Zaheer Adenwala, Co-Founder of Ketto ardently supports the No Sir No Madam culture. Zaheer has a degree in mechanical engineering and business from Drexel University, Philadelphia. In 2009 came back to India to pursue a career in product management and worked with the Directi group. In 2012, Zaheer and Varun Sheth co-founded Ketto, which is Asia’s most trusted and visited crowdfunding platform.
Zaheer observes that the No Sir No Madam doctrine has become culturally imperative in India. The prevalence of the caste system and hierarchy has further heightened the ‘Saab’ mentality. This creates and widens the gap between different sections of the society through discrimination.
The western world has abolished these stigmas whereas India continues to follow ancient customs. Zaheer enunciates that the British used the Sir/Madam terminology due to their monarchical system. They had implemented it in India as they wanted to spread their supremacy by mental slavery.
While pursuing education in the USA, Zaheer witnessed a different environment. In India, he was habituated to addressing teachers and elders as Sir or Madam. In the USA, the professors explicitly insisted that the students must regard them by their first name. Age or position should not be considered as the parameter for respect matter.
Zaheer shares that he has been lucky enough to be part of corporate organizations with liberal setups. Now, he maintains the same friendly and comfortable environment at Ketto. The elder colleagues at his workplace also prefer first-name based communication.
However, Zaheer has had multiple negative experiences while dealing with officials in the government sector. He mentions, “I had once visited the RTO office for license renewal. Most of the officials cooperated or even responded in the absence of salutation. In the chain of command, from the lowest to the highest-ranking officials demanded respect through these protocols.”
Respect has nothing to do with Sir or madam—Zaheer opines. People are more conversational in the absence of such formal protocols.
Zaheer states, “We categorically encourage our blue-collared worker team members to address us as ‘bhaiya’ or ‘didi’. This not only helps to build a strong bond of camaraderie but also boosts the confidence among the members”. However, he considers that this opportunity should not be misused, and the line of mandatory respect must not be disregarded.
Zaheer observes that there is a gradual cultural shift towards the right direction. This can have a wider impact if the implementation begins from home and educational institutions. He suggests that the No Sir No Madam initiative should work on case studies. This can trace the positive impact of abolishing salutation.
In conclusion, Zaheer asserts, “Sir/ Madam terminology only creates artificial barriers. There are other ways to show respect, mainly by hard work.