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World Cup keeps India Inc awake

Last updated on: July 12, 2010 10:52 IST

World Cup keeps India Inc awake

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The World Cup has been tough on the titans of world football - Brazil, Argentina, Germany, etc - for the past month. And, so has it been on India Inc and its soccer-frenzied workforce.

Late night crunching of numbers for Diego Maradona's Argentina or boardroom debates to get Brazil back to the reckoning have been the order of the day.

Coaches, referees, penalty shootouts and strike conversions into goals replaced mentors, human resource managers, PowerPoint presentations and Excel sheets in corporate India.

"Balancing work, wife and the World Cup have been tough," says Kabir Dutt, 33, a sales executive with Samsung. "Thank God, it happens once every four years."

It's been a challenge, especially being glued to the TV set for the late night matches. "Five hours of sleep and the afternoons have been dreadful. I hated the post-lunch meetings, they were the toughest... I am sure by now I must have caffeine-induced ulcers in my stomach," says Rahul Sengupta, an advertising professional, who never missed a single match.

"At times, I wanted to follow our ad and hide behind the potted plants and disappear... Go to a quiet corner and catch 40 winks," quips Dhananjaya Sinha, who has been with Vodafone for the past two years. He took the Vodafone 'I love football' campaign to heart.

A diehard Chelsea fan, it was tough for him to choose between Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard till the very end.

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World Cup keeps India Inc awake

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Office indulgence

Companies have, by and large, been generous to its sleep-deprived managers. Nor did it begin or end with flexi timings. From CEOs to interns and the managers in between, the World Cup has had equal resonance with all.

"World Cup is a time for passion, it's a great opportunity to improve team-building spirit of the organisation. It is okay if you are a little lenient with the morning timings, you really don't need to send an internal memo to all for that and institutionalise it," says Gautam Chainani, chief people officer, financial services, Aditya Birla Group.

The final between Spain and Netherlands was late tonight. So, rest assured, Monday morning's meeting will start an hour late. Agrees Chainani: "I have already received calls from my team saying 'Let's start the Monday meeting late... Sunday will be a late night.' "

That will be the universal story. From Mumbai to Bangalore and certainly in Kolkata.

"The bandh should have been this Monday, not last week," regrets D Satish, a financial analyst with the institutional sales team at Edelweiss. "Or, at least, the markets should open an hour late... have a heart!"

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World Cup keeps India Inc awake

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That's where the flexi timings at Marico came in handy.

"We have an admin official who is passionate about the game; he used to watch every single match, from beginning to end. We told him, it's okay if you come a little late in the mornings," says Saugato Gupta, CEO, Consumer Products Division of Marico.

As for him, it was selective viewing in the league stages for the midnight games and catching the highlights the next morning at 7.

"But from the knockout stages, I have been watching... mostly in pubs with beer and friends, as I have also been travelling and as a result I have gained an extra kilo and a half in a month," he says.

For HR heads, World Cup has been a bonding opportunity for their entire team.

"Honestly, we have not made a big story out of the World Cup but this Friday, we have sent out internal mailers to all, asking them to be Paul the Octopus and predict the winner. The lucky ones will also get a prize," says Rajneesh Singh, Group HR Head, Network18. It's all about creating a buzz.

As for himself and his seven-year-old son, both became diehard World Cup junkies from the pre-quarter stage and watched most of the matches, defying all bed time rules, no matter if there was school or office the next day. "Even my wife got hooked," he says.

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World Cup keeps India Inc awake

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Bosses on board

In Aditya Birla Financial Services, football and sports were the popular themes in meetings where the CEO even made presentations on the team building aspects of group sports and corporate lives.

It helps, if your CEO, like Ajay Srinivasan of ABFSL, happens to be a sports fanatic who would slip into a jersey at any given opportunity.

Tata Steel Processing and Distribution (formerly Tata Ryerson) has been going easy on office timings. Normally, office starts at 9.30 am and there is a 15-minute grace period. But these days, one can walk in at 10.30 and get away with it. Not surprising, given that managing director Sandipan Chakravortty is a football enthusiast.

"I have asked my people not to mark casual leave for someone who is walking in late. This is genuine entertainment and it would be incorrect on my part to clamp down," he said. Chakravortty has been watching all the matches from quarterfinals, yet manages to reach office on time. Of course, his golf and morning walks are in abeyance.

Nicco Engineering Services managing director Siddhant Kaul sets the alarm for 11.58 pm and is in front of the television at midnight.

"I am lucky if the match doesn't stretch to extra time. Else, the next day goes for a toss," he says.

But Kaul doesn't have the luxury to catch up on extra sleep in the morning. He has to drop his children to school, but manages with an extended lunch break. "I am dreaming of putting a mattress in the side room," he adds.

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At Nicco Engineering, everyone is walking in half an hour to one hour late. "That's alright. Once in four years, we can afford it," he says.

Debasis Ray, head, corporate communications, Tata Motors, is another diehard soccer fan. "I only missed the semifinal between Germany and Spain. I had set the wrong alarm," he says regretfully.

That is precisely how he has managed watching the late-night matches, taking a short nap and getting up to an alarm tone before the match. He found a willing partner in his 15-year-old son.

When asked how his colleagues have been coping with this midnight adventure, Ray says, "People have managed to make it to work, may be a little here and there about the timing, but that's okay during a tournament like this," he clarifies.

And now that he has colleagues at JLR (Jaguar-Land Rover), it has spiced up things a little more!

"We exchanged mails and debated about England matches. I remember during the England-Germany match, the big question was, do you listen to your heart or your head!" says Ray.

Some names have been changed on request



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