AS FUNCTIONAL CONSULTANT IN AN ERP PROJECT
Soon after my arrival in Bangalore from Patiala in December 2007, I contacted Mr. Viswanathan who had offered me a job in the ERP project which VGSL, Bangalore was to implement for the Hutti Gold Mines Company Limited. The job was that of a Functional Consultant , Financial Systems. There was a second functional consultant for other areas such as Materials, Production, Sales etc . My role was to work closely with programmers most of whom had little or no knowledge of the specific domain (Production, Sales, Inventory, Finance, Personnel etc) which was to be covered by the project. I was promised Rs. 50000 p.m. as remuneration but later on it was agreed that I would accept Rs. 40000 per month. It was purely a gentleman’s agreement without anything in writing..
The ERP software was to be developed for Hutti Gold Mines by customising the software already running successfully in a manufacturing company in Karnataka. The source code of the software was bought by VGSL. . The language used was PL/SQL which is a combination of SQL ( Structured Query Language) along with the procedural features of programming languages. It was developed by Oracle Corporation in the early 90's to enhance the capabilities of SQL for Oracle.
There were quite a few teething problems before any customisation could start. The documentation provided with the software was more like a User Manual. There was precious little to explain the functionalities implemented by the different modules/ code segments of the software. One had to read the code and find out what functionalities being achieved before one could attempt customisation for the Hutti Gold Mines. My knowledge of programming languages like BASIC, COBOL, dBase, Foxpro etc. was helpful in understanding the code and figuring out the functionality achieved by it. I had to explain things to the programmers before they could start changing the code. Then it had to be compiled and tested to see whether the changes made were working properly.
To start with, the ERP team, including me, visited the Hutti Gold Mines Company Limited for a Systems Study. The job was distributed into two groups. The first group would study Materials, Mining and Engineering Departments. The second group wood study Metallurgy, Finance and Accounts, Human Resources and Hospital departments. Data capture, processing and reporting in Mining, Metallurgy, Engineering, Human Resources and Hospital were completely manual. In Finance and Accounts and Materials (Purchase and Stores) Departments there was some computerisation with stand-alone programs for carrying out specific activities. These computers were not networked with the result data available in one computer was not capable of being used by another computer and, also, the programs were not written to share the data among the computers. During Systems study we documented all the procedures, whether manual or computerised, identified their shortcomings or inadequacies after discussing with the users of data and information. This information could be used while designing the new ERP solution to the information requirements of the Company. Based on the Systems Study we prepared a System Requirements Specification(SRS) Document outlining the details of the proposed systems in terms of input and its validation, processing requirements, output report formats and content, Master tables and their content, codification where required ( account codes, material codes for items in the inventory, supplier and customer codes etc) and other details. The narrative details were supplemented by flowcharts and data flow diagrams. The SRS document, after modifications based on feedback from user departments, was completed by 1st April 2008. This was to be the roadmap for the subsequent processes of designing, coding, testing, integration and implementation of the ERP solution.
The ERP team visited Hutti Gold Mines, mostly once in a month, to demonstrate the software modules customised for Hutti. The team was accommodated in the guest house of the company where food was also served. The user departments were, many times, more interested in picking holes rather than making a positive contribution to the ERP effort. Even during the system study stage many users had commented that earlier efforts in this direction had not taken concrete shape indicating, by implication, that they were not optimistic about the success of the current effort.
A couple of times in the beginning we travelled from Bangalore to Raichur by train, reaching Raichur in the early mornings hours. From there we were picked up by car or jeep sent by Hutti Gold Mines. Later on, we used to travel by overnight sleeper buses run by the Karnataka State Road Transportation Corporation. For me, personally, this was not a very comfortable arrangement. I had to empty my bladder at least 4 times during this journey and many times I had to request the driver to stop the bus at a convenient point. Many obliged considering my age which was speeding to the eighties. On one occasion, I got down at a place where the bus stopped and I assumed the driver had noticed and would wait for me to board the bus again. Unfortunately, he thought that I had got down at my final destination. The bus moved on and I virtually ran behind it shouting “stop! Stop!’’. I tripped and fell down but escaped with minor scratches on my hands and legs. My colleagues were alarmed when they found me missing from the bus. They were asking the driver to take the bus to the previous stop to pick me up. In the meantime I had stopped a jeep carrying early morning newspapers for distribution. They dropped me at the bus station where the others were waiting. Our bus then proceeded to Hutti which was a station on its route. This news spread among the employees of Hutti Gold Mines and many came and enquired of me whether I was alright.
When I was in Patiala the tenant in the Sena Vihar apartment had run up arrears of rent and maintenance charges. When I let out the house to him I had not entered into a written contract. It was only a gentleman’s agreement. For about three r years he was paying the rent regularly. Then the defaults started. Instead of paying every month he used to settle once in three months. Also, throughout his tenure he was paying only Rs.3400 per month. There was no increase in the rent though rents had gone up by more than fifty percent. When my first son who owned the flat came to visit us he insisted that we should draw up an agreement setting out the terms and conditions. Accordingly the tenant had signed the agreement drawn up by me. My son also had signed the same. In spite of the clause in the agreement that the owner can occupy the premises when the rent is in arrears for more than 2 months, in practice this could not be enforced. The tenant was least worried about the clauses in the agreement. He was refusing to vacate the premises and, at the same time, not paying the arrears. . He turned out to be a hard nut to crack. My son was even prepared to pay him something to get the flat vacated. I threatened the tenant saying that I would lock the flat from the front so that he could come out only by the winding staircase at the back side of the flat meant for emergency (fire ) exit. My son-in-law brought an MLA with political influence and cautioned the tenant to vacate by 1st April 2008. All the members of the family were made to sign at the back of the agreement stating that they would vacate by that date. Finally some how the tenant vacated the premises by 31st March 2008. After seven years in the flat he had left it in a pathetic condition. The house needed major repairs and renovation. As regards the arrears of rent and maintenance amounting to Rs. 15000 after adjusting the deposit of Rs. 30000, the tenant stated point blank that he had no money. I also wrote off that amount, relieved at the thought that at least we had got the flat vacated. After this experience my son flatly refused to let it out on rent.
In April 2008 I engaged a contractor to give a facelift to the apartment in Sena Vihar. The tenant had vacated it in a very bad condition. The mosaic flooring had cracked in many places. Without proper maintenance the whole house was full of dirt, dust and grime. We decided to lay vitrified ceramic tiles on the existing mosaic flooring. The cost of laying was equal to the cost of tiles because rock cement had to be used for laying the tiles on mosaic flooring. A half-wall between the hall and a narrow strip of balcony was demolished to extend the hall by about 3 feet. Similar demolition was done to extend the bedroom also. Sliding glasses in aluminium frames were fitted in the hall and bedroom. The complete electrical wiring was redone and ordinary switches which were already worn out were replaced by modular ones. Lighting arrangement was also changed. Walls were painted with high quality emulsion paint after filling in the cracks and applying two coats of plaster. Bathroom fittings as well as wall and floor tiles were changed completely. Two water storage tanks of 300 litres each, one for the kitchen and another for the bath room were fixed and connected to the input supply line so that whenever water is pumped to the overhead tank of each block these tanks also would get filled. When the water in the common overhead tank is used up these two storage tanks could be used by the occupants of the apartment. Because of the restriction imposed by the Sena Vihar society on the timings the progress of work was very slow. Workmen were allowed in the morning only by 9.30 AM. Work was to be stopped by 1.30 PM to be resumed again only at 3.00 PM. By 5.30 PM all work was to be stopped. For each day of work the SenaVihar Society collected up to Rs. 100 a day depending upon the type of work. Before any work could be started in an apartment, permission of the Sena Vihar Society had to be obtained.
When some small jobs were pending our neighbour who was a family friend requested us to lend the apartment for a few days to accommodate guests who were expected for his son’s marriage. His daughters and sons-in-law and children were also expected. The daughters and children were to stay on for about a month. They were on the sixth floor and our flat was on the seventh floor. Both the daughters had kept their suitcases and other things in our apartment. They had locked the front door and come down to the sixth floor to their own apartment. By about 1 PM some one had broken open the lock of our apartment and had been searching for some valuables. He had taken out the clothes from one of the two suitcases and thrown them on the floor. He got only one wrist watch. By that time he heard someone coming up the stairs and ran out of the apartment and hid himself somewhere. One of the daughters was coming up the stairs for taking something from the suit cases. She found the door wide open and clothes and other articles were strewn on the floor. She had kept her jewellery in the other suitcase which the intruder had not touched. If he had ransacked this suitcase first instead of the other one he would have run away with jewellery worth lakhs of rupees. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief as only one wrist watch was missing.
After the guests were gone, the contractor had to be chased for completing the pending jobs. He had taken up another bigger contract and could not spare his men for small jobs. Finally somehow we had to get some of the jobs done by other workers. A few things the contractor completed himself. The whole renovation job cost three lakhs of rupees equal to the amount paid to Army Welfare Housing Organisation for the whole apartment.
In September 2008 my wife and I went to live for a few days in the Sena Vihar apartment. We had taken minimum cooking utensils, mixers, mats and bed sheets, toiletries and other essential tings. Before my daughter’s family occupied the house we wanted to perform Vastu Homa, Navagraha Homa and Sudarsana Homa one Sunday. We arranged for the priest who was requested to arrange the pundits for the Japa and the material required for the Homa. The Homa was performed in the apartment but for lunch it was necessary to arrange the Sena Vihar hall where tables and chairs could be arranged for the lunch of the guests. After this my daughter’s family moved into the apartment. She had to pay maintenance to the Sena Vihar Society at the rates applicable to tenants though she was not treated as a tenant and no rent was paid by her. They said my wife and I as parents of the owner could pay maintenance charges at Rs. 900 per month for owner-occupied apartments. My daughter should pay at rates applicable to tenant-occupied apartments i.e. Rs. 1350 per month.
My grand daughter (second daughter’s first daughter) had passed Plus two examination conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education in March-April 2008. She had opted for commerce in plus Two but had not joined any college for B.Com. She came to Bangalore in October 2008 with the idea of joining a coaching class for the Common Proficiency Test of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. For the Coaching class she had to travel by bus, get down at a bus stop and then walk half a kilometre to the Bangalore Chapter of the Institute. She had therefore second thoughts and she said that she would study at home. The syllabus covered fundamentals of Accounting, General Economics, Mercantile Law and Mathematics. I was to help her with Maths. A few days she focussed on working out problems but gradually she lost interest. After a month or so she said she would go back to Trichur. I had booked tickets through IRCTC on line for both of us. It was for a morning train but somehow it had registered in my mind as an evening train. My first daughter and her daughter also accompanied us to the Bangalore Central station. They had come with us to the platform without taking platform tickets. While they were on the way to get platform tickets they were caught and had to pay a hefty fine of Rs. 150 each. Their explanation that they were on their way to buy platform tickets was brushed aside though that was the real reason. We had entered the platform through a side entrance which led directly to the platform after crossing an over bridge. At the station I realised, to my horror, that it was the morning train for which I had booked. I got some refund on the tickets and I booked for the morning train leaving the next day. Since I had not enough money to book tickets I had telephoned to my son-in-law who had come to the station with cash for the tickets. We could not get even sitting reservation on that train. But next day we managed to get seats and reached Trichur by evening.
My second daughter at Trichur was having intermittent pain in the stomach. She was not able to eat properly and many times she used to throw up after eating. An ultra sound scan at Trichur revealed hernia at the location of the incision made during the delivery of her daughter by caesarean section. The doctor advised immediate surgery. My daughter had become very weak and anaemic. My son-in-law sent her from Trichur to Bangalore by night bus the same day as reservation by train could not be obtained at such short notice. Her elder daughter accompanied her. We were worried whether she would be able to withstand one whole night of tedious bus journey. Next day early morning I went to the Bus station in a three-wheeler owned by a person residing near our house. Fortunately, he knew where the bus would unload the passengers. My daughter and granddaughter arrived early morning without much problem. The same day we took her to the Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital at Vasant Nagar, Bangalore. A scan showed she had stones in the gall bladder in addition to the hernia. My daughter wanted tubectomy also to be done at the same time. She was admitted in a semi private ward and put on drips. The surgery was performed after two days. We were apprehensive whether she could withstand the surgery. But, by the grace of God, the surgery went off well. The doctor had said that she should walk but she had pain while walking and she had to be supported by someone while walking. For almost a week after the surgery she was unable to eat much. The hospital provided food to the patients. The type of food to be given was prescribed by the doctor. The food was delivered to the patient in the ward or room. But my daughter could partake very little of what was brought. During day time my wife and grand daughter stayed with her. Every day my wife had to buy some or other medicine written out by the nurse after the daily round of the doctor. Medicines were available in the pharmacy attached to the Hospital. During the night my wife stayed with her daughter. I used to visit my daughter at the hospital during day time. There was a canteen within the hospital complex where my wife used to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were not allowed to take cooked food into the patient’s room. I and my granddaughter used to have lunch and evening snacks and tea at the canteen. Breakfast and dinner we used to make at home until my daughter was discharged from the hospital. The hospital bill was for Rs. 85000. My son-in-law had taken mediclaim policies for himself, wife and daughters. MediAssist, the TPA for the Insurance company reimbursed Rs. 65000. My daughter stayed with us for about 3 months to recoup her health.
Before returning to Trichur my daughter wanted to fulfil a vow she had made of praying at the vaidyanatha swamy temple at vaitheeswaran koil. She he to do it before she left for Trichur. We tried to get confirmed tickets by Mayildaduthurai Expesss from Bangalore but in spite of booking 15 days ahead we could only get wait listed tickets. Until two days before departure the status did not move even to RAC. We therefore cancelled the tickets and booked a car. Leaving Bangalore in the early morning hours on the 5th of February 2010 we broke journey at Tiruvannamalai. We prayed at the Arunachaleswarar temple and visited the place where Bhagawan Ramana had spent several months in deep meditation. Then we continued the journey reaching Chidambaram by 5.30 PM. We checked in at RK Residency hotel. The next morning we met with Nataraja (Raju) Deekshitar at his home. He had been doing puja in the Nataraja temple on our behalf and sending prasadam to us every month. Every year he used to come to Bangalore and collect Rs. 600 to cover the expenses of the Puja and for postage . He took us around the Nataraja temple, did archana and abhishekam to Nataraja and Sivakamasundari and gave us the prasadam. We gave him dakshina and also the annual subscription for the Puja.
At Vailtheeswaran Koil Nalini wanted to try Nadi Jyotsyam. She wanted to know what had been written on those palm leaves, if at all something was written about her. Based on the date of birth and the thumb impressions, the jyotsyar had located a few Nadi predictions, one of which matched with my daughter’s name and her parents’ name. The language in these palm leaves was archaic and only those familiar could read it out and explain the meaning. He read out about her past which generally agreed. He told about the future which was not very bright up to a ripe age. This was, as peer the Nadi records, on account of her wrong doings in the previous birth when she was a man named Kalidasa who was an Ayurvedic physician. The Nadi also said that her sins will visit on he elder daughter. He suggested some pariharam which was mainly praying and doing puja at specific temples. He also said that palm leaves on which my daughter’s future was written should be worshipped by a Sanyasi for 40 days and poor feeding should be done for 40 days. Since we could not do all these things staying there we entrusted him the job of getting all these things done by some one on our behalf. He computed the cost of doing all these things which came to about Rs. 1000. We paid the money and came back trusting the person to do the things.
We then proceeded to Vaitheeswaran Kovil and prayed there. We had Puja done for Vaidyanatha Swamy and His consort Thaiyal Nayaki. We had planned to visit the Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry but it was too late in the day and we proceeded to Tiruvannamalai. After praying at Arunachaleshwar temple we visited the Ramana Maharshi ashram and reached Bangalore by night. My first daughter had come to our house, cooked food for us and was waiting our arrival. After another week with us my daughter and her daughter left for Trichur. We would have liked her to stay on with us for one more month but her husband was putting pressure on her to come back to Trichur.