By Kaushik Sengupta
As I stepped out of the Manchester Airport on an assignment for our brand Typhoo Tea, my memories went back to the day I joined Apeejay Tea as a junior executive in the finance team way back in 1994. Since then, I have traversed nearly 25 years in the organization seeing it grow bit by bit to becoming the 3rd largest tea producer of India and I feel proud to say that I have been very lucky to have got the opportunity to serve in one of India’s oldest and largest business conglomerates.
My initial years were focused on learning the practical aspects of the business. My key responsibilities were consolidating the estate accounting data for closure of monthly accounts. My first boss was one of the most far-sighted top executives I had ever worked with.
He could not only understand the short term goals but also had the ability to comprehend the long term gains. He taught me to observe the figures at a macro level instead of micro, which helped me substantially in my future development.Visiting tea estates and understanding the basics of operations were also one of my primary tasks and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. I remember my initial visits when I used to get amazed on seeing tea gardens and factories with big structural setups dealing with huge volumes of day to day manufacturing.
There have been challenges at various stages of my career but my biggest challenge was to understand operations and co-relating it with finance in order to achieve the best result. Here’s a picture of me and my team today ..
As I learnt and became better and grew in the organization, I was given a new function to handle – our supply chain! It was a mammoth task, no way near what I was doing in the finance team. I was faced with the dual pressure of handling two functions simultaneously but I took up the challenge and had a team that backed me up all the way. The initial days were nerve-wracking. Handling the pressure, getting used to it, learning to manage both the roles with equal intensity and delivering on organisation’s goals was a gradual process. This also opened a scope into being involved with the entire production process of tea, right from the gardens to the factory to the retail outlet and finally to the end consumer. As a result of this, my knowledge and experience of tea industry became broad as well as deep.
Not many employees get such opportunities for diversification and growth. I am one of those lucky ones who have and I fully treasure all my achievements and the faith everyone had in me to deliver. I feel it’s easy to stay motivated in Apeejay. The constant progress, undeterred by challenges, in business operations of the Group inspires one to keep pace and buckle up. Personally for me, coupled with this, is the recognition I have received for my contribution in streamlining the garden accounting system!
Our Chairman Mr Karan Paul, who I have got to work with, is precise in his thought process and focused in his discussions. He has an incredible memory of remembering financial numbers for a long period. He is also very logical in his explanations. Perhaps, the most commendable part about him is his feeling towards all employees and considering them as an integral part of the organization. He is very sharp in understanding financial figures. Not many employees get the opportunity to work with the topmost person in the organization. I feel I am one of those lucky employees.
I am also lucky that I love the work I do. The one consistent factor that remained as I grew though the rank and file of our organization has been that I thoroughly enjoyed the work I did at every designation and every level in the hierarchy from junior executive to GM because pursuing organizational goals counts and showing leadership in pursuing those goals at every level of hierarchy benefits the organization. I even found the time to volunteer for our Employee Volunteering Program that started more than a decade go, often enough, because employees’ volunteering their professional skills is an objective of Apeejay Surrendra Group Sustainability and Social Responsibility Framework!
This brings me to the fact that I could have done none of it without the excellent support system I have at work and at home. I think the best thing about Apeejay is employee unity and respect towards the seniors because we are an organization that has so much legacy and is old enough to span generations, hence our teams are made up of varying age groups!
I have seen the organization empower employees for their individual growth, sharing information with employees for overall improvement, grow in diversity of thought, modernize operations, going global, purchase international brands and open a new package tea division. We are strongly encouraged towards work life balance. One of the colleagues in Communications, who I am close to, has often marched up to my desk and would say gravely, “Kaushik da! aaj ke bari jawa hobe ki na? Bari jao!” (Are you going home today or not? Go home!) Nobody was keeping me back by force!
Even in the gardens, there has never been a dull moment. Generally, tea gardens have a serenity of their own but there is also a very interesting story which does the rounds at most of them gardens and that is the story of ghosts. Although I have not experienced any, and neither have I been spooked by the mid-night light malfunctions and creaking doors, I have stayed in some of the so-called ‘haunted bungalows’ such as Borjuli Tea Estate manager’s bungalow, Pengaree Tea Estate ‘Loha Bungalow’ and ‘Thakurbari Assistant Bungalow’ at Ghoirallie Tea Estate and come out whole!
My biggest motivation has been that I truly enjoy doing the work I do as well as the organizational goals that I have to deliver and am personally focused on achieving! I could have made more time for my family than our regular Sunday outings and I feel that I could have been a substantially better husband and more present parent. This is why the credit of my success and growth goes to my long suffering wife and daughter who have been a huge pillar of support for me.
As I sit here in Typhoo office and write this blog I wonder why people join and leave an organization at the drop of a hat! If asked, my advice to youngsters would be to stick to a single organization for a few years, understand the root level of operational activities from where the money is being generated and involve oneself in such activities and contribute to the growth of the organization. This would make for a far more fruitful career they can look back upon with satisfaction and pride.
Kaushik Sengupta is General Manager – Finance, Apeejay Tea Limited