Vishal Devanath: An MBA from IIM-B and Co-Founder of SMERGERS Columns on Sir/Madam Culture
Vishal Devanath, Co-Founder of SMERGERS (https://www.smergers.com) is an earnest supporter of the No Sir No Madam drive. SMERGERS is a marketplace of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) where investors can browse for companies they want to buy or invest in. It works as a platform to connect investors with SMEs.
An engineer and an MBA graduate from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru (IIM-B), Vishal previously worked at Avendus Capital as an investment banker. There he was directly involved in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the technology sector. This experience made him realize the need for M&A services for SMEs in India. The experience and necessity for a better system led to the genesis of SMERGERS.
Vishal admits to practicing No Sir No Madam ideology at his workplace. According to him, addressing someone by their first-name is an essential requisite of business environment. “Scraping the practice of salutations creates a more open nature for everyone to work. The habit of using first-name makes you feel like you are working with a friend”. Vishal confesses —“I feel abused if someone refers to me as ‘Sir’. It seems as if he is pointing out my mistakes”.
“One of my employees, even though I had asked him to address me by my name from the beginning, could not do so because he felt uncomfortable addressing seniors by name. However, recently, when he completed two years at work, he told me he would start calling me ‘Vishal’. There was a refreshing change in our work interaction post this.” The compulsion of Sir/Madam is so deeply inbred in us that it makes us uncomfortable not to use it.
As of late, MNCs have begun to get their way of life to India. It is not obligatory for the representatives to address their senior as Sir/Madam. This promotes equality at work. Everyone feels like they are working towards a similar objective rather than working under someone. Despite, this propensity is not actualized all over; Vishal trusts the change will come gradually.
Vishal cites an example of United States, where even the most senior person in a company is referred by his or her first-name. This might not be the scenario in India. A 60-year-old CEO of a company may take offense on being addressed by his name. According to Vishal, this is because of the generation gap. A gradual shift needs to be made to adopt No Sir No Madam convention.
Public sector companies frequently exploit Sir/Madam mandate to show their power. It makes any civilian difficult to approach them for any work. Bureaucrats often feel insulted, if someone does not address them as Sir/Madam. However, with younger generation taking up government jobs, the trend seems to be changing.
Vishal remembers his encounter with a government official. “For the purpose of land registration, I had to approach the Registrar of that area. I was amazed when, the young Registrar asked me to address him by his first name. Witnessing a young bureaucrat not imposing Sir/Madam order seemed new and comforting. Eventually, we became friends and bonded very well; even after my work was completed.” It feels fresh and energetic to work with people, when you can address them by their first name.
He propagates, it is only the younger generation that can eradicate Sir/Madam taboo and introduce a change. Students in college should be given the freedom to address their seniors and teachers by first-name. They are mature enough to show respect without having to use any salutation. This will also help them not to feel awkward when they start working.
Vishal suggests — senior political leaders and managers to have a talk about No Sir No Madam subject. This will assist in bringing the change to the government sector, which resists any modern culture.
Finally, Vishal ceases by saying, “People have been given a name for a reason. Keep it simple and call the person by the name”.