My Professor Friend opens his office in a Medical Poly-Clinique

My General Practioner (GP) Doctor K K Jain just retired. He used to see me right from my childhood days. When I would tell him about my health problem, he would smile and pat on my back and say, “Don’t you worry – I will take good care of you”.

His compounder (a species that does not exist anymore) would prepare few sachets for me with 3 to 4 colorful tablets in each. I would take them from the counter by paying a princely sum of Rs 100. The 100 Rs included Doctors fees as well as the medicines that would last for 3 to 4 days and perfectly cure me from the ailment.

Today when I fall sick, I go to a specialist. If my throat goes soar then I see some ENT specialist and if a back pain hits me then I queue up to an Orthopedic. I must wait in the clinic for a long time (as taking appointment is meaningless). In the early days, old issues of Film fair used to be kept in the waiting room for a read. That used to be entertaining. Now I see magazines on Mutual Fund investments instead! Time have changed.

When a specialist sees you, you don’t know what fees are going to be charged. The bill is always a surprise. It’s a shocker but you don’t higgle haggle and simply pay what is told. You never take 3 quotations – a practice you are used to as an engineering consultant. You don’t go for L1 as well.  Sometimes you pay the doctor the amount demanded and in some cases, a drab receptionist siting outside collects the fees from you. Everything is in cash contrary to the directive of the PM. I like this consulting business of specialist’s doctors.

Other day my Professor Friend dropped by to my office at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of Mahindra was to see me for a chat. Professor offered to wait outside. “Oh, there is nothing confidential Professor, Do stay inside” I said.

Anirban and his colleague Naresh Patil came in. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked Anirban purpose of his visit. “Oh, nothing actually. Haven’t seen you for a while. Just wanted to touch base. But now that I am here, I would just like to pick on your brains”

We got into an hour-long discussion. Naresh briefed me about the recent sustainability initiatives that Mahindra has taken. Anirban explained the challenges. I gave a number of suggestions and innovative ideas that Mahindra could consider. Naresh took meticulous notes. Professor did not say a word. He was listening to our conversations – watching Anirban’s hawk face disguised in a friendly smile and my sheer (uncalled for)  enthusiasm.

When Anirban and Naresh left, I asked for another round of coffee for Professor.

“Is this how you spend most of your day Dr Modak”. Professor asked this question while lighting his cigar.

Well, good question Professor. I never analyzed how I spend my day. But like Anirban, people drop by to “pick my brains”. Yesterday, Suman Mazumdar, CSO of JSW was here and last week was Bastian Mohrmann from 2030WRG of International Finance Corporation (IFC).

I am sure you must be enjoying these conversations Dr Modak. Professor asked me while getting up and lifting his umbrella. He sounded a bit sarcastic.

“Yes Professor” I said.

“Well, I see that you are no businessman Dr Modak. No wonder staff at your consulting office complain about low salaries. All these “friends” are essentially taking good advantage of your enthusiasm to help. They are stealing ideas from you (because they are terribly short of these), develop projects accordingly for their consultants and finally grab the credit for innovation. They are never going to sole source you, because you could be expensive and sometimes (unnecessarily) forthright. Have you got any consulting work from these well-known business houses – ever at all? You are behaving like your good old GP Dr KK Jain” Professor said this when we reached my office front door.

He then turned to the elevators and whispered while passing me his new visiting card “Why don’t you come to my new consulting office in Lower Parel and learn what I do. Reach at sharp 11 am”.

The address on the visiting card was “Shubhankar Medical Poly-Clinic”. I felt both curious and surprised. How come Professor practices in the medical poly-clinique? I said to myself.

I discovered that Professor was the only engineering or management consultant in the “Shubhankar Medical Poly-Clinique”. The board outside his cabin carried his name with a long string of qualifications and memberships with some UN decorations. He was named as “Sustainability and Lifestyles Specialist”. All other cabins were occupied by well-known medical practioners, such as Dr Rajesh Rajani on Cardiology, Dr A Almeida on Nephrology, Dr N F Shah on Endocrinology etc. There was an attendant and a receptionist in the foyer where patients were waiting. Those waiting for Professor’s appointment were reading the BCCI’s newsletter “Sustainability Quotient (SQ) (I was glad to see that at least few are reading the SQ. I have been editing SQ for past 5 years with no feedback at all!)

Professor made me sit inside his Cabin like his assistant. “Record the conversations Dr Modak and make notes of the key points” Professor said.

Savyasachi from Asian Paints walked in. What’s your problem Savyasachi? Professor asked while sending someone a SMS from his mobile (Rule # 1 Professor said – show that you are NOT interested and busy with mundane things. Don’t give importance to the patient”. He gave me a list of rules to follow like you get from a dietatian)

“Sir, thank you so much for your time. Asian Paints is thinking of expanding one of our plants to meet the growing demand from the Export market. Wanted to get your advice on a speedy environmental clearance of course at least cost and least processing time. I have brought with me the compliance records and most recent sustainability report”

Well, we need to start from scratch Savyasachi – I don’t trust these kinds of reports you Corporates produce. I can get them just like that and by the dozens” Professor growled. After a brief questioning, he put on his spectacles, opened his writing pad and wrote a “prescription” like how Dr Rajesh Rajani, the Cardiologist would write

  • Fresh Base Line Survey 1 -0 –0 (1-0-0 implied only one season study and not Morning, Afternoon, Night as medical doctors and the patients normally understood)
  • Air quality modelling study (using AERMOD) This study sounded more like a MRI
  • Socio-cultural profiling (sounded like a Lipid profile)

He then wrote down several more “tests” that Asian Paints had to do before meeting him next time. He also handed over to Savyasachi a standard list of EIA ToRs. This was just like a visual on standard set of exercises an Orthopedic recommends – irrespective of the “type of patient” – I thought.

While Savyasachi got up from his Chair thanking him, professor told him where such tests should be done. “Get the baseline from Aditya Environmental Services as they know MPCB pretty well. Air quality modelling should be done at IIT Delhi and social-cultural profiling from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. (This sounded like asking to go to Dr Avinash Phadke’s SRL Diagnostic Lab for the Path tests). My secretary outside will provide you the contact details. Pay fees to her and in cash”

The session with Savyasachi lasted for only 5 min. While exiting Savyasachi paid Rs 10,000 to the receptionist as Professors fees. My mouth gaped (I did quick calculation – I was losing at least 1 million Rs a month due to my generosity. I did not even add the commission I could get from Ulhas Joglekar of Aditya Environmental Services!)

“Nothing should be free – after all this is business – you don’t let them to pick your brains just like that “Professor said while punching papers of my notes in Asian Paints “case file”.

He then rang the bell to get the next patient in.

Mr. Anirban Ghosh from Mahindra walked in with wads of papers

What a surprise! – both of us exclaimed!I

 


It is a rumor that Mr. Hardik Shah, Private Secretary to the Hon Union Environmental Minister, is taking out a Government Order (GO) that all high specialist environmental consultants will  open their offices (or cliniques) in Medical Poly-clinique for their business sustainability. Apparently, Polluter pays is the governing principle.

This will stop the L1 practice of choosing environmental consultants and environmental specialists will be treated at par with speciality medical doctors. The industry will pay for advice.

I will soon be locating  my consulting office in a nearby Medical Poly-Clinique. I expect to raise salaries of my staff soon.

Let us get some respect to our “life saving” profession.


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Communicating Sustainability

 

Spreading the message of sustainability has always been a challenging task. It is important that we all understand the importance of sustainable lifestyles and “walk the talk” by transforming our way of living. But is that so easy? Its easier said than done.

While the businesses have started to understand the advantage of sustainability; the situation is quite different when it comes to other key stakeholders such as Government, Investors and the Communities. In most cases, there is a lack of understanding and sometimes just apathy.

Government employees say that Sustainability is not in their Job Description or they are not paid for. Investors keep asking for evidence that shows Sustainability is Material and the people, especially in Mumbai, feel that they don’t have enough time to even think about Sustainability. Most of the time people spend in Mumbai is in the traffic jams or on the mobile phones.

How can we make people understand Sustainability and make them Sustainability Literate?

The Chief Minister (CM) of the Government of Maharashtra decided to call for a meeting of key political leaders, top media persons, business tycoons, academia and the environmental NGOs at his residence on a Friday evening.

Prime Minister (PM) dispatched Mr. Amit Shah, BJP Party President, to be present as he thought that raising Sustainability Literacy could be a new election strategy. He was wrongly briefed by his office that the meeting focused on political sustainability as the concept of environmental sustainability was not known to the PMO. Knowing that Mr. Amit Shah is attending this meeting, Mr. Nitish Kumar, CM of Bihar and Mr. Suresh Prabhu, the Union Railway Minister also decided to attend.

The CM gave opening remarks. He was to the point and crisp as usual. He summed up saying that the State Government is in debt and there are no financial resources available. But, this was known to everybody. Sustainability was however important for his Party. He asked Piyush Pande of Ogilvy and Mather (O&M) to present the approach and a budget.

Piyush Pande circulated a 2-page note that showed an indicative budget of 1000 million Rs over the next 6 months. Items included inserts and debates on main TV channels that have high TRF rating, Hoardings/Neon signs at locations where we see major traffic jams, Videos that may be shown after the National Anthem in the movie theaters etc.  There was also a budget provided for use of modern platforms such as Facebook. A sizable budget was provided for Mobile Apps that would track sustainable lifestyle etc. Based on the performance of the sustainable lifestyle, discounts were to be provided on shopping on amazon!

Marathi, Hindi and English were considered as the principal languages for communication (One of the attendees however suggested that the languages should be Gujarati, Sindhi and Punjabi as those who speak these languages are perhaps the most consumptive and wasteful – badly requiring Sustainability Literacy).

Piyush showed some rough artworks, visuals, mocks etc. that entertained the audience. O&M was to take the lead for the entire campaign for a modest fee of 200 million Rs.

After Piyush Pande’s presentation, there was silence as the challenge was how to raise the sum of 1000 million Rs. in a short time. The CM took the lead. He appealed to all the Corporate Honchos that they should contribute 5% of their CSR budgets for communicating sustainability. Mr. Ratan Tata, Kumarmangalam Birla and Anand Mahindra readily agreed to this proposition as they were expecting that 5% may be levied on the turnovers as is generally done while mopping the election funds. They felt a bit relieved. But given the herculean task of reaching 120+ million stubborn population of the State of Maharashtra, the CSR budgets alone were not going to be sufficient.

Mr. Deepak Parikh (often misunderstood for his wise suggestions) proposed that additional funds could be raised by adding 1% to the recently introduced GST. The items to target could include luxury cars (SUVs), food in four stars and “plus” restaurants, air conditioners, cosmetics, cigarettes and liquor. “This will not only lead to generation of funds but influence frugal living” He said. Prominent environmentalists like Bittu Sahgal, Debi Goenka and Kunti Oza supported this suggestion. (“I already have ACs fitted in all my rooms” Kunti whispered)

“We should cut down the costs somehow” said Dr. Ajit Ranade, Chief Economist of the Aditya Birla Group. “Let us start with a pilot in Mumbai first before attempting the entire State of Maharashtra“ He opined. (Piloting is a “strategic approach” to cut down the costs. It also helps to kill the project later as per most eminent economists).

“But then the pilot will have to be in Nagpur and not Mumbai” said the CM. “I am only interested in Vidarbha”. He looked very firm.

“Why don’t you do both Mumbai and Nagpur as pilots. Keep both the options” said Mr. Nitish Kumar, CM of Bihar. “Typical of Nitish” thought the CM “He always wants to keep 2 options”

Piyush Pande suggested that the costs could be further reduced by using channel like Republic instead of Times Now. He clarified that no offences were made to Arnab Goswami in making such a suggestion. Fortunately, Arnab was not present in the meeting. Else he would surely asked the question “Nation wants to know – why?”

“Why don’t you print messages on Sustainability on the reverse side of the Railway tickets. This will hit millions of people commuting in Mumbai”. Said Mr. Suresh Prabhu, originally a Mumbaikar and now the Union Railway Minister. He misses Mumbai.

“Great – this will also help educate the Railway ticket checkers on Sustainability. They are behind the scene but are equally important” added Actor Alia Bhatt. All present realized that Alia could certainly see “beyond”.

Piyush Pande then presented some sample designs of the hoardings. CM did not approve any of them as the hoardings did not carry PM’s picture. The CM was absolutely right – how can you communicate Sustainability without portraying leadership of the PM. Mr. Pande accepted his mistake.

There were numerous other suggestions like mandating Sustainability in all religious festivals and in the conduct of public meetings. Suggestions were also made to provide catchy slogans to the Truck drivers. They could be asked to replace the irrelevant and popular slogans like “Horn OK Please” or “Buri Nazarwale Tera Muh Kala” that you often see them on the rear. Dr. Sanjay Deshmukh, VC of Mumbai University suggested a compulsory on-line Sustainability Literacy test. His suggestion was summarily rejected. “I don’t want any delays and further mess up” said the CM

Mr. Amit Shah was keeping quiet all this time. “Any suggestions Sir?” The CM asked as he was getting ready to sum up the meeting

“Well, I have only one suggestion for Mr. Pande. Use saffron color to the maximum extent possible in communicating sustainability” He said this while switching off his secret miniature camcorder that was gifted to him by none other than Mr. Vladimir Putin.


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