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!

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