Sivam had an innate talent for ethnic designs. He lived in the small town of Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu with family circumstances forcing him to give up studies, he joined work at an early age. He took up the job of an assistant amongst one of the many silk merchants at Kanchipuram.
With his keen sense of observation and talent, he learnt the intricacies of the trade soon and was very loyal to the employer. As a result his employer would often leave the store in his total responsibility. This provided an opportunity for Sivam to build on all facets of the business and also learn the tricks of the trade. As years rolled by, Sivam became indispensible, but he was restless as he dreamt of owning a large retail outlet in a metro. Discreetly he worked on this idea.
One day, there was a minor tiff with his employer over an issue but he made a mountain of a mole hill and used it deliberately as a pretext to move away from the employer. Overnight, he quit his employment and left for Bangalore with a small sum of money he had been saving.
Bangalore was his dream city. He was fascinated by the many bright lit stores and was confident that he can succeed here in the textile business. He touched base with an old colleague who put him contact with some influential people. Street smart as he was, he built on these relationships and soon opened a small saree store in the prestige area of Commercial Street.
His expertise from his previous employment, the willingness to pout in hard work and his own inherent ability stood him in good stead. He stocked the best saris in terms of quality in popular design and colours. Soon his shop made a name and became famous for the exquisite saris and designer pieces. The business grew within a short time by leaps and bounds and came to be known as Bangalore’s Sari Shop, after by glitterati, foreigners and even visiting dignitaries.
Meanwhile, Sivam married and was blessed with twin daughters. It appeared as if fame and success had gone into his head and left him a changed person. He became obsessed with getting bigger and richer and worked relentlessly for that ignoring his family and values. As he dreamt larger, his interaction with family grew smaller. This urge in him to expand also made him ruthless in his dealings with vendors and his own staff who comprised mainly of women. He failed to recognize that it was through their hard work that he could progress this far. He took advantage of their helpless and pitiable condition, especially ladies, by paying them pittance and making them work long hours. It was virtually a bonded labour with him keeping them indebted by small loans. Strangely in contrast he treated his lady customers with utmost respect and consideration ensuring that they were served well while his own employees were treated like door mats.
It was then a woman activist who had come to make some purchases wondered why all the sales girls were glum and morose. She made small talk with them and soon learnt about their miserable condition, lower wages in comparison to the market rates, long working hours, absence of any facilities and inhuman treatment. She gained their confidence and assured help in getting the situation rectified. She told them not to smile but do their duty as per rules not going over enthusiastic in showing the varieties available. When someone demanded to see, they should show but nothing on their own volition.
It had its impact soon. Customers were disenchanted but had no specific complaints to make as the staff were polite. The sales came down gradually. Sivam wondered why when the other stores were doing brisk business. The activist wrote an article on the store and about the lack of enthusiasm amongst the sales women presumably due to poor working conditions. Sivam was upset about the negative publicity and the drooping sales.
It was then one day his wife remonstrated with him when he broached this subject ‘Do not think all would be like your wife submitting to all your tantrums and insensitive behaviour.What is the use of your earning crores of rupees and your charities when you cannot keep your own small number of staff happy? Remember charity begins at home. Search your heart and think over how much you have done for them. It is on their blood and toil that you have become big. Never forget how you commenced your life and about the generous employer of yours whom you ditched.”
When she opened his eyes to his grievous error, he realized his mistake. Soon things became normal with the employees getting stiff increases in emoluments and better working conditions.
With realization he was a chastened man and his dreams included the well being of his benefactors too!