18 October, 2008

Hire-Fire-Hire - Jet Ishhtyle

Jet Airways fires 850 employee screamed the headlines on 14th October, Jet fires 1050 more on 15th October 2008, taking this toll to 1900.
Was it an explosion of sorts or what?

It just can’t happen to India and Indians. This was the shocked, aggrieved tone taken by the hapless employees who were shown the door. Imagine the horror of having to shift to eating Kheema pau in an Irani restaurant after being used to five star meals. My taste in food can be too pedestrian for those on a lifestyle fix.

Sob stories of loans taken for education and flight training courses by aspiring pilots, hostesses started making the front pages of nearly all tabloid newspapers. TV channels broadcasting how one employee came to know of his termination while he was getting married, how one girl reduced 40 kgs in six months to achieve her dream of being an airhostess with Jet airways and one under the burden of a housing loan is actually contemplating suicide etc etc...

Airlines particularly have been disastrous investments for public shareholder participation. In boom time markets, all my friends were gung ho about Jet Airways-the stock, and it confused me. PE was in high double digits and touching triple digits even. The company was under the mercy of the authorities for terminal space, hangar space, and later was also caught in the pincer of rising fuel costs. During all this they were reducing passenger fares. How does a business make money like this? The writing was on the wall and could the employees not read it? Apparently not. Is it fair to sack employees in such a scenario? The business did demand it and Jet Airways did it. So why is there such a hue and cry?

Does anybody spare a thought for the business as a living entity? Is the employee always a victim in a situation like this? When the business survives and grows and when everyone is getting their fat pay cheques and incentives nobody complains. Very seriously pay reduction is not even an option open to discussion. A business has only one objective and that is to remain profitable and then serving the larger need of supporting the society it is founded on. Private or Public this is a tenet that cannot be deviated upon. Over employment or disguised unemployment today is hugely prevalent not just in Public but also in large privately held corporations. Does this help the business as an entity to become fitter ? Fatter certainly, but fitter ..nahh

1900 numbers and news-media sound bytes makes the issue a hot political potato & naturally what follows, is blatant political posturing . Praful Patel- Hon'ble civil aviation minister and other NCP leaders to be fair said its a pvt company issue and the government is not a party to it. All this while Air India, Indian Airlines & Airports Authority of India are also contemplating similar steps. The comments by some politico's are hilarious "Jet Airways , is cruel to sack them( employees) before Diwali at least they should have waited for after that". Raj Thackeray, the current flavour of the season, in his typical style roared that Jet will not be allowed to fly through Maharashtra if the employees are not taken back.

Naresh Goyal who till this point had my utmost respect as having done the right thing of biting the bullet, does a complete volte-face. "All employees are like my family members and I cannot see tears in their eyes . Itossed and turned the whole night . All retrenched employess are to return back to work, we are sorry" said he. All political parties now claim credit for getting this done, even the non-commital Praful Patel. This drama is being played on the front pages of leading dailies,mind you.

It is sad; sad for corporate India for having leaders who can be forced into a corner. Goyal should take lessons from Ratan Tata, on how not to bow down to political blackmailing and doing what is right for the business. Nano may not come to us in one hundred thousand rupees but the pride and respect accorded to the name Ratan Tata by the employee & customer of the Nano, is definte in its high esteem. Can Goyal's name command equal respect after this episode?

The one place where the name Naresh Goyal shall occupy pride position though is the "Hall of Fame for Nepotism" , as the one who fired 1900 employees and hired 1900 family members.


Anaggh Desai said...

But the pretty girls on front page & TV had its effect. The jet family was granted an extension of payment by the minister for 6 months:)whilst the fired employees turned family - most of them are yet to be on roster!

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Its a grossly mismanaged episode. A slower blood letting will have to happen now, if not happening already else the company will be just another statistic of corporate india..