Indian public sector undertakings (PSU) are well known for their slowness, in-productivity, mediocrity and annoying worker unions. They hardly earn profit and even hardly have respect among people. It’s a usual story that these industries ate millions of public money over years and at certain point government tends to sell them to private.

A question generally arise is, even with the tremendous back up from the government, how they fail? There might be several reasons from our red tape methods to external interference from politicians. But even with these limitations, is it possible to run a PSU successfully? And a government run institution can ever earn profit? Many may say No, but Dr. V. Krishnamurthy had a different answer.

Dr. Krishnamurthy chaired as a director of three prestigious Indian PSU’s (Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, Maruti Udyog and Steel Authority of India) at their critical position and with his hard work and management skills he brought them to the top position. Awarded with India’s all the top three awards, he is a respectful figure among Indian technocrats. He wrote about his memories and experience with these three companies as a detailed account in his memoir “At the Helm” and it could be a worth to take — lesson for any company as well as the enthusiastic individuals and leaders.

The core of his management philosophy (as expressed in the book) is:

  1. Treat people with dignity
  2. Constant communication
  3. Creating awareness among the workers
  4. Customer centred approach
  5. Constant upgrading of technology

Treat people with dignity:

Usually, managers of the company tend to keep a distance from their workers. Also most often the workers are treated as secondary and concern over their welfare is usually ignored. But all over his life, Krishnamurthy tend to break this wall. He used to go around the working area in the evening and ask about the workers work, family and health. He is capable of calling his workers with their first name (~7000 names!). Whenever possible he include the union leaders in decision making. If there is a conflict between management and workers in terms of bonus or working style, he tend to stand on the sides of workers. Even more, he introduced uniform dress code, so that, from the director to the end worker would wear the similar dress. Such a acts induced great respect for him among the workers and it is possible for him to direct them all towards a particular goal.

Constant Communication:

It is obvious that, proper communication is essential for any company to succeed. But government institutions often lack of this. Managers don’t know what their workers are doing and the director don’t know what up to their managers. Usually decisions were made by the secretaries of the ministry and no one wonders why there is such a task or who ordered that. Krishnamurthy used to build up a top to bottom communication protocol, so that every one knows what is their duty and what the management expect them to do. Monthly meetings were organized and the progress is discussed with the workers. He made everyone to know, whats happening in the industry. So that everyone knows what is their role in that.

Creating Awareness Among the Workers:

Krishnamurthy believed that the workers should know, what is the goal of the company and introduced step-by-step plans, through which the motto can be achieved. He used to typeset those plans and made them circulate among the workers. This act create more responsibility among the workers and they tend to be more productive.

Customer Centered Approach

In government industries no one bothers about the needs of the customer. Company may have particular design and the customer should stick with it. There is an ‘unknown’ time between the placement of an order and its delivery. Such a acts obviously leads to low customer base. Krishnamurthy introduced a plan by which approximate date of the delivery will be intimated to the customer and if it is not fulfilled, the company would pay an interest amount about 3.5% to the customer. This create a huge respect among the customers. Also, the work orders are regularized, so the workers know, what is their top priority task.

Constant Upgrading of Technology

It is obvious that upgrading to newer technology as quick as possible is the best way to a company to stand against time. In India, around 90’s only the computers were introduced and even in such early days, Krishnamurthy tends to use computers for documentation and work integration. This heavily profited the company.