The Street Smart Paradox

On the evening of 12th Aug, KV was elated to be promoted as AVP in the MNC he works with. But during his HR interaction, he was again advised to hire ‘street smart’ guys in sales. This word has been haunting him since his college days.  It lingers in his memories, in all his interactions, from his first job orientation till today; the management wants the employees to be ‘street smart’.  

When he enquired its meaning, he was explained that employees should know the pulse of the market; they should be in continuous touch not only with their customer but the market and should be open to interaction. 

Though he understood what higher authorities wanted but he was never convinced. To him, it’s a basic job of a marketing guy. Moreover, he finds it tough to ascertain if quality of being ‘street smart’ exist in corporate guys and how is it linked with target achievements. 

With the same thought, he came back home, uncorked his favourite wine and while sipping the wine, he was trying to asses if this quality exists in him. He realised that he got 6 promotions in 9 years, he is open to ideas shared by his team, he goes with them on customer calls, his cabin is always open for his teammates. He replies to all the emails and sends timely reports as and when needed by higher authorities. But he has never considered himself as a street smart guy.

With that oven’s beep, he came back from his thoughts and while having the last sip of wine with the perfectly roasted chicken he decided to unleash it through personal meetings.

Next morning after signing in he went to nearby ‘Laxman Ji’s’ tea stall to relate to ‘the street’ and ‘the smart’ avenues closely.

 It’s a 150 ft wide 300 meters long road with offices and restaurant on left; a pavement with a bunch of various stalls, followed by a veil of a wall to a residential house behind it at its right. 

Laxman ji was boiling tea in his vintage, burnt out the giant saucepan. Next to his tea stall is Bhaiyaji Paan stall. They were interacting about the revocation of article 370 and its impact while carrying on their daily chores. After about 10 minutes a gas vendor came there on his cycle with cylinders tied on both sides. Laxman Ji cracked a joke with him and he returned it back. With a zesty smile, he bought a smoke from Bhaiyaji and a tea from Laxmanji. They gossiped about that chola- kulcha vendor besides Bhaiyaji, who had some family issues and did not come. After finishing his tea, he paid him and moved on to his daily life. A couple of minutes later a vegetable vendor came and the déjà vu repeated but this time with stories of some residents.

Meanwhile, at 12.00 Laxman ji handed over the tea kettles with 40 serves to his helper Kallu and instructed him to deliver 25 tea to office 1 with 40 employees and 15 tea to office 2 with 20 employees. As KV interacted more with Kallu and Laxman ji he was amused to find how they knew the names of all the companies and number of employees. Moreover, he was impressed by their composed way of dealing with the govt departments to run the shop illegally on the pavement. 

A sort of informal culture, people engaged in their work, cheerfully interacting even with the limited means without cribbing and nagging each other. The laughs were all genuine. The customers shared a bond of friendship and trust which was clear by the way the vendor was pulling his customer’s leg, unlike his organisation.

And the lunchtime happened at 1 pm. The corporate employees started pouring in for tea. The area was buzzing all around with business discussions, cribbing about their work-life, their personal life making KV realise that even at breaks they have this tensed routine.

The first-time KV felt the gravity of the difference between two sides of the same coin, the left and the right side of the road, the inc. and Un-inc. Right ones have joint work desks, who are sitting beside each other but they rarely communicate, though talk. The insecurities in them are palpable. They smile but never laugh. Unaware of their surroundings, their life is only limited to a laptop and a mobile. 

People on right are considered organised as they use technology to keep track of their business numbers and customers or they may be called as customer-centric technology-oriented group of people. 

However the real people on left also keep a tab on their businesses figures but with a traditional and conventional approach using tools like a diary, brain calculator and mind power for data storage to keep up to their customer’s trust.

That day KV found out that people are living in jargons rather than living the true meaning of being street smart. He realised that despite having all possible support like sate of the art infrastructure, technology advantage, qualified team etc , people have converted themselves into work machines without happiness and satisfaction. 

KV was satisfied that finally, he could unleash the true meaning of being ‘street smart’. Next day he renamed his department as ‘street smart department’ and defined the steps to be part of it.

  1. To enjoy your work to the fullest. 
  2. To communicate with peers as one big family.
  3. To share all problems or incidents with each other. 
  4. To be happy and relaxed from inside.  
  5. To not let the insecurities affect relationships.  
  6. To be open to help others and empower each other by sharing knowledge to create an ‘empowered street smart department’. 

The business reviews are still happening, and people are still pushed for numbers, but instead of rebuke they have now advised the ways to achieve it, and the reviews end on laughter.