March - April 2002   
  Vol. 2 No.2   
Know Your Founders Oddities, Eccentricities, Etc. Of Enduring Interest Corporate Commentary Back to Main Page Editorial



E. J. Kalwachia, Executive Director, Interviewed by B. K. Karanjia

“All yoga is in its nature a new birth; it is a birth out of the ordinary,the mentalised material life of man into a higher spiritual consciousness and a greater and diviner being.” — Sri Aurobindo


How does E.J. Kalwachia, finding himself at the centre of Company turmoil, manage nevertheless to remain calm, collected, and so cool?

His answer is a quiet, knowing smile. I cannot, even on casual acquaintance with EJK, accept the canard spread by interested parties that he is management’s stooge and against the employees. The few times I met him I got the impression of a man of strong convictions. A quiet but absolute sincerity in what he says and does. A man who abides by his conscience. Completely independent. A free spirit.

Yet the fact remains that, of late, there is erosion visible in the old pre-centenary years bonds of loyalty between management and employees. Several facilities that employees enjoyed over the years have, now in terms of rupee value, become a burden on the products in the Company’s fight for survival in the marketplace. In the present context, according to the management, Godrej cannot continue with such subsidies on Housing, Schooling, Medical and Canteen facilities for a section of employees only. When the paradigm shifts, everything begins with ‘zero’. This obviously is bound to create a flutter.

Very recently, in the course of a two-hour interview I had with EJK — not an interview as much as a soliloquy with EJK unburdening his heart which, incidentally, for a man of his reticence, was most unusual — I realised that it wasn’t management-employee attitudes that had changed — not at all! It was circumstances that had changed — drastically. And circumstances do alter cases.

These circumstances are convincingly set forth in the interview that follows. Also, convincing is EJK’s long-held belief in a culture of mutual respect and regard between management and employees. Towards this end he expectsemployees to assume greater responsibility, take ownership of job, develop pride in what they are doing, increase production and productivity manifold and keep the work area clean.

And what may the employees expect in return? EJK’s concept includes the monetary and the mercenary as circumstances allow, but goes way beyond this to considerations over which circumstances have no sway — a better way of life, a simple and natural way that would revolutionise employees’ lives. This also is developed in the interview.

It has long been an article of faith with him. In the Seva Plan he authored in 1996-’97 he clearly and emphatically laid down the necessity for an interpersonal bond of teamwork: “We no longer need yesterday’s model of command and control management. It needs to be replaced with a new kind of participative and compassionate value-based relationship.” The words bear repitition — a new kind of participative and compassionate value-based relationship. Brings to mind founder Pirojsha’s oft-repeated comment that a happy employee is a good employee.

EJK appears to me as an evolved human being, a sincere yogin, a true Indian fully conscious (as Swami Chaitnaya Keerti puts it so beautifully) that the dust of this land still remembers Buddha’s feet walking on it, the trees still cherish the memory that Mahavira had once stood in their shade, the seas surrounding the country still know a different voice they had heard in the past and the skies of this country are still full of hope.

As I got up to leave and we shook hands, EJK’s entrancing smile held me. Life, I’ve heard it said, is a fairy tale, which we lose the power of apprehending as we grow old. Does EJK, I wondered, still retain, at 65, some of that power, that magic?