Project Stories

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Sanjiv Ojha- Area Sales Manager- Philippines
Pinoy is the name given to people of Philippines. Country was ruled by Spain for 300 plus years followed by USA and for short period in between by Japan. It has three main islands. The geographical spread makes this country unique. The culture of the region has a huge influence of these conditions. Among the most popular are marinated meats in adobo sauce; Diningding, a traditional dish combining vegetables and seafood; Laksa, a melting pot of shrimp, pork and vegetables; Kare-Kare, or boiled oxtail; and Estofado, a deep-fried meat dish served with potatoes.

Kinpo (part of 6.5 Billion USD conglomerate) is one company which has helped Kirby SEA to establish themselves in Philippines. In 2013 we were successful in securing our first project against stiff competition on the promise that we will deliver in 45 days. The contract was signed on 27th December and it was expected that the deliveries will be over by 11th FEB. The project director Sir Gary was a tough person. They were not willing to consider TET holidays as they were in hurry to shift the unit from China to Philippines due some compulsions. We delivered material by first week of FEB just before TET.

It was March 12th 2014. A sunny Wednesday. Our GD was looking thru the glass just wondering what strategy to be adopted to meet Balanced Score Card objectives. Major among them was to increase volume of orders. He was looking at options at hand seriously. Philippines was one of the markets in his mind where he saw growth prospects. Recent execution of big project for Kinpo gave huge confidence to team. While the thoughts were running a high speed his mobile rang. Other side was Mr.Gary, Project Director for Kinpo who was instrumental in awarding the project. The back ground noise confirmed he was calling from site. He opened the conversation with ‘’ what is this nonsense’’. Two columns were short supplied and erection was stopped. He continued abusing GD. Our GD a very calm and composed person kept listening. Once the pitch of voice subsided a little GD said he was sorry for what has happened and said it was his responsibility. However he is making arrangements to ship it thru fast vessel in two days.

Mr.Gary asked in grim voice ‘’ How many days it will take to reach site?’’.  GD again looked thru glass. With lots of courage he said 13-15 days.  Another set of abuses sprang up. The word sorry was repeated by GD several times in the conversation. Ultimately Mr.Gary cooled down and asked if GD was confident. After confirmation Mr.Gary said I need explanation for this gap. He added if the answer was not satisfactory he will blacklist Kirby. GD said we will ensure that two short columns will be at site by 27th March and will personally handle it by hiring a 40 feet container only for two columns. Mr.Gary just said Hmmmm.

The first order of the time was to call factory and ask them to hurry with two columns. Second to arrange shipment using fast vessel, third was to find a freight agent who will do door delivery and last one was to investigate how that happened. It took GD to figure out the reason. It was a miss by detailing. The explanation was sent admitting the mistake with the assurance of not repeating it again. Detailing team gave the reason as paucity of time due to very tight timelines. Customers are not interested in excuses. They look for honesty and sincerity towards follow up actions.

All actions were monitored on a daily basis and finally material was unloaded at site on 26th March. While the material was unloaded GD got a call from Mr.Gary. He just said we received materials. You kept your words. GD looked up and thanked god for making it happen. But this incident bolstered confidence in Mr.Gary and Kirby became most preferred supplier for Kinpo. As on date we executed 6 projects from them back to back.

Moral of the Story-
1. Listen to customers patiently and put ourselves in his shoes before reacting. Accept the mistakes without any ego.
2. Attempt to resolve the customer problems sincerely.
3. Do not waste time in providing solutions after the problems are understood.
There are couples of such encounters in Philippines after I came on board. How I handled them and lessons learnt will be narrated in the next upcoming newsletters. Do read these and comment on these. These include Cebu Airport Project, Big Blue and another on Kinpo.

Sanjiv Ojha- Area Sales Manager- Philippines
Cebu City is the oldest city in the Philippines, located in the Province of Cebu. It is often called the “Queen City of the South”. Cebu is the main center of Christianity in the Philippines. The city has a lot of interesting history. The first known skirmish against foreign invaders took place on the shores of Mactan Island in April 1521. Lapu-Lapu and his men fought the Spaniards and killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the process. On August 6, 1569 – a few years after the establishment of the first Spanish settlement in Cebu City – Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was appointed by King Philip II as governor of Cebu province. This event served as the basis for the celebration of Cebu’s foundation day.

My second story on ‘’PInoy encounters’’ is about Mactan Cebu International Airport Project- Terminal 2. It is interesting too like history of Cebu.

I was called to Cebu to attend site meeting. After a short brief from team I was standing near on one of the canopies which was being erected and was to be welded. I saw Mr.Shripati walking towards me. As he was approaching near, my pressure was increasing. Finally he reached and asked me the progress. I was still figuring out what to answer knowing fully well that we were behind. While I was still in thinking he asked again the same. I hurriedly answered we will finish in 6 weeks. He took few seconds to look at me thru his glasses from top to bottom and declared, “This cannot get over in 6 months”. He warned me that we will have big issues with regards to delay subjected to financial penalties and globally blacklisting of the company fro any future projects.

Mr K L .Reddy however supported and said they will finish in 6 weeks. Mr.Shripati laughed in complete disapproval and walked away. Now it was turn for Mr.K L Reddy to look at me with complete anger. His body language was disapproving my time frame. He asked me how I plan to do & support my statement of 6 weeks backed up with proper execution plan . I had absolutely no clue. What I said was just a quick guestimate. I took one day time to get back to him.

The evening was filled with questions on how to make it happen. I discussed with construction team. They kept talking about manpower and time frame more than what I gave.  The night passed without much sleep. Next day I got up early with heavy head. Complete confused. Pressure was mounting as time was nearing for meeting with Mr.Reddy.   10.30 AM and I was in his chamber with just no preparation. He asked me tell me Sanjay (He never calls me Sanjiv always Sanjay). He guessed I am clueless. Offered me a glass of water. He just said you can do it. This changed the whole scene. I got huge confidence with these words and decided to stay there to see that progress is in line with expectation. Worked day and night with team and arranged additional teams and pushed them to increase speed.

Mr K L .Reddy however supported and said they will finish in 6 weeks. Mr.Shripati laughed in complete disapproval and walked away. Now it was turn for Mr.K L Reddy to look at me with complete anger. His body language was disapproving my time frame. He asked me how I plan to do & support my statement of 6 weeks backed up with proper execution plan . I had absolutely no clue. What I said was just a quick guestimate. I took one day time to get back to him.

Lessons Learnt –

  1. Look at the project holistically and follow it from back to back and beginning to end.
  2. Take responsibility when team is shaking.
  3. Do not feel constrained to request resources from partners when crisis comes.
  4. Do everything possible to keep commitment with customers

PINOY Encounters- Part 3

SANJIV K OJHA- Philippines

My third story on ‘PInoy encounters’’ is about Big Blue Project at Cebu. It is very fascinating to see how networking happens in the business community in Philippines.

It was in Oct 2019 when we were inside the cold store of Big Blue with their manager Nicolus. Temperature was around –ve 15 Degree Celsius. My body was shivering in Freezing cold while I saw our GD and Big Blue Manager were moving with ease. Looking at all possible details of construction of store. I was holding the breath and just waiting for them to come out. The ten minutes I spent inside the store took me back to 2018 when we just began working with them on project after losing the earlier project to our arch rival Zamil Steel. This customer was introduced to us by our existing customer Zumerfil. He gave lots of confidence to them about us.

We received the 2nd enquiry from Big Blue on 21st Sept 2018. We were skeptical as we lost the previous project despite better optimization on quantity. For previous project customer was visiting Ho Chi Minh City and insisted that we meet at 10 PM as they had to catch the flight next day early morning. Customer arrived late that night and finally the meeting was held at 11.30 PM at Gem Center as that was the only reasonable place open at that time. Finally the project did not come in our favor and that was a clear disappointment. For new project we had a similar feeling.

We however send our QRF on 24th Sept 2018 and requested price by 26th. We got the same and offer was submitted. After several rounds of discussion on 26th October we were told that they have decided to go ahead with us. I was excited and called the manager and asked the process to be followed. The back of my mind I was looking at possibility of getting the down payment in October.  Order Intake Pressure is always too high on Sales people due to so many uncertainties. The answer was pretty cold. Manager said you should speak to MD Mr.Babong.

I gathered all my courage to call him next day in the evening. MD said he was traveling from Monday till Wednesday. He said very casually if by any chance I was coming to Cebu he can meet me. I said Sir I will be there in the morning of 1st Nov 2018. It was Thursday. I was hoping to get contract signed and get down payment in one or two days after meeting. The response from Mr.Babong was very unusual. He said don’t waste money by taking morning flight as these are generally costly. He also said I should not hurry and waste money. Plan my trip with other work so that I can justify visit.

I was any there on Thursday in the afternoon and went to meet him. My expectation was to sit across the table and conclude everything and inform the bosses of success. However several surprises were in queue. Mr.Babong came and I promptly greeted him.  He looked at me for few minutes and said ‘Ok Sanjiv let us go to site”. I did not know what to do. I was there for finalization and this customer wants me to go to site. Confusion and uncertainty could be seen on my face. We however went to site as I had no option but to follow him. Mr.Babong showed me the site. I took some pictures and asked the details of projects to show my interest and seriousness. While he was telling me the detail I found him suddenly stepping down in to foundation pit to check something. Person at level of MD going down in the foundation pit to check was new normal for me.

After site visit I was getting desperate to start discussion on signing the contract and talk about down payment. Mr.Babong rubbed his face with simple handkerchief to remove the sweat after site visit. Looked at me again on his way back from site towards his office. On the way he said ‘’ ok let us go for lunch as you must be hungry’’. I was desperate and not hungry though. Looking at Mr.Babong I said ‘’ok sir’’ and took a deep breath. Sales work is filled with several twists, turns and uncertainties. Over the period of last 7-8 years I learnt to grapple with this to some extent and withstand pressure for some time. But this long! I never imagined.

We sat for simple lunch at  the nearest reasonable restaurant. Mr.Babong was calm and eating food and enjoying while saying something about Cebu and business. I don’t remember a word what he talked as my focus was signing contract. We were about to finish and suddenly Mr.Babong asked me ‘’ Sanjiv I am noticing since we met that you want to say something but not able to’’. I was complete dazzled on this observation of Mr.Babong. Knowing not what to say I gathered courage and asked about contract. He said Sanjiv no worries. Send to my office and I will sign as we already agreed. Also send us the

request for down payment. We will pay. He informed me that we have a good reference of Kirby and you from our business fraternity in Cebu and he is happy to work with me and Kirby. The network was working in our favour. This was a good achievement. Gave me a big confidence. As agreed he signed the contract was signed and we got down payment on 7th November 2018. The project was successfully completed with some hick ups.

Lessons Learnt –

  1. Network plays a significant role in conclusion of projects. We need to take our entire customers very seriously. One bad remark can throw us out of market.
  2. Cost is very important even if it means to save few dollars. Wastage of money needs to be completely eliminated in our system of working.
  3. Service is very important.
  4. Uncertainty is guaranteed in our profession. Better learn to face it and remain calm under adverse situations.