First day, Last resort
The Cast (Just in case you haven’t read the earlier piece)
A: Assistant to M
J: V’s Boss
S: Assistant to V
R: Brand manager
And, W: who’s just joined as the Head Marketing (so R has a new boss)
Scene: The monday morning meeting that has been on for some time
(and we know this by the increasing levels of noise and reducing coherence)
M: This just won’t do. It is totally unacceptable!
V: (Hands folded, chin on chest, eyes partially closed) I have told you what will happen, and there’s not much that I can do now
M: (Looks helplessly at A)
A: (clears his throat) V, we had discussed in the last meeting that we would overhaul the sales system, identify and sack all the non-performers, and speak to banks for additional funds. That should have changed things around, no?
J: A, you don’t understand even the basics of sales. Those are long term actions that will provide results in a year’s time; maybe two. Please understand that we are on a burning platform and those are not the answer to our problems.
M: Then give me an answer that will work. I do not want yet another bad month! A, please make a note of what I have said in the minutes.
A: (glances helplessly at V)
V: (studiously silent, seems to be deeply analysing some report in a bulky file)
M: V, I want an answer from you! Things can’t just go on like this.
V: The only way we can do anything in the short run is if the brand drops the price and gives a scheme. If R, can clear it, I will be able to meet this month’s numbers.
M: I have no issue. By hook or crook, I want the numbers. R, can you act on this?
R: Sir, V is asking for a 25% reduction in price for a 15% growth in volumes. I really don’t know what to do. I have shared the proposal with J, and he also said that it just doesn’t make sense. J?
R: (looks at J)
J: (is critically examining A’s new phone)
W: (Enters Now)
M: Aah, W, I was just waiting for you. Just look at the state of affairs here! Please take control immediately.
W: uh, sure sir… (expression is anything but sure, though)
V: W, I want a quick decision on the pricing and schemes. You can’t imagine the kind of pressure M is in.
M: (taken aback at the sudden stab of empathy coming from unexpected quarters)
M: Yeah. Yeah.
W: uh, ok… has anything been decided on the scheme? (looks at R)
R: W, V is asking for a scheme that will grow volumes and drop value toplines. I really don’t know how to take this forward. You will really have to take this up with V,M and J and get me a clear go ahead.
W: R, as a senior brand manager, I expect much more from you. These are things which brand managers are supposed to handle. I will have a detailed discussion with you once this meeting is over.
J: Oh, by the way W, I will be travelling from today evening. So please take charge of this issue. Discuss with R and V and close this. I will be reachable on phone after day after morning.
W: Can I take it that we are in principle agreed for the scheme, and R can start working on developing the communication?
M: (smiles at W, with an expression that means quite nothing)
V: (senses an opportunity and suddenly gets a lot more animated than he has been all along) M, J, can we agree and go ahead? We need to act fast.
J: W, I hope you understand that we don’t take calls in this company without detailed analysis and due deliberation. Please sit with R, sit with V, go through all the data, visit a few dealers if possible, discuss amongst yourselves and let me know how you would like to go about it by tomorrow morning.
W: (expression says ‘what the …?!’)
V: I have work to attend to now, but W, please fix time with my secretary and we can meet.
M: (smile continues) W, I am really looking forward to your contribution this month. If anyone can save me this month, it is you. I am sure you won’t let me down.
M: (gets up, pats W on the back, and strides out of the room)
J: (gets a call, starts speaking loudly, gestures with eyes and hands to W and R, gestures that are quite ambiguous and incomprehensible, and walks out)
W: (looks around and finds only R in the room)
R: (has a hangdog expression, expecting a stroke of pity from the new boss)
W: (starts with a stern frown and ends with a wink) R, please handle this. I have heard some good things about you and I want to see what you are capable of. I have to rush for my wife’s sister’s birthday now. I expect a call from you after you discuss with V, and let me know what happened. Remember, my reputation is in your hands!
R: (is now alone in the room)
R: S, get me a coffee will you?