October 20, 2008


Elephant in the tent

You must have gotten more than fair share of your dose of Jet Airways story from media. At the end, who won and who lost.

Biggest loser of the episode is, obviously, Jet Airways and the boss Naresh Goyal. When media has mastered the art of making non-news to a sensational story, how did they bungle it this big? Don't they have any HR person in the team? No PR person to mellow down the entire story? Mr Boss almost pleaded complete obliviousness to the matter. If the management didn't consult him on this decision, then rolling some heads on the top would have made us really believe that the decision was taken without his consent. And in case he was aware of the action, then his statement that he wasn't is, umm.. factually incorrect. Either way his reputation has taken a serious dent. Reputation in aam junta may not be of much value to him, but what about the image among the Jet employees?

Next in the loser's list is Jet empoyees. Being terminated in this manner is a huge reason for media to rake up this issue. All they had to do was protest mildly. Immediately, experts would have been called up to give a soundbite. Another panel would have discussed "Is hire and fire way of our culture," etc. You get the point. The mistake of Jet is so grave that they would have realized in the matter of hours and taken corrective steps.

Instead, Jet employees invited Raj Thackrey's MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) to "help" them out. MNS must have been escatic at this offer. They didn't waste a minute to ride the gravy train. Never mind if it involved helping the very "non-Marathi-Manoos" whom they routinely terrorize. Or if it involves giving instant lessons in Marathi. Or teaching Jet staff that Mr Raj Thackrey is actually "Mananiya Raj Saheb Thackrey".

Getting MNS involved in the matter meant, every political party will extract its pound of flesh. Now, they had Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress and the communist gang vocally joining the drama. In future, whenever there is a minor trouble with white-collar employees, all these guys will make an issue out of it. And why is it such a bad thing? Well, just to give you an example, IBM shut down many offices in Europe because of union troubles. And I have seen that happening in textile industry at my hometown in Solapur. As much as there is disdain about blood-sucking capitalists, let me assure you unionism is the surest way of closing down the industries.

As for Jet, last year they posted a loss of Rs 650 Crore. With no good news in sight, except for the lower crude price, it needs to be watched how long they can sustain such high losses. Just a quick common wisdom on aviation sector. In its entire history of existance, it has not made any money. Now, if people oppose any kind of downsizing in these times, then I suppose they would rather have everybody at company losing the job instead of few.

Biggest Winner? Obviously, MNS. With an army of rowdy followers, such opportunities are Diwali bonus in advance. Now that they have tasted the blood, they will not lose a single such incidence to make their presence felt.

As much as I hope, Jet incident is an aberration, I fear it may become a norm. Then we don't need a full-blown crisis in global markets to return to 5% growth rate.


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