Employee Speak: Mr. Ashutosh Atray, VP Training and Fleet Management, V-Link Taxis Pvt. Ltd; Jan'08


1. Tell us something about your company and what it is trying to do in the Market.

V-Link Taxis is a service oriented company. Its main aim is to provide hassle free, quality, premium service to its commuters which is not yet available in so many cities.

2. What is your role in the company?

I am responsible for Training and Resources.  Besides developing and ensuring that quality training is imparted to drivers, I am also responsible for effective utilization of resources like infrastructure, vehicles and the mobile servicing team.

3. What are the key challenges you face in your industry and specifically in your role?  How do you deal with them?

Tapping, attracting and retaining the talent pool among taxi drivers is a great challenge. The second key challenge is to maintain quality in service delivery to the customer.  Quality is required at several levels and departments, ranging from the call center, vehicle fitment, driver selection and training, IT systems and Recovery/Accounts.  In order to ensure quality, the entire machinery needs to be well oiled and work as a single unit. Each department needs to perform as a team based on set processes in a timely manner with a firm focus on business goals. The third key challenge is driver training and attitude.  Each driver reacts uniquely to different situations and to the same situations at different times.  Ensuring their adherence to processes to deliver the same quality each time is challenging.

4. What kind of training do you provide to the drivers who are deployed in Meru cabs?

In a way the driver is the face of our company. A lot depends on how the driver performs on that day.  Every thing becomes null and void if the driver makes the customer unhappy. We have a 5 day comprehensive training program that covers several topics like good driving, road safety, basic maintenance, technical specifications, city topography, personal hygiene, etiquette etc.

5. Is the training provided by V-Link to it’s cab drivers unique to the taxi industry in India?

It is unique.  Besides being very comprehensive and covering various aspects as mentioned before, strict adherence on the part of the driver to the set processes is largely dependent on the driver since he is not just an employee but a mini entrepreneur.  Our training also touches upon this aspect and raises the self esteem of the driver by making him understand the finer nuances of his new role. He not only needs to perform well but also needs to exhibit a finer behaviour and process adherence as this impacts the company as well as his business.

6. Recently V-Link was in the news regarding the training facility provided at the Regional Transport Office. How is this unique and what are the advantages for the driver undergoing such a program? Do you feel this can be replicated anywhere else in the country?

The transport department would like to groom and educate the drivers of Mumbai city.   Being in the industry we would like to actively contribute towards this social cause.  Whenever a driver comes to the RTO for a new license or renewing an old one etc, the RTO encourages them to meet our team specifically designated permanently for training at the RTO. The training is conducted by professional trainers in a room set up for such training.  The purpose is to raise driver awareness to higher levels thereby ensuring safer roads.  This training is on ongoing basis.  When the driver completes this successfully he is presented a certificate as well. This initiative is 3 months old now and we are proud to say that every day about 60 to 70 drivers are trained and a total of over 6000 drivers have been trained so far. We have two more requests from the RTO and we are in the process of developing a multilingual training in Hindi and Marathi as well.

7. What are the unique challenges of training drivers?

Ensuring satisfactory levels of service is very challenging indeed.  For example, our training chalks out that the driver be well dressed, clean shaven, wearing good shoes in other words very neatly turned out. To ensure the above he is also given a uniform and shoes.  In addition to this he needs to display positive attitude and caring guest handling. However the driver does not consider appearance as a key factor for his success and many drivers do not realize that they can really make a day for a guest by giving perfect service. The driver is an integral part of customer experience of Meru.  Our driver relations team meets this challenge by closely interacting with the drivers and putting them through periodic repeat trainings.  In addition we also have a news letter as a point of contact with the drivers.

8. Can you tell us a little about the work done by the fleet management team?

The work of the Fleet management team is very specialized since there are a large number of vehicles involved.  The key performance indicator is efficiency.  Greater efficiency and lesser vehicle downtime results in better output and thereby translates into greater revenue.  For this purpose a large database of vehicle information is maintained and data analysis is done on key parameters like servicing and preventive maintenance.

9. What are the future plans that you have for training and fleet management that you have for V-Link?

For training we would like to establish a world class futuristic training facility where anyone can send their drivers for quality training.  This facility would adopt the best training methods and practices with handouts, top class professional trainers and multilingual training.  The MCT (Mobile Communication Terminal) will have all routes mapped and a driver will have the discretion to use best possible route to his destination.

For Fleet management we are developing software systems and processes for data analysis. We are also planning to open multi-model service centers that will service and repair all kinds of vehicles.

10. What is different about working with V-Link?

The company is growing very fast. The operations are going to be pan-India. The company has already established a good name for itself in the market place. It is a challenge to come up to expectations. A management which provides the right mix of support and liberty makes working here extremely satisfying.  I am happy to be a part of this dynamic new business initiative.

Employee Speak: Chandru Kini, CEO, LifeKen, Bangalore


About the company: LifeKen was born as a dream of two promoters – Chandru Kini and A. Suryanarayanan. LifeKen is a Retail Pharmaceutical Chain that operates in total 82 Stores in Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. It is actively pursuing the opening of its Retail Pharmaceutical Chain in the cities of Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kochi. Plans are on the anvil to expand to other cities in the South and West and thereafter to the North and East.

1. How was LifeKen conceptualized? What prompted (Surya and) you to start this venture?

Surya and I ventured into this since we were both entrepreneurs at heart, and were passionate about starting something of our own. A great deal of hands on research was required for establishing a retail pharmaceutical chain like LifeKen. A model pharmacy was set up in Jan 2004. With the success of the model pharmacy, we were granted funding by the Modi’s family, based out of Mumbai. They have put in their personal investments into our venture. Mr Pranab Modi is on the board of directors for LifeKen.

It has been an eventful ride since then. We were also inspired by the success stories of various other retail pharmaceutical chains that were born in India in the last few years.

2. What is the unique experience LifeKen offers to its customers or its unique selling proposition as compared to other retail pharmacies?

Apart from the pharmacies that are successfully operating in the various cities, we have planned to initiate health care awareness programs for our consumers, educating and enlightening them about the preventive measures that could be taken to avoid certain ailments. Health check up mechanisms will also be available at the pharmacies for the consumers to get an insight into their current health status especially for ailments like osteoporosis etc.

The fundamental reason for commencing these programs is to promote a long-lasting relationship with LifeKen consumers.

3. What are the key challenges you face in your industry? How do you deal with them?

The key challenges for a retail pharmacy like LifeKen are at the sourcing as well as at the marketing phases of operations.

At the sourcing stage, there could be a great deal of supply chain issues especially when it comes to availability of commonly purchased drugs. There is always an urgent need to replenish the stores with drugs that are in constant demand with customers. That’s when our relationship with drug suppliers comes to our rescue. The suppliers that we work with are reliable and have the professionalism to ensure timely delivery of urgently required drugs to the pharmacies.

Another complexity that we face is on the marketing front- it becomes a challenge to advertise and to do any promotional activities. It would undermine the ethical standards that we maintain as a retail pharma company.

4. What are the values that you would like your employees to imbibe?

I strongly believe that customer engagement as well as customer delight should be at the forefront of the value system in LifeKen. It would be a reflection of how effective the pharmacy set up is. Employees are required to follow ethical standards of employment which will be critical for the overall success of the organization.

Something that I really hold key to my success is the support and guidance that was provided to me during my stint as a professional. And to a great extent, I would like to continue this tradition with the employees of LifeKen as well. In fact, we would like our employees to be with us and grow along with the success of the organization. 

5. What are your suggestions for future entrepreneurs in retail pharmaceutical?

A great deal of hands on approach would be required for establishing a retail pharmaceutical company. Considerable amount of time and energy have to be invested in research activities to set up an establishment like LifeKen.

Employee Speak: Mukund Rao, Studio Manager, Dhruva Interactive, Bangalore; Aug'07


1. What does your organization do?

Dhruva is a pioneer in game development in India. Some of the AAA game titles that we have worked on are Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible 2, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, TOCA PRO Race driver and Forza.

Dhruva is also into mobile game development and we have won the FICCI BAF Awards 2 years in a row for Slyder and Cricinfo Genie.


2. What is your role in Dhruva?

As Manager of the PC/ Console Art Studio, I manage the team and projects at the art studio at Dhruva. I facilitate art direction and internal production of games. I also interact with and manage clients like Microsoft and EA to name a few.


3. What are the key challenges that you face in the industry and specifically in your role? How do you deal with them?

The gaming industry has evolved such that the quality of art is very close to that of films. The challenge today is to strike a balance between quality of deliverables, timelines and the creativity among artists. Artists, by nature, have a creative mind and hence require the space and time to orient their thought processes into positive ingenuity and creativity. It becomes difficult for them to deliver within timelines specified by the client.


4. How do you foster creativity in your team members?

We spend a lot of time playing games and discussing game art. As a team we all try and derive inspiration from the pop-art scene at large. There is emphasis on people working on their pet projects during slack times. We also have started internal contests that are fun and help artists think out of the box.


5. What motivates you at work?

‘Game Art’ is interplay of art and science with endless opportunities. The challenge to be creative within the technological constraints imposed by the hardware platform motivates me the most.


6. How do you support and motivate your team members?

The ideal way to motivate my team members is by creating excitement around the work that we do. By highlighting some of the new project deals that have been signed up and the appreciation and positive feedback given by some of our customers.


7. Lastly, what is unique about working in Dhruva?

The constant demand for perfection and the open and non-hierarchical set up is what sets Dhruva aside from the others. The demand for perfection keeps us on our toes all the time, we innovate progressively and the sense of achievement that comes out of it is tremendous.  The non-hierarchical culture is a big boon, supporting employee communication at all levels.