Indu Menon, Managing Partner at Kara Ventures is an enthusiastic supporter of No Sir No Madam culture. Kara ventures is a social enterprise working with co-operatives to create fair-trade hand woven textiles in south-west India.
Indu along with her daughter has embarked upon the task of preserving and popularizing one of the state’s best-known cultural heritage. She has been a former researcher at Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad(IIM-A). Now, she is working on transforming a humble hand woven fabric from Kerala into a modern contemporary product.
Indu follows No Sir No Madam doctrine in her firm as well. She believes that first-name communication allows you to express your views better. Indu first came across no salutation culture while she was working as a researcher at IIM-A.
She articulates “I remember — I used to address everyone as ‘Sir/Madam’. One day, we had to graft under Indira Parikh, the dean of IIM-A, back then. Out of habit, I addressed her too as ‘Madam’. She quickly cut me off and informed that I ought to refer her by her first-name. It was the first-time someone so influential notified me about first-name convention.”
“I felt at par with her the moment, she let me address her by her first-name. I felt more confident and comfortable while working with her. Moreover, it instilled a sense of belonging in me towards the organization. I also used to address the senior executives by their first-name. Consequently, I implemented No Sir No Madam order in my organization as I have seen the benefits of it.”
Furthermore, she shares her insight on the dominance of ‘Sir/Madam’ culture in government offices. Indu remarks — The administrative employees find first-name addressal as a sign of disrespect. I have often noticed them getting upset when someone refers them without a salutation.
Even though I am older than most of the officials, I still greet them with a salutation to avoid any hassle. It is high time that the bureaucrats be educated about first-name custom. Respect can be shown without salutation too. It is the tone of the reference that matters and not the term of the reference.
Indians still continue to believe in social taboos and treat people according to the job one does. This has led to a huge gap in society as the lower economic people are devoid of any opportunity to grow. As a result, Indu suggests that the blue-collar workers should be allowed to convene with their employers on a first-name basis.
She adds, “Instilling No Sir No Madam heeds into workers is a difficult job as they are not aware about its practice. I remember, in my company, I have to often inform some of the employees to adhere to first-name greeting. They are from rural areas, so they find it odd to address me without a salutation. However, we often interact with each other with the help of some vernacular terms. My employees refer to me as ‘chechi’ which means elder sister in Malayalam.”
“I even communicate with the cleaners without any salutation edict. They refer me as ‘behen’ and I address them as ‘bhaiya’. I find this form of communication a lot more comfortable. Additionally, removing the salutation mandate allows them to feel proud and not inferior about themselves. We have to get rid of a salutation decree if we want to reduce the disparity within the society.”
As this change cannot be brought overnight, Indu recommends — No Sir No Madam thesis should be a part of school and collage curriculum. I remember when I had traveled to the United States. There everyone addresses each other without pronouns. Even the students converse with their teachers on a first-name basis.
Indu suggests — More and more people need to be made aware about No Sir No Madam custom. A lot of small organizations can take up the responsibility to educate their employees about this cause. In addition, corporations should also be approached and informed about inculcating No Sir No Madam habit in their workplace.
Indu winds up by iterating “Everyone is skilled in some way or the other. We ought to accept that we are not universal masters and appreciate people for their talent. Ergo, embrace No Sir No Madam to instill a sense of humbleness and uniformity in your life.