of cycling everyday. These regular fitness activities increased our endurance and stamina levels.

So it was that on 13th September our team – Ganpat Masal, Sagar Kumbhar, Amol Bendale and Mahesh Kulkarni from B&H Materials started out at eight in the morning. We were all quite excited to undertake the journey and the adrenaline started pumping through our veins as we drove through the chilly monsoon winds. Around 3 pm, we reached Bhandardara, 180 km from Pune. The drive to Bhandardara had been quite picturesque. The monsoons in Maharashtra bring out a riot of colors across the countryside. We saw lush green fields, blue ridge mountains and fields teeming with red and gold flowers. We stopped thrice to get views of the Wilson Dam, which was once a beautiful lake next to the woods, and now serves as a huge reservoir of rainwater. The dark rocky hills around the lake were covered in greenery and we could see the clouds floating on top. It almost seemed like images from a picture postcard. We wondered if the peak of Kalsubai was hidden somewhere up in those clouds and whether we would see it. Eventually, we reached the small village of Shendi, just 8 km away from the base of Kalsubai. Here, we had to stop for the night. 

We arose early the next day, ready to continue with our adventure. We traveled to the base village, called Bari, where we were joined by another three colleagues from our team. Abhijit Raskar, Ganesh Dhas and Santosh Mane had traveled separately and were waiting for us at Bari. So, we commenced our journey on foot. This is what we had been waiting for. The climb might have been easier at other times of the year, but we were in the middle of the monsoons. The path was steep, treacherous and slippery. Moreover, our vision was obstructed by the swirling clouds of mist, making the climb even more challenging. We passed a temple dedicated to Kalsubai Devi and prayed for our safety. Sometimes, we sank into the mud and the loose rocks made us slip back. As we climbed higher and higher, the clouds became even thicker. We had a feeling that we were out to accomplish something quite amazing and the hardship was really worth it. At certain points, there were iron ladders, but climbing them was unnerving as they overlooked the deep chasms right next to them. The higher we climbed our visibility became poorer due to the thick mist. But, amazingly, every time the mist cleared, we could see white, violet and pink blossoms all around us. It was like being in ‘wonderland’. Finally, we embarked on the climb to the summit. The heavy winds beating on our faces made the climb even harder. It took us almost 2 ½ hours from this point, but we made it! We reached the top and stood on the peak of Kalsubai – the highest peak in Maharashtra!

We visited the temple of goddess, Kalsubai after whom the peak has been named. Enjoying the cold and heavy wind there, we felt like being on top of the world, literally! The climb down was even more dangerous, and after slithering and falling all over the place, we made it back just in time to have kanda bhaji, lemon juice and a refreshing shower underneath a natural waterfall. We had traversed a distance of 13 km on foot and it had taken us approximately five hours but left us with fond memories forever.

The compassion imperative

Just prior to the lockdown, I was fortunate to have moved in with my daughter and her family; and was very comfortable. But anxiety had entered my meditation space and I was preoccupied with thoughts of the well-being of my family and myself. All along, I was aware of starving migrants and daily wage earners, who were helped by many across India. But I had not realized the enormity of the suffering, until I heard a few stories in the Teach For India community in our very own city of Pune. This impacted me deeply and it shook me out of my self-centredness and anxiety, and instead, I felt very grateful and privileged.

All of us who are well-to-do have depended on those at the bottom of the pyramid to serve us and make our lives comfortable. We did not have to do the drudgery, or unpleasant daily chores, at our homes or at our factories. Today, due to the corona pandemic, the poor are suffering and are either trapped in cities or are on the move without livelihood or family support. At their hour of need, can we reach out and serve them? Very often, we discount the emotion that the poor feel towards their children and families. The poor have their pride and have worked hard all their lives to eke out a living with dignity. Without having to beg for help, can we reach out and preserve their dignity?

There are no easy answers to the dilemmas which the sensitive business community will face. With limited cash, do I safeguard the business by asking employees to leave, or retain everyone and find innovative ways to survive? Can the privileged and corporate India open up their hearts and support non-governmental organizations who reach out to the deprived and denied? In normal times, corporates are largely concerned about profits, but at this time, can a sense of purpose towards the downtrodden take priority?

Covid-19 is a test for humanity. Getting over our self-centredness and forgetting our differences of caste, class and religion, can we together help out our fellow human beings? Let’s remember that in the long run, business cannot survive in a society that fails.

My urge to outgrow the Section ‘C’ tag

We are entering the month of May, and it is that time of the year when students anxiously await their exam results or gear up for the next academic year. It reminds me of my school days that has proved to be a great learning experience, along with many challenges.

When I was in 9th standard, I shifted to Rajasthan from Assam along with my parents. It was midApril when I started attending my new school. I was enrolled in Section-A of 9th standard. As an average student, I used to pass the exams with grace marks in some subjects. And here, I was surrounded with bright students having fabulous academic scores and highly attractive personalities. Their competitive outlook and constant urge to outperform started making me feel uncomfortable, scared, nervous and confused. Back in Assam, I never bothered about results as my classmates were not too meritorious and my father expected me to join his business, which he later wound up and moved to Rajasthan. I was overwhelmed with this new environment to the extent that I stopped attending school for the next 15-20 days until one of the teachers sent a notice to my parents through my sister. It mentioned that the first internal test is going to start, which implied that it is a mandate for me to attend the classes and the tests.

After one and a half month of summer vacation following exams, the school reopened, and the test results were announced. I was one of the very few students who merely passed in every subject with a score of 41.3%. A week later, all the low scoring students along with some average students from Section-A and Section-B were shifted to a newly formed Section-C, which in itself defined our low academic credentials. On one hand, I was happy that there are few more like me, but a strong sense of regret started emerging within me, which consistently troubled my self-esteem.

Then came the turning point in my life when a voice within me urged to take this peer pressure in the right stride and develop a new perspective towards the situation. A strong desire to excel in academics emanated within me that defined the next phase of my academic journey.

I went to the class teacher of Section-A and asked, “How much does a student need to score to get back into Section-A?” He replied that a minimum annual aggregate score of 80% is mandatory, emphasising on the word ‘aggregate’.

I took this next-to-impossible target as a challenge and started working hard. I stopped participating in sports as well as extra-curricular activities and utilised the time in the library to concentrate only on studies. I also read books of lower grades to clear my fundamentals in mathematics and science. I realised that I needed help with math, and I didn’t hesitate to ask the subject teacher for extra hours of teaching. He became my guide and helped me in my difficult times.

My academic scores started improving consistently. The average of four internal tests was not impressive, but I had managed to score well in the half-yearly exams. It was getting challenging to compose an aggregate of 80% in the final exams. Finally, the results were announced. I scored around 91% in the final exams with an aggregate score of 79.8%. Missing my target by a mere 0.2% triggered a sense of failure within me. However, my persistence and perseverance were finally rewarded. I was transferred to Section-A in 10th standard with a special appreciation announcement in the school assembly hall.

It was this success that made me realise the need to change my approach towards tackling difficult situations in life. From then till now, my thirst for learning hasn’t stopped. After my 10th, I completed Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and joined Thermax in 2012. I earned a BE degree and postgraduate diploma through distance education. I have also enrolled in distant learning to pursue an Executive MBA.

When I look back, I am glad that I dared to step out of my comfort zone. Had it not been for the change in circumstances, I would have never known my true potential. When we are passionate about achieving our goal, we should believe in ourselves and look for solutions, rather than surrendering to failure. This personal experience of my life inspires and motivates me to work with a positive attitude under any difficult circumstance.

How my little village transformed the hills

I ’m sure many of you may not have heard of the village of Majale. It’s a small village near Kolhapur in Maharashtra. That’s my home and we are a small community of around 3,500 people who live there and are predominantly engaged in farming. Our village is located in the rain shadow region, with an average annual rainfall of around 300 to 400 mm. Sadly, this isn’t enough and it never takes us all the way till the next monsoon. By January, our village starts to suffer a lot of hardship as the lakes and bore-wells, as deep as 350 to 400 meter go dry. The scarcity of water persists despite the presence of three lakes in the area and the mountains are barren and dry with only a little shrubbery in a few places. This had become a problem that was affecting the livelihood of my people. We longed for a solution, but there seemed to be none. 

An idea takes seed 

It all started in February 2018, when an old friend visited my village to attend a function. The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation had recently honoured him by bestowing the title of ‘Nature’s Friend’ upon him. As such, he was well-known and revered in our community. During his visit, he made an observation that made a big impact on me. He simply said, “You have beautiful mountains in this area, but they are all barren”. For me, this was a wake-up call. I started thinking about what we could do to change this. I called upon some of my friends in the village and coincidentally, they too were planning on finding a solution. So, we joined hands and formed a group with a firm resolution to do something about this problem. 

The need of the hour for our group was to connect with experts who had successfully implemented such projects in other villages. So, we started to collect information and arranged visits to villages like Velu and Hivre Bazaar to witness the results of their projects first-hand. We also managed to get some renowned speakers to come in and motivate people to join our work. 

The winds of change start blowing 

We started out by creating continuous counter trenches (CCT) and deep continuous counter trenches (DCCT) on the slopes of the hills, but our greatest challenge turned out to be the lack of participation by villagers. Some people came forward, but it wasn’t enough. Demoralised, our team members started talking about abandoning the project. But, we didn’t give up. We came up with the idea of using social media to send out messages and images of the good work that we were doing. We desperately needed more hands to dig the trenches with us. Slowly, more people came forward, including a few NGOs. Our project gained momentum and we managed to get funding to bring in machines from the NAM foundation and JCB India. The machine operators were hosted by families in our village, who joyously served all the meals of the day, including mid-day tea. Lodging was also arranged by the Gram Panchayat. Now, the work started progressing furiously and this created a lot of interest amongst the How my little village transformed the hills 25 residents of our village. Many came forward and donated funds that had been kept aside for marriage anniversaries, children’s birthdays and other family occasions. 

With a little help from our friends 

A huge breakthrough was achieved on 1st May – Maharashtra Day. We visited a few industries and institutes in the area and appealed for ‘Shramdan’ – voluntary labour. To our surprise, one of the companies deployed around 400 workers and an institute sent 800 students. As you can imagine, the work was now progressing speedily. Within the next four months, we achieved rehabilitation of two lakes and dug out 7 km of DCCT and CCT. The water holding capacity of the lakes had gone up to 4.5 and 3.9 crore litre, respectively. On the other hand, the trenches were capable of holding 7 crore litre of water. 

Success at last 

Excitement was in the air as we waited for the premonsoon rains and once the monsoon set in, our area received approximately 350 mm of rain from June to August. The reservoirs we created were now full of water and we had enough agriculture and drinking water all the way till June 2019. The rain gods smiled on us once again in 2019, as we received 550 mm of rain. At last, our village had become self-sufficient. 

Our pride and joy 

It gives me great joy to share this wonderful story with all of you. We did all this by spending a few lakhs, within 4 to 5 months. Every person in my village today is proud of what we have done. But we haven’t stopped at just that. We are now focusing on growing grass all over the mountain and have completely stopped the felling of trees and cattle grazing on the slopes. Once the grass has grown fully, it will stop land erosion and create an entire ecosystem of insects and birds. We also expect more plants to take root through pollination and the growth of several diverse species of shrubbery. We even had celebrities like Nana Patekar, Makarand Anaspure and Satyajit Bhatakale spent their valuable time championing our cause. Our mountains are green again and I am proud that it’s all the fruit of our own labour!

Shanitinath Patil (TBWES)

A Dubai experience with RDA

They often say that a picture is worth more than a thousand words. The one that I am about to share with you brings many events to the fore.

It was the winter of December 1994, if my memory serves me right. The Middle Eastern market had started picking up after sustained efforts of over a year of establishment. Out of the blue, I received a message from Nitin Warty, the International boss at the Head Office – “RDA will visit the Dubai office around Christmas”. I realised later that the workaholic that Mr. Aga (fondly known in the office by his initials – RDA) was known to be, was probably visiting the UK to meet up with his newborn grandson, baby Zahaan (Meher’s son) and did not wish to spend idle time in the UK or India, around the New Year, when there is little business activity in most parts of the world. The only probable activity would happen in the Middle East!!

This sent all of us into a tizzy. The few moments that I had spent with him on clearance to set up the North East office at Dibrughar and the UAE office, was taxing enough. Three days with RDA was a tough call.

Honestly, I got all the help that I possibly could to create a watertight program. Our small team comprised of Mr. Raut and Muthu, as well as our closely networked ex -Thermax group. Mr. Sunil John, ex-Corporate Communications, deserves a special mention here for being well connected with the press for RDAs visit to be covered by the Gulf News and Khaleej Times. Unny, who was the GM with Terrazo, Sharjah at that time, was a key guide and advisor. Of course, we cannot forget our dear Parvin who prepared a sumptuous dinner for the entire Thermax fraternity. Apart from various customer visits, we had an exciting ‘Key Customer Contact’ power lunch at the Hyatt, since Mr. Aga always wanted to get the feel of the market first hand. After two decades, I still look back with pride at Arab, Pakistani and Indian entrepreneurs animatedly discussing business and quality of customer response in unison.

There are a couple of memorable snippets that I would like to share with our readers.

As we were moving around the UAE, I kept receiving repeated phone calls from an irate customer of Indian origin. We had supplied a surface quoting line for job work. The installation was having multiple teething problems. I kept assuring our customer, Mr. George that the matter was being dealt with and we were on top of the situation. My intention was to shield Mr. Aga from the client. However, as expected, he caught on to the situation and my plight and insisted that he wished to visit the customer’s site. So, Mr. Aga and I drove through the narrow lanes of a rundown industrial estate in Sharjah. He took down every detail of the issues faced by the customer on his ‘red pad’ and promised a suitable response. That evening he flew back to Mumbai. Phew!!… However, as expected, it wasn’t the last we had heard from RDA about the customer’s issues.

I had just reached the office the next day at 9 am and heard the phone ringing. RDA was on the line (It was 10:30 IST). Without any preamble, he asked me to repeat all the issues that Mr. George was facing and I rattled out every detail. He clarified that the entire team were listening in on the call and that matters would be sorted out. And, indeed they were. Much later I realised that he probably went straight to the office from Mumbai airport, met up with the team and only got back home after the engagement and feedback were done with. What an exemplary commitment to customer support!

Sadly, as we all know, all good things must pass and the circle of life takes over. I faced a double whammy in February / March. Within months of the exciting times in the UAE, I lost my father and we all lost Mr. Aga within a gap of a week or so. It struck me that the last time RDA landed back on the shores of India was after the UK /Dubai trip. At one end, I faced a huge loss but at the other end was gratitude in my mind for being blessed to have this exposure. Years later, Pheroz Pudumjee summed it up aptly during one of our many exchanges at the erstwhile Thermax International “My only regret is that I could not spend a few more years working under Rohinton.” Well, the show goes on and the circle of life continues.

THERMAX: A GREAT COMPANY TO WORK FOR

After completing my engineering degree from IIT Bombay, I spent a very interesting and eventful period in a large engineering PSU for 18 years. I was getting used to the comfort zone. This is a typical state where you are bereft of challenges. Before lethargy sets in, I needed a change and started looking for options.

During my subsequent trip to Pune in early 1992, I visited TBW (the present TBWES) and after meeting with the concerned people, decided to start a new innings in their field engineering department. This news was received with mixed feelings by my colleagues. While some congratulated me, others were apprehensive about my decision to leave the safe ocean of a public sector giant (turnover 3,000 crore) for the unchartered waters of a relatively small private company (TBW turnover at that time being around 30 crore). But I was excited and looking forward to this change.

I shall never forget my first day in TBW. After completing the joining formalities, I was asked to report to Mr. Oak, Head of Field Engineering. After the preliminary icebreaking chat, I was asked to pay a visit to an ongoing site in Bhosari where an oil fired boiler was being erected. My last posting in my previous organisation was at a 3 x 500 MW power plant. You can imagine my shock on seeing the TBW oil fired boiler at Bhosari. It was a package boiler in a 5m x 5m enclosure! All apprehensions of my erstwhile colleagues flooded my mind, and I had serious doubts about my decision. But after some reflection, I decided to leave the ocean behind me and plunged head-on into the TBW sea.

Over a period of time, I found that TBW was a wonderland of boilers! There were so many types of boilers that I had never heard of. Each new project was unique, a discovery, learning and a challenge. My earlier stint instilled a specialist culture, making you a master of only one, but in TBW I realised we had to be a jack of all and master of some! The projects were small in comparison, but the exposure was tremendous!

One more striking difference I noticed was that in other companies no matter how senior you are, there was always somebody above you to make decisions and it was expected that your senior would take the required decisions, leaving you free of worries. Therefore, my first few months in TBW were difficult as I tended to seek Mr. Oak’s intervention in most of my work as I had been indoctrinated to behave so. One day he called me and explained to me that I had full powers, authority and responsibility to make decisions regarding my work and it is not expected that I shall encroach upon his time to carry out my job.

I got the message. From then on working in TBW was a joy! But sometimes it was like a mad house as the pressures and challenges were high. I was surprised to see that there was hardly any hierarchy. All the people were on first name terms as against the yes sir, sure sir, right away sir culture. The open door policy in TBW encouraged subordinates to approach seniors freely. Even our MD’s cabin door was always open.

Here I got the opportunity to interact with our American B&W deputies and in the process, gained valuable guidance in conflict management. Their management style was informal and if they needed to discuss something with you, they would come to your workplace and not summon you to their cabin.

As the days passed, I found myself getting used to working in the informal and at times chaotic environment of TBW. I experienced the pangs of working in a growing organisation and growing along with it. The growth of TBW over the years was phenomenal and with it came computerisation, systems and procedures, ISO and ERP and along with it came orderliness.

TBW was growing steadily under the able guidance of our MD, Mr. Prakash Kulkarni. He had a very endearing style of functioning, taking all of us together, always engaging the HODs in shaping the company’s policies and involving them in critical decisions. He would cajole us to experiment, to stretch, to walk that extra mile so that we remained ahead of the competition. It is this spirit of TBW and Thermax as a whole which was so enjoyable! Thermax is one of the very few professionally managed family businesses of India.

In TBW, I saw that people did not believe that the boss is always right. The work culture encouraged healthy dissent in the interest of the job which is very rarely seen in the industry. Here I found that the guiding principle in dealing with subordinates was that every individual is taken to be sincere and honest unless proved otherwise. Trust and delegation were the hallmarks of the work culture, encouraging individuals to unleash their potential. Merit and hard work were rewarded. There were plenty of opportunities for individual development through mentoring and technical, behaviooural and managerial training. 

After spending 13 years in TBW, I left for another organisation but I realised that after working in TBW, it is extremely difficult to work anywhere else. I returned back to Thermax within a year. After my superannuation from Thermax I spent three years managing a 600 MW power plant but always missed the Thermax culture.

Now that I have hung up my boots, I look back fondly to the time I spent in Thermax. I shall always remember Thermax as a company which is caring but firm with its greatest asset – its employees. A company that brings out the best in you, enabling you to always better yourself.

Even today when I see Thermax in the news for some feat or achievement, my heart swells with pride for once being a part of this wonderful organisation. Thermax and its employees have a great future indeed!

At Home and the World

When it is time to say goodbye after 33 years of communication work for companies (20 for Thermax), there’s the formal job of handing over files and documents. Beyond that, there is the expected and essential transfer of knowledge: the understanding that resides not in files and folders, but in the minds and hearts of practitioners of a discipline. Happily, the remarkable editorial freedom that communication professionals enjoy within Thermax enables such a transfer.

So, what do I tell the new team of Swastika and Chitra and Akansha?

Should I borrow the words of Bernard Shaw to say that this job was a sort of splendid torch that I wanted to burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations? I am no Shaw and here that would sound pompous. Should it be the Soviet era joke about succession – the one about those two envelopes that Stalin left behind for his successor Khruschev, asking him to open the first when the first real threat to his chair emerges, and the second one only in a truly hopeless situation? Years later, on opening the first envelope, Krushchev read, ‘Blame everything on Stalin.’ Much later, when he felt his time was up, he opened Stalin’s second life-saver. Again, just one line: ‘Prepare two envelopes.’ No, Thermax is a far better workplace to merit such a cynical approach. Or, should I adopt some TED talker’s line about feeling humbled to leave behind for the amazingly talented new generation, those (equally incredible) insights? That won’t do. Too phoney for my taste.

There’s no standard way of extracting some sense from that amorphous ragbag called experience. So, let me potter around my unkempt garden and gather a sheaf of remembrances. Or, lessons, if that suits the occasion.

Here’s one I learned from Ahmed, my predecessor. He used to say that communication should be contemplative action and, by way of illustrating the idea, he brought in the example of the archers of our North East. A trained archer would walk around the target, pause and take aim, change his stance, walk a few steps to another spot, view the target from another angle. This would go on, sometimes for a boringly long time. Then, with a new purpose, the archer will stride to one spot, take aim, point the arrow and release the bow. Hits the bull’s eye.

Yes, jumping into activity is all too easy, and especially so with communication which often can give the illusion of action. Like Chaplin running up the escalator… Instead, it would work better if we bring in a little thoughtfulness, ask for more – more of information, photographs, perspectives, a better brief, more of everything – and wait for ideas to mature. Now that the Alfonso season is over, many of us will again remember the difference between the disappointing taste of mangos hastily brought to the market for quick bucks, and the glorious ripeness that comes from sunlight and the quiet days of waiting.

Let me bring in another visual: of a child sitting at a window or on a wall, looking at the world, one leg inside and the other dangling outside. That image of being, at the same time, at home and the world outside – if only organisational communication can achieve that harmony while engaging with employees and the outside world. Now, websites can be accessed by anyone, employees or external public. Still, the challenge of crafting communication for different audiences remain. Much before digital communication dissolved boundaries between inside and outside, Fireside had attempted such a composite conversation by reaching out to both employees and the external public, in one go. Not many house magazines do that. This approach was not limited only to Fireside and it has had two consequences inside Thermax: one, barring some rare instance, Thermax employees get to hear about their company first from internal news platforms and not from the mass media. Secondly, the thought that a wider public will be reading the housemag, influences the choice and presentation of editorial material. Though we may not have succeeded every time, there is always a sense of care, a touch of finesse that this publication has aspired to.

Today, digital platforms and the social media have extended the communicators’ horizons. Their versatility in integrating text and video, quick access and their phenomenal reach make them exciting tools. But as with traditional forms of communication from an earlier time, they too demand the same attention to detail and fact checks. More so, especially when speed, so integral to the digital world, can also derail the best of intentions. The old sentinels of journalism – what, when, where, who, how – are still essential when we put together a story or a communique, be it on Thermax website or Twitter, Fireside or Facebook.

We must be clear-eyed about what new technologies can accomplish. Let me share this anecdote attributed to Jean Cocteau, the poet and filmmaker, as he made the crucial distinction between the medium and the message. When Cocteau in the 1950s was told that there is no future for films unless they are made for the wide screen technology of cinemascope, he remarked that next time when he writes a poem, he will ask for a bigger sheet of paper.

Finally, there is language. Though there is a surfeit of visuals in today’s world and smart phones have reduced conversations to emojis and memes, language will prevail. Even if the whole world is burning down or if astronomers discover nine more earths, and even if the cameras are live streaming these epochal events, we will still need words to tell ourselves what’s happening and why they happened.

At Thermax, we are fortunate to have the legacy of Rohinton Aga, one of those rare business leaders who could use plain English eloquently to explain, to express and to communicate. Read his articles and you will see that he used language not to fog or to confuse, but to clarify and to make things meaningful. This legacy of clear communication should continue across media, across platforms to position Thermax as a warm and living entity.

The Weekend Agriculturist

Coming from the small village of Chithirampatti in the Pudukkottai District of Tamil Nadu, I had to face a lot of struggle before finding a job at Thermax in Chennai and settling down in a metropolitan city.

My father passed away when I was young and my mother raised my two sisters and me. I studied throughout in Tamil medium institutions and successfully earned an MSc in Information Technology. However, due to the lack of communication skills in English, I could not secure work in the city for a long time. Eventually, I started my professional career with a governmental project. I secured my life’s big opportunity when I was selected to work for the cooling commercial department at Thermax.

However, I longed to reconnect with my roots which were agriculture and farming in some way. Two years ago, I came across a group on Facebook called ‘The Weekend Agriculturist’ having over 16,000 members. The coordinators of the group are connected to small-scale farmers situated in and around Chennai. When they want to reach out to us for support, these coordinators create an event on Facebook, deciding the place and date. We visit the farms over the weekend and provide farmers with collective labour work through our group of volunteers. We often work in the fields with them from sunrise till 6 pm. This group not only rekindled my passion for farming but also introduced me to my husband Tamilselvan who is one of the main coordinators.

I strongly believe that nature provides us with enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, but certainly not their greed, which is why my husband and I have consciously adopted a sustainable and ecoconscious lifestyle. We have found that giving back to nature can be incredibly fulfilling and fun.

We grow our own food in our organic farm in Alathur, near Chennai, leased together with 10 members of our volunteer group. I cook fresh, traditional foods from our own produce, which gives me a sense of achievement. By posting my recipes on social media, I have discovered that most foodies love traditional food. I also love presenting my organically developed recipes in culinary events and am delighted when people like them.

But, sustainable living is not only about growing your own produce and cooking your food. It is about imbibing eco-friendly practices in everything you do. At home, we always ensure that I minimize waste in every possible way. I like to convert waste into useful products and this is something that I
enjoy teaching to others as well. We like to live plastic-free. Our clothes are produced from organic materials and naturally produced dyes. I love cooking in earthen pots and I also manage my home without modern conveniences, like a refrigerator. We celebrate local art and artists through a popular collective gathering that my husband and I often organize with our friends and families.

With technology taking over every sphere of our lives and detaching us from mother earth, we fervently believe that a person should be aware of where our food comes from and where our waste goes. During our volunteering activities at farms, we also organise debriefing sessions where youngsters are encouraged to care about the environment and learn simple farming techniques like collecting rice from a paddy field. By doing these simple activities, we automatically become one with nature. By living sustainably, I believe that we can give back to the community that we are all a part of.

Thank you for allowing me to share the story of my journey and my thoughts. An important thought that I would like to leave you with is that the consumption choices you make for your family and yourself are the keys to your sustainable lifestyle. In my case, my journey taught me to think, perceive and act in a holistic manner and add more meaning to the world around me. I hope you do too.

A mentor in need is a mentor indeed!

As I penned down my thoughts on the occasion of International Men’s Day which falls in November, I took the opportunity to reminisce and acknowledge the contribution of men in my personal and professional growth. Let me explain.

I have always expressed my heartfelt thanks to the men in my family and my friends from time-to-time, whenever I had the chance to do so. But this time, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to my first mentor and manager, Pravin Karve; who is currently the Executive Vice President of the Boiler ” Heater division at Thermax.

I met Pravin for the first time at a mentorship programme when I joined Thermax as a management trainee in November 2006. I had heard a lot about him from my colleagues. However, when I saw him, I was pleasantly surprised by his personality, which is an epitome of grace and humility. He agreed to be my mentor, and that was the start of my professional grooming for an exciting career ahead. I was this gawky newcomer with absolutely no practical technical knowledge of a boiler, and here I was recruited for handling the international marketing and tendering of boilers. But not once during any technical discussion, did Pravin make me feel that I was immature, incompetent or a misfit for the job. Instead, he taught me the basics of professional conduct like how to organise emails, files and folders in my laptop so that any information could be easily retrieved, as and when required. It was he who also taught me how to respond to emails, not to use bold or capital letters in emails (as it seems like shouting) and to use dispassionate salutations and greetings. He suggested that if a colleague or customer expects my replies on queries pointwise, my response should be just next to each question in a different font colour. I still continue to use these methods, even after 12 years. He deeply ingrained in me the importance of developing an expertise in tools like MS Excel and MS PowerPoint, to be always curious about all the latest trends and advancements in technology and to make use of the same in day to day tasks. “Technology and efficiency go hand in hand,” he had said.

I confidently faced any professional challenge that came along my path at Thermax, while on the personal front; Pravin introduced me to ‘The Art of Living’ foundation that resulted in calming down the personal storms. I was made to understand that every person deals with their struggles that others would not be aware of, which is why it is important to be nice to all. At the same time, he also advised me not to be a pushover, not to apologise unnecessarily and never allow people to walk over me. He advised me to have the wisdom to identify people, analyse situations and avoid emotional reactions or responses to anything. I learnt the importance of turning up to work every morning with a fresh mind, fresh face, professional and clean attire, greet people warmly, and to travel light with no past baggage.

I thank Pravin for making me confident, ensuring that I pay attention to details, and practice high ethics at work.

Back in the year 2008, I recollect how during a meeting, a dear colleague complained of what he perceived as being bullied at the workplace and how given his frustration, he wanted to resign. After giving him a patient listening ear, Pravin laughed it off and shared how every person’s professional
ship will hit an iceberg once in a while. He expressed how he has undergone such hardships himself, and the only thing one could do is to grin, bear, breathe, concentrate better, work harder, and the phase would pass on its own, life is too long for such experiences to last forever!

The most important lesson of life that I have learnt from Pravin is how important it is to make other people feel good about themselves. By doing so, we automatically empower them and give them confidence. This helps them gather enough strength to fight and survive alone under any circumstance.

Because of my association with Pravin early in my career, I have developed a passion for teaching and training newcomers. I derive great pleasure when I instil confidence in the new joinees by making them feel good about themselves, guide them about the right channels and motivate them to attain greater heights in life and. This is my karma now.

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