Viswanath Akella, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode Alumnus — We Do Not Work with Machines, We Work with Humans and Need to Connect Personally
Viswanath Akella, the CEO and co-founder of SimplyFi Softech India Private Limited (https://simplyfi.co.in) is an avid supporter of No Sir No Madam ideology. SimplyFi Softech is a Bangalore based start-up. They are truly leaders and pioneers of establishing blockchain in Trade Finance in India. They facilitate easy access to data and end-to-end transparency of the entire value chain by creating a level playing field for all parties involved in trade transaction.
Viswanath is an MBA in finance from the esteemed Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIM-K). Prior to SimplyFi, he has had the opportunity of working for Sap Labs India Private limited. Here, he got the opportunity to work and interact with global corporations.
He indicates that, at Simplyfi, they do not adhere to any salutation edict while conversing with each other. Their team ensures to inform the newly hired employees to follow a first-name way of addressing each other during the induction program. Viswanath believes that communicating without any hierarchical barrier is important for the collaborative growth of a firm. Furthermore, even during the interviews, if a person addresses the interviewee with a salutation. He or She is informed, not cling to any formal obeisance.
Viswanath laughingly reminisces over an incident. He narrates, “Once, one of my subordinates, more or less of my age, addressed me as ‘Sir’. On a humorous note, I told him that, “I do not have any grey hair, and we are of the same generation. Please converse with me, using my first-name.”
In addition, he shares his experience of working for a MNC. Viswanath enunciates — In global organizations, people take offense to be addressed as ‘Sir/Madam’. I was responsible to mentor a team. Initially, they used to address me with a salutation. However, I knew that it was not the right approach to communicate, within a team. Therefore, I used to encourage them to refer me by my first-name.
In addition, he also states, “Practicing No Sir No Madam heed also cuts own discrimination based on age and gender. As, it sets the same tone for corresponding with any colleague or employee.”
Due to his business, he often interacts with government officials. He is no stranger to the mandates set by the bureaucrats in their offices. Viswanath voices, “Government employees have been following salutation dictum for ages. However, I come from an MNC culture. Therefore, while meeting with a registrar, I have to be cautious about the way I approach and correspond with them.
He recollects one recent incident that gave him hope for a change in the government sector. Viswanath articulates, “I recently met an IAS officer. On meeting, my friend introduced me to him. The officer was quick to inform me that I can refer him by his first-name. Such youngsters are the future leaders who will help in restricting the current system. Therefore, more and more individuals need to realize and come up with initiatives to eradicate salutation diktat.
Besides discrimination in public and private sector, discrimination continues to exist within society. People judge each other based on money and profession. This notion over the years has led to widespread disparity. Viswanath emphasizes on the condition of blue-collar workers, who are considered as the bottom-level group of our society. He remarks — Despite us being humans and equal, such prejudice should not exist.
In continuation, he gives an example of Mr. Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime minister, who referred himself as a public servant. Specifically focusing on the word ‘servant’ to remove the taboo related with it. Viswanath believes that with the eradication of “Sir/Madam” culture, a lot of difference will get erased.
He urges the higher-level executives to take initiatives to an age-old salutation custom from our mindsets. He adds, “It has to be a top-to-down approach, in order for it to be more influential. Moreover, the younger generation, needs to be bolder and address people without salutation and be innovative.”
Furthermore, he opines schools and colleges to be the future of our country. He mentions that, teachers instill “Sir/Madam” tradition to instill fears in children’s minds. Thinking that the fear will help them in learning better and quicker. Even the parents address the teachers with a salutation, which makes no sense at all. However, salutation practice between students and teacher maintains a gap between the two parties. Thus, it makes the learning process less enjoyable and unproductive.
Overall, he concludes – Respect your work and the person working with you. Cut down on salutations to bring more collaborative approach and be more productive.