24 December 2015 09:40:36 IST

All it takes is a firm handshake

A handshake can make or break a deal

The inauguration was set for 11 am.

A steady stream of people continued to enter the temporary pavilion that was set up in the parking area of the new factory. Large balloons with the company’s logo emblazoned on them were struggling to break free, while signboards with the company’s name and logo were strategically placed all around the venue.

Over two thousand guests were expected: employees, dealers, vendors, bankers and government officials. Some would come to admire the extravagant proceedings, but the majority were there to mark their presence with the one man who seemed to hold their collective destinies in his hands.

That one man was the owner and Chairman of the company whose third manufacturing plant was being inaugurated today. What began as a small trading firm four decades ago, was today India’s largest consumer durable brand with a 52 per cent market share.

Fully aware that every eye in the audience was on him, the Chairman stood tall on the podium surveying the crowd.

While most faces had a look of joyous anticipation, there was one face that looked extremely worried. That face belonged to Gopal Rao, the young owner of a small advertising agency. Today, his agency was facing the biggest threat to its very existence: their largest client, that accounted for 60 per cent of their business, had walked out yesterday. Surviving the next quarter seemed impossible. Gopal knew he should be elsewhere, doing some damage control, but it was important to be here. Rumour had it the Chairman made a note of the absentees.

Second thoughts

Gopal had never felt so alone and unsure. Had he done the right thing by starting his own advertising agency immediately after completing his MBA?

His father’s words came back to haunt him “I will give you the money to start your agency but remember it's a loan. I still think it is your ego that blinds you. What good will a business card that reads ‘Founder & CEO’ do for you? Mark my words: all you and your team will be doing is constantly worrying about where your next meal comes from. I still seriously suggest that you take up a regular job, learn the ways of the corporate world, and then venture out as an entrepreneur.”

He should have listened to his father!

Gopal’s thoughts were interrupted by some commotion in the front. The Chairman had stepped off the stage to greet some important guests in the first few rows.

With a new found energy, Gopal deftly manoeuvred his way to the front. The Chairman was immaculately dressed, and cut a tall, imposing figure. Gopal was admittedly rather short, and certainly lacked style. Nonetheless, when the chairman turned to him, he extended his hand confidently.

Taken aback by the tight grip, the Chairman inwardly delighted at this public display of deference and enthusiasm from one of his agency heads.

“Many congratulations to you, sir. My agency and I are proud to be serving you,” Gopal said.

The Chairman smiled graciously.

“It would have been all the more wonderful sir, if your late father could have been here on this historic day,” Gopal went on, his grip in the handshake not wavering.

The collective murmurs and whispers of the large crowd made it difficult to be heard. The Chairman moved his head closer to Gopal’s ear. “Thank you very much for your kind words. Yes, had my father been alive today, I am sure he would have been proud of the great heights I have achieved.”

Gopal kept nodding his head in agreement, and all along, continued with his firm grip of the Chairman’s hand.

To the many observers around, especially the Vice-President Marketing, it seemed as if the two were engaged in some serious conversation. The Chairman continued speaking expansively about his achievements for the next four minutes.

A full four minutes .

Not for a single moment did the VP’s eyes waver from the two of them. And not for a moment did Gopal slacken his grip.

The happy ending

The Master of Ceremonies picked up the microphone.

The Chairman pulled his hand away, gave Gopal a light pat on his shoulder and hurriedly moved back to the stage.

The event was about to begin.

The VP Marketing quickly made his way towards Gopal. “Looks like the Chairman had a long and serious conversation with you? I hope all is well?”

“Oh yes.” replied Gopal, confidently, “The Chairman is obviously concerned about the need to increase sales, now that the third factory is about to start up. I shared some thoughts and strategies on how to achieve that. He seemed to like my ideas and has asked me to be ready with a new national campaign.”

Amongst the three advertising agencies that worked for this client, the major share of the advertising budget that year went to Gopal’s agency.

His pipeline of business was full for the next two years.

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