Anil Thakraney: Murder in the factory

25 Jul,2012

By Anil Thakraney


What happened at Maruti’s Manesar plant is extremely sad. You don’t go to work and expect to get burnt alive by your own colleagues. And this is no longer a business story, it has moved to Page 1 as a sensational crime story.


Naturally, we now have to wait for the police investigation to get done, so that we know exactly what transpired that fateful day. Apart from nabbing the criminal workers (which isn’t going to be easy given the political pressure), another truth needs to be uncovered: There are rumours that the slain HR manager provoked a group of workers by hurling casteist or communal abuse. This doesn’t lessen the crime, but it still needs to be investigated.


As of now, I know just one thing: HR managers who deal with factory workers need high level of skill and training. It is a very difficult job because there is always a huge degree of mistrust between white and blue collar workers. Everything is vastly different: Sensibilities, motivations, attitudes, culture, language, you name it. I sometimes wonder if CEOs put in special efforts to appoint the correct HR personnel for their factories. And ensure they are heavy trained for the job. It’s just not the same as air-conditioned corporate offices, where even if the HR staffers did nothing (and many do precious little!), life simply goes on.


How do I know all this, since I have never worked in HR? It’s simple. My dad, before he retired, was the chief of personnel and human resources at Shaw Wallace. And the factory HR was his key result area. I am aware of the high level of tact and diplomacy he used to need at his disposal to keep the workers and the management at peace. It was a very stressful job, and despite his best efforts, he would, at times, receive violent threats from a section of workers.


I got a chance to watch him in action when he took me for a factory visit to the company’s Uran (Maharashtra) brewery. This was when I was in school, and the visit introduced me to beer very early in life, but that’s another story. 😉


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PS: ‘The web is what you make of it’. Google Chrome has been doing some nice adverts in this campaign. This particular one, where a man is trying to woo his lost love back, is quite charming. The strength of this work lies in what is known in advertising parlance as ‘vivid demonstration of the product’. Whereby you experience exactly how the product works. But they do it in a very entertaining way, which is why the ads shine. Something to learn here for all those guys who make those ultra boring mechanical car commercials.


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