Kolkata Center of Excellence turns Five!!

What is it about some people that makes their successes and joys (and their failures and sorrows too) seem like your own?  It will soon be two years since Michael Jackson died, and in spite of all my derision for pop music, it is impossible for me or anyone to deny the immensity of this man’s mission.  Much of his music is forgettable, or mediocre at best, but what is not is the life force and conviction that he brought to all that he did.  June 25 will be a date that will remain etched in our memories for ever as the day this skylark soared to the sky.  Close to that date is June 26, a red letter day for the people who constituted the Center of Excellence project in Kolkata.  And it is a similar lifeforce and conviction, along with integrity and loyalty that makes this group of people stand apart.  This post is a tribute to them and their journey over the years.

On June 26, 2006, nearly thirty of my friends set out on an unusual adventure.  Most of them were Kolkatans who had relocated to Hyderabad a few years earlier to work as final level quality analysts with the company I was then part of, but were struggling to adjust with life away from the love of their lives - home.  Even though they organized Bengali lunches for the core team and the Kolkata group, and sang Tagore songs to celebrate the festivities of Baishakh, it was just not the same.  Rapid weight loss made matters more concerning, at least for the men.  

The indomitable “gauls,” (you figure out who was who) took the lead and planted in the minds of the management the seed of setting up a remotely administered unit in Kolkata.  Given the fact that it was a good location in terms of talent, it was considered, and after much networking and scouting, a partner was found who leased out part of his office for them to start out in.

The unit had its usual teething problems, and then some, and then some more, but the grit and enthusiasm of the team saw them surmount them all with time.  It was not easy, the internet connection was flaky, the leased support staff found it difficult to identify with the needs of an outside entity, the access road flooded with the slightest rainfall, and the team had to manage with unhygienic restrooms opening into the production space and absent common recreation and meeting area.  The team at Hyderabad did all they could to support them while they searched for a place “of their own.”

It was not till well into 2008 that they were able to identify a suitable place and close on it.  A team was sent on May 18 from Hyderabad to oversee the interiors work and the networking.  The Kolkata team also chipped in with the work, playing host, scouting the local markets to find stuff that our Hyderabad technical staff would not have been able to, and treating them to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Bengal.   Finally on June 1, 2008, the office was ready, and production began.  It was a significant breakthrough for this band of brothers (and shistah’s) who worked and played equally hard to get where they had got.  They survived floods, fires, internet and power outages, marriages and relocations, political turmoil, being bitten by coworkers, and unconventional beauty treatments, to sing and dance their way into their new office.

Many of the things taken for granted at the Hyderabad unit became challenges at the new office at Kolkata.  It was on the 14th floor, so having the lift on was essential, but it was manned by an employee who worked the day shift, who could not see reason why he needed to start it up early in the morning and keep it on till late, since the building was largely occupied by offices for whom the day started at 10 and ended by 6.  Electricals and electricity were both unpredictable and the team would often see days when they would not be able to start working till late into the day, and have to stay back till late to ensure that all deliveries were made.  

The other challenge was bandhs, the Kolkata way of organizing gully cricket tournaments.  The team would arrange for people to be picked up and brought in to work before daybreak, and put them up with friends and at hotels, since they would not get transport.  Even food on bandh days would be a challenge since all establishments would be closed.  The never-give-up spirit of the team ensured that all of these challenges were overcome.  Even the non-negotiable (in Kolkata) puja break has been worked around, with the staff taking days off based on a roster spread out across teams.

It is difficult to believe that five years have passed by.  It seems just the other day when they were celebrating the first anniversary of the unit.  

Here are some pics from the third anniversary celebrations that the tech support team from Hyderabad was also a part of.

Though there have been some changes with some people moving on with their lives, the majority of the charter team still continue to lead and inspire the rest.  Having nearly doubled in number over five years, this group of people have succeeded in redefining the concept of a Center of Excellence in more ways than one.  I am certain they will continue to do so, setting new benchmarks for others to aspire to.

To these Kings, my respect.

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