About the Blog

This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

January 23, 2011

Banking by design

Recently  I  landed up at the offices of several banks headquartered in Bangalore & Mangalore . Each presented me a study in contrast, in the way they expressed their character and brand values through their front offices. And the script ran on familiar themes;

Public sector banks have this - no frill, sedate & dull almost to the point of boring you to death types of receptions. One (Canara Bank) resembled a check-in counter at the airport, complete with uniformed staff manning a X-ray baggage checking machine next to the receptionist. Another (Vijaya Bank) had large showcases of what appeared to be several large trophies & awards around its reception area. I don’t know where & how they won so many but it certainly reminded me of my school & college receptions. Corporation Bank had this wooden box like reception area that resembled a ticketing  counter of a 70 era cinema theater. 

Private sector banks were much more refined in their presentation. One bank (ING Vyasa)  had revolving glass doors and a large steel art piece hanging like a chandelier as one approached its front desk. It appeared straight out of an art gallery. Another (Karnataka Bank) had a minimalistic approach, several layers of transparent glass corridors leading from the security to the reception.

Essentially the style and substance in presentation speaks a lot of the banks, and it seems only the private sector banks used it as a calling card and a sophisticated way of differentiating from peers. Given the bad reputation and some stigma facing the industry it made a lot of sense for banks to trade goodwill and reputations through their corporate front offices.

Years back when I was working with ICICI Bank I used to marvel at its BKC headquarters, a place for our frequent visits and meetings. It appeared as jewel-de-paragon on the Bandra-kurla complex which during the initial years of its completion stood out against the monolithic blocks of concrete buildings as one entered the complex from Bandra side. I couldn’t differentiate these buildings from the fort (some called it residence named Matoshree) of the aging tiger (Bal Thackeray) who lived on the other side of the road. Several other organizations sprung around ICICI Bank  later each trying to outdo the other in architectural splendor.

Magnificent as was it from outside contrast  the reception where loud and bawdy Marathi speaking manoos’es who many a times doubled up as security and receptionists undid most of sophistication that Kamath had tried to portray as a dynamic universal Bank. 

Few years later I was frequenting Mahalakshmi where Centurion Bank (CBoP) had converted a portion of a old rundown mill into its Corporate HQ. While on the exterior, the building exuded some charm of a heritage building the interiors were all glass and gloss.  There was one small glitch though, a secretarial college rubbed shoulders with CBoP as its neighbor in the same complex.

Finally to understand how size can be one’s own undoing one can visit the head offices  of NABARD in Mumbai. You will be reminded of how it would have been like while being swallowed by a 10000 pound dinosaur.

January 5, 2011

A nature trail & the new Year

I am penning my thoughts after a 2 week break which took me to  a wonderful Nature park near Madikeri and the pristinely clear water beach of Maravanthe in Karavali district. Amidst this I also had the luxury of mixing a bit of Business with pleasure ,so on the way I addressed a good gathering of Govt officials in Mysore , a few Business calls In Mangalore  and a bit of follow-up in Dharwar after that. All in all  1650 Kms of sojourn it was and with all  the hectic driving & the body creaking of exhaustion I was  back in Bengaluru yesterday. 

Eventful it was but it had not prepared me to lose my mobile during the trip which I did in Mysore. I thought I was ensconced in a secure area (the  old sprawling Govt bungalow which is the official Guest House of the Forest Dept is surrounded by  high walled  compound & a security post at the gates) and during the evening sit out on its sprawling veranda facing well manicured garden  I left my mobile  on the chair only to find it missing in the morning. The Vodafone service (or disservice) after the incident  is better left unsaid for it will fill the rest of the article. 

After the Mysore schedule I drove down to Kushalnagar where I stayed at Nisargadhama (nature park of the Karnataka Forest dept) for a day. The Mercara district forest officer had invited me to stay over before visiting their Mercara offices.  This island  in the hub of the river Cauvery is a scenic & serene place  and tourists can also stay in one of the few (only 4-5 thankfully) cottages at a very reasonable price (I payed zilch though as I was the official guest of the KFD). After entering the island through the rope bridge, we were ushered into the ‘Kannika” cottage where  we just slept through the afternoon amidst the distant  noise & chatter of the thronging visitors. However by 6 in the evening  the area fell into deathly silence (after the park closed for visitors) and this  lively  nature park is  best experienced during this period. Sitting by the river side & with a riot of noises around  I penned the following lines to describe the experience;

A  drooping  cottage by the river
Stands high on a pile of bamboo pillars
Perched on its banks, its small veranda
Reaching out to kiss the river
Water by the side , in a haze of light green
Whispers as she flows through the rocks
Bamboo stocks, aplenty
Crackle  sporadically  in mystified voices
In between the  chitter chatter of the thickly wooded park
Telling us something , about  nature’s  benign voice
As do the fishes, playfully  whipping up  the surface of the river
Birds in the surrounding woods , do the real tweets
Oh!....Nature trails are so sweet.

Christmas eve was spent in Udupi & we did manage to visit one of the church in town on 25th but all the pomp & revelry had gotten over the previous evening. So much so that not a soul was visible in the church on the Christmas day.   

And  New Year ushered us at the old Deccan Gymkhana club in Dharwar town, next to it was the sprawling KC (Kittur Channamma) park where two  colorful  water fountains sprung  to life randomly in  colors of green blue & red symbolically reminding us of the hope, joys and sorrows that lay ahead in 2011.   
 Wishing all my readers a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

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