Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chocolate Chip cookies


Keeping in mind my last post about a a messy kitchen being a happy kitchen, i unleashed all my suppressed messiness to bake extremely simple, delicious chocolate chip cookies.

With this i have also started using all my recipe books gathered over the year and till date sitting prettily atop my kitchen shelf.
This recipe is Pooja Dhingra's first recipe in her book - "My big book of treats."




I have modified it very little to suit the ingredients i had at home, and it turned out heavenly. So, it is true - if you focus on the little details of the recipe and the consistency of your batter, and the method of mixing, rather than fretting about the mess created, and the cleaning up to be done, you can bake amazing treats and enjoy the process too :)

INGREDIENTS -

(original recipe in the book makes 20 cookies, i modified it to make 10 cookies)

1. Butter - 30 grams (roughly 2 tablespoons, and maybe a little more. Extra butter never hurt anyone). Ensure the butter is at room temperature - which means it is soft, but still hold its shape if cut through. If it is too gooey / liquidy, that will be a problem. Also it is right out of the refrigerator, you will get a crumbly mixture. I used Amul butter.

2. Sugar - 57.5 grams (which is roughly 1/4th cup + 1 tablespoon) (The original recipe indicated castor sugar and brown sugar, i have used normal granulated sugar and it works just as well)

3. Egg - 1

4. All purpose Flour (maida) - 88 grams (roughly 3/4th cup)

5. Dark chocolate - chopped into tiny pieces - 175 grams (roughly 1/2 cup)

6. Baking soda - 1/2 teaspoon

7. Extra butter for greasing the baking tray / use a baking sheet

8. Vanilla essence - 1 tea spoon ( i do not particularly enjoy this ingredient, so i skipped it. You can add it to your list of ingredients.

METHOD

1. Add butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat till fluffy. (Which means 2-3 mins with an electric mixer and 5-6 minutes with a hand beater.
I have a hand beater at home and it took me 5 mins. Thankfully i am ambidextrous, so this step is not very physically challenging for me !



2. Add the egg and whisk for 3-4 minutes (hand beating). 1 minute with an  electric mixer. Now would be the time to add your vanilla essence too. As mentioned i am skipping this ingredient.

3. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and add to the butter-sugar-egg mixture in lots. Maybe 2-3 tablespoons at a time and fold it in. Be very very gentle and use a spatula for this, holding it gently and folding the mixture in. Folding should always be done in one direction only.

Do not miss out on the sieving step. It doesn't sound very important, but make a difference to the recipes. Also sieve baking powder and flour together, so that you don't get the powder clumped only in some parts of the dough.


4. Add the chopped chocolate chips and fold them in too.

Leave the chocolate out for 10 mins and it should soften enough to enable rough chopping


5. Cling wrap the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.


Use the resting time to clean up!

6. Preheat over to 165 degree Celsius.

7. Take one tablespoonful of the batter and make round balls. The first batch i made with perfect round ball and cookies came out smaller in width but taller. The second batch i made, i rolled the dough into a ball and pressed down, making it a slightly flatter oval shape. These came out nice and flat. Both the batches taste the same, anyway!



8. Bake for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven. Do not immediately touch them. They will be warm and crumbly. Give them 10 minutes to cool down and firm up. Transfer to a serving dish or straight into your tummy!



These lovely cookies also make an amazing present.
I made a batch for my little niece to enjoy :)




Notes:
1. Recipe and techniques inspired from - Pooja Dhingra's Big book of treats.
2. Some ingredients are substituted as per availability
3. The book is simple enough to understand, however pictorial presentation of the method is not included in the book. And sometimes that is important to get things right.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Flour, sprinkled, unchained

So, now i have proudly gone on to baking breads - different flavors and shapes from a modest beginning of cakes and cookies.
There is something very liberating in being able to bake your own bread. It's like if the world crashes over and there is no food left on earth, i can bake MY OWN BREAD. (Of course, assuming all ingredients for making the bread are not destroyed!) But you get my drift, right? It makes me feel very independent and like a domestic goddess, ruling over my kingdom of sugar and butter and milk and flour.

I am a very neat and precise cook, i plan when i am going to cook / bake anything, i take a stock of the ingredients needed, i shop well in advance in case anything is unavailable. I have, honestly, no idea how it feels to start off with a recipe and realize some ingredient is missing. I rarely use the "what should i substitute for...." webpage in the middle of cooking. That page is only used in case of ingredients not available at my local grocer's when i am out shopping!

I lay out all the ingredients, measure them. Now, this i agree, i do very precisely with all equipment that i have ordered over the months from ebay and Amazon and have been gifted by my ever supportive guinea person(!) - Sagar and my comrade in arms, cousin - Renu. But intuition kicks in every time. I never, if at all, stick to these measured quantities. A little dash of, an extra little sprinkle of, a small little table spoon, a pinch more... of ingredients always ensues. Nevertheless, they are all measured out and kept, as are all the bowls and utensils that will be needed, including the aluminium foil required. Imagine opening the cupboard with flour or chocolate covered hands to take it out in the middle of the recipe! I realize that it is not a big deal for most, but for me it is nothing less than a nightmare - that tiny little drop of chocolate hanging on the hinges or the handles, accumulating over the years, till it takes over the cupboard, then the kitchen and then the whole house and turning into this huge chocolate monster...wait a minute, THAT is not a bad idea. A chocolate monster. It will be legal to bite it to kill it :)
But coming back to the point!
So i keep everything ready, there is a newspaper spread over the kitchen counter which is my work area, or a wipe cloth. Wash cloths are ready, utensils are washed the minute they have finished the work they were supposed to do and wiped and put away in the cupboards. My utensils must be feeling like prisoners, being made to do hard work and then marched back right to their little cells without ever being able to enjoy the sunshine or the breeze!

And i think this need for precision and neatness is what sometime frustrates me about cooking. If it a quick recipe, it doesn't bother me much, but come elaborate recipes and i start to lose my cool. Then i am like a controlled robot on a suicide mission - looking for the most efficient way to kill all the joy that i get from cooking.
I love cooking. But it doesn't give me unconditional joy - because i am so focused on the peripherals that i lose the essence of it.
Cleaning, making sure everything is neat and organized occupy most of my cooking time. When actually it should be my recipe, my quirky additions to it, permutations and combinations of ingredients that should be what cooking should be about.

Looking at a cake rise sitting next to my oven, instead of washing up.
Taking in the yummy fragrances, rather than throwing scraps and pieces in the dustbin to clear the space
Admiring the pretty pictures in my cookbooks, rather than wiping the kitchen counter
Getting the pretty little plate to put my cake on, instead of putting utensils back in their place.
I should be scribbling notes on the recipe books, instead of organizing my recipe papers and books and placing them back as they were

And this revelation suddenly hit me yesterday, when i was busy making my bread. It was annoying me that the flour was falling everywhere even though i had laid the newspaper down strategically. And then in a fit on annoyance, i threw some flour down. And then, as they say, history was made!

It was so liberating, like some chain had been thrown off, and i  could do as i pleased. A big smile came on my face. And my eyes refused to see, and my brain refused to register all the stuff strewn around about me. All i could see was the dough in front of me and what i had to make out of it. A beautiful creation was to be made, and how could i even be thinking about the stuff lying in the washbasin? I cannot believe i have been like a robot in the kitchen, when of all the places in the house that is the one place which fosters creativity and spontaneity. Playing in the flour, licking the chocolate off my finger and the spoon, having the utensils just sit there, this is how cooking is supposed to be. The cleaning up might take me 5 minutes longer than usual - but who cares?
I want to be in a messy kitchen, with flour on my face and chocolate on my hands, but oh, what a feeling of joy it is going to give me.
Cooking basics 101 be damned. Organisation and neatness are never used to describe great chefs or awesome home cooks.

My mother is a great cook, not because her cooking style is neat, but because her food tastes heavenly.
And as my mother always says - "The one thing that makes your food beautiful is the secret ingredient you put in it - LOVE"!



Source: pinterest.com

Monday, April 27, 2015

Twisted Feminisim

A man does it, so i will.
This is what feminism has come to mean.
Aggressiveness, ego, intolerance are marring the true spirit of feminism which fights for equality, freedom of choice and independence..

A man can drink, smoke and so can i, and so will i.
A man can not take care of his kids or raise them and so why should i?
A  man can have multiple sexual partners, so can i.
A man can commit adultery, so can i.
A man can ignore social etiquette, so can i.
A man can engage in violence, so can i.
A man can be rude, obnoxious, loud and overbearing, so must i.

The ugly side of feminism is rearing its head on social media and distracting men and women from the real grave issue. Try watching the The Vogue Campaign starring Deepika Padukone, and tell me seriously if it does not make you cringe. It starts off quite brilliantly, with the focus being on CHOICE. The right of a woman to do as she wants, to break out of the cage and empower herself and be responsible for her decisions. But soon it degrades into a man vs woman, aggressive, immature monologue about things that really shouldn't even be talked about in the context of feminism. Clothes and sex don't constitute the debate on feminism. The video soon turns irrelevant.

Women before us and today many women of our generation should rightfully be insulted and offended by this campaign.
Women in the 1910s - 1960s fought for equality, voting rights, right to property, to a say in marriage. Many women today still have to struggle for their right to education, freedom to choose to have a child or not have a child. A daily fight for equality with their brothers, husbands and co-workers, a right to equal wages and representation.
And with all these brave women taking bold steps towards liberating women, comes this brazen, insensitive campaign, extolling women to commit adultery, to drink and smoke, to be insensible just because some men do it too!

Who wants to be equal to weak men anyway?
Who wants to compare equality and freedom with irresponsibility and immaturity?

And who said feminism was about putting men down? Who wants equality by dragging men down? Shouldn't equality be achieved by reaching that height where merits, personality and strengths count for something, and gender does not matter.
Many men are comrades in this fight for equality. Many men are free thinkers who believe and work for women's freedom and right of choice. Many men are not aware of this fight, it is up to the mothers, sisters and society to enlighten them. Many men, especially in India, are coming to terms with a financially, emotionally independent woman and we should give them the time to adjust. There is a wide gap between how they have seen their mothers behave and how their wives / girlfriends behave. They do not oppose, many are even supportive, but most are just bewildered. Maybe this phase of adjustment will be completed in our generation and our kids will grow up in a more open, equal world. It is up to us.

Feminism is not about doing everything that a man does, not all that he does is correct.
It is about freedom to make right and responsible decisions. It is about respecting the women before us who fought for the rights that we enjoy today. It is about continuing this campaign forward, not as a war to be fought and won. but as a peace to be attained and sustained.

If a woman CHOOSES to stay at home and take care of her family, she is empowered
If a woman CHOOSES to advance her career, and not have a family, she is empowered.
If a woman CHOOSES to drink and smoke, she is empowered.
If a woman CHOOSES to be a manager, a painter, a homemaker, an artist, an architect, she is empowered
If a woman CHOOSES to nurture a loving family, she is empowered.

If she can choose, she is empowered.
If she can take a decision, she is free.
If she can take a responsible decision she is liberated.



Souce: www.thepeopleproject.com




Saturday, April 25, 2015

To do, or not to do?

How do you live your life?
A series of decisive actions one after the other forming a cohesive journey?
Or a laid back procrastination of actions believing that things that will happen as they are meant to?

I belong to the first category. It has a lot to do with the kind of upbringing that you had. There is no right category or wrong category. And shades of grey and overlaps do exist. These are broad generalizations. But if you had to select one, which would it be?

I was brought up to believe that your life will pan out as a consequence of the decisions you make. A lesson my sister and i were taught - Always understand consequences of your decisions. We were encouraged very early on to make our own decisions. Be it academics, which sports to participate in, if at all. Which extra curricular activities to choose, if at all. Which graduation field, post graduation field to opt for, if at all!
Which job to consider, when to start, when to quit, whether to switch fields or not. Accept responsibilities and even marry whoever we want.
And all the time it was drilled into our heads - your make decisions, you face the consequences. I do not remember a single instance, for as long as my memory stretches back, of somebody else making a decision on my behalf. I am sure as a child when i did not have the resources for decision making i must have been bullied into obedience by my parents. But the minute my brain could process the choice -research - action - consequence sequence, i was left to my own devices. Which does not mean that my parents approved of all my decisions, or that they didn't let their disapproval be known. They did! But it was never an ultimatum. It was a way of presenting their point of view that i probably should be taking into consideration before reaching a conclusion.

Because after all i had to face the consequences of my decision.

And when i see so many of my peers and friends planning the lives of their child like an event manager on drugs - i am utterly surprised. If you plan every single moment of their life, have made all their decisions for them, when are these kids going to learn to decide for themselves? When are they going to understand and appreciate the art of making their own decisions - sometimes right and sometimes terribly wrong? How will future managers and professionals be - if their days are planned by over zealous mothers - 7 am get up, 9 am school, 12 pm - lunch, 2 pm horse riding, 4 pm - homework, 5 pm - video games, 6 pm - cricket coaching, 7 pm - dinner, 8 pm - A specific program on tv and 10 pm - sleep!
Look at the rigid pattern that we force the kids to follow. All spontaneity forgotten. Turning them into robots. All in the quest for the kid growing up to be a doctor, an engineer or a cricketer.

How many parents would be okay if their kid came home one day and said i want to be a painter, or a dancer or a musician? How many times have we heard the argument of - "these professions will not sustain you and your lifestyle"? Why not? What if your kid really is a Picasso or Sudha Chandran in the making? And even if he / she is not - who are we to take that chance of discovery out of their hands?

Fortunately, i did not grow up in a household where i HAD to be an engineer or a doctor. I had a choice. To do what i wanted, what i felt i could excel at. And of course, i realize i had a privileged life, where i never had to to work or get a degree for supporting my family, where the choices were real with all other variables staying the same. The only determining factors being what i wanted and what i could do. Not everyone can afford to have no other compounding variables affecting their decisions. But the kids i see placed in a straight jacket are just as privileged as i was. They are being geared and trained to be rats in a competitive race and because one family does it, the others feel inadequate if they do not have every second of their child's time accounted for in some productive or learning activity.
Why can't schedules be like - 7 am get up, 8 am choose and learn to make breakfast (with pretty little children's cutlery!) , 9 am school, 12 pm - lunch, if hungry, 12 onward - do whatever - play in the mud, splash in the water, make weird shapes with play doh, write a drama, act in a drama, read a book, draw or paint, look up at the sky doing nothing, go out and play hide and seek, come home for dinner, sleep.
Yes discipline is required, discipline to not be indecisive, discipline to have the perseverance to stick by your decisions, discipline to have the courage to admit your decisions were wrong and to correct them, discipline to excel in whatever it is that I CHOOSE to do.

And that is why questions which have yes, no or maybe as an answer make me really angry. Maybe - what does it even mean? It is just a tactic for getting more time, a relief, a short term procrastination. How annoying are the people who cannot make up their minds? They often make the worst shopping companions - try shopping with a person who cannot make up his / her mind about what to buy - it is infuriating. You want to yell - "Just buy any damn thing, i no longer care. The dresses have started looking the same to me". But you have to be polite and pretend to re-examine the options with a careful eye, and make silly observations hoping the person can make a decision before the end of time.
Or try deciding where to go for dinner with an indecisive person. Until you sit down and have food on your plate, you will not really know where you are going to have your dinner! I think it is these kids who had everything planned out for them and were never given the freedom to choose that turn out to be indecisive adults. Partly because they are so used to blaming parents or someone else for their failures, because in the first place they never made the decision. And partly because they do not know how to face consequences, to accept that it was their decision and they have no one else to blame.
When i look around me, i realize i have attracted and been attracted to people who are quick decision makers, dithering and procrastinating is abhorred. People who believe that every second of procrastination makes decision making that much harder.

A philosophy that i choose the path that i follow. And even if the path i choose is wrong, it is a journey on which i have set out and it is up to me to turn around or continue, it is all my decision.
My parents are always there, looking out for me, as lamp posts, shedding light on the path and guiding me on towards the goal, or guiding me back home but never changing the direction of my path.

Source: www.pinterest.com


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Under the starry skies

There are so many things that we give up doing as we grow up.
Many little things that we do as kids and then life takes over and suddenly there is no time or inclination to do those things.

Recently i had gone for a sleepover at my cousin's place and we slept on their beautiful terrace, under the starry sky in the crisp summer breeze, cooling and calming everything.
A ritual of getting the mattresses out of cobwebbed corners, dusting them, putting them all out in a line, covering them in washed, clean bedsheets, laying out the pillows and soft blankets. Putting up mosquito nets and lathering copious amounts of odomos.

And then the joy of lying down and gazing upon the sky. Nothing between you and the sky except for the light breeze like a lullaby. No ceiling, no fan, no paint and no concrete. Just you, gazing right up at the millions of stars looking down upon you. And choosing the brightest star that you would like as your diamond. My uncle used to promise us the star of our choice if we behaved ourselves. How did we never ask him for it the next night when we were off to sleep again and he made the same promise is really surprising. Maybe we were not as smart as kids are today. Maybe we really did believe in fairy tales and never looked for logic in stories. Maybe phones and videos were not as important as good old grandma narrating a story we had heard a thousand times before. Gently being lulled into sleep with the "happily-ever-afters."

And you are left wondering why did we ever stop doing this? Sleeping on the terrace? Since when did an air conditioner become preferable to a gently blowing breeze rustling your hair? Since when did an alarm wake you up instead of the early sun rays at dawn?
And the thrill of predicting if it was going to rain at night, and sometime, just sometimes,  .your predictions going wrong and big splashes of rain drops on your face in the middle of the night waking you up, urging you to quickly bundle up your mattresses, bed cover pillow and blanket and carry it inside. Sleep would then be a far way off. Watching the rain drops fall down on the very floor where you were sleeping peacefully a minute ago, dreaming about yellow sunshine and green grass.

In the course of work and family and home and social commitments little joys of life are forgotten.
Which was the last summer you had pepsi cola -  as, the flavored iced in plastic bags, was called? Which summer was it when you decided you were too old for it?

When was the last time you participated in the society's Ganesh Mahotsav games and cultural programs? When did they get boring for you?

When was the last time you played hide and seek with your cousins and friends? The scary anticipation of determining who the seeker would be, the feeling of relief that it was not you, the thrill of looking for a place to hide. I am sure as adults with the weapons of deception and manipulation tucked in our belt, we would excel at this game now.

When was the last time you sat down with your family, the whole extended family, for an amras party. Getting everyone together and assigning responsibilities - prep team, peel team, squeeze team, and the aamras. The bigger the mess created, more the joy on the faces of the company.

All these things seem golden again, when we are longing for the comfort of the familiar, the security of the known.

Phases of life take us through a journey which is varied and interesting, sometimes happy and sometimes sad, but in the end the roots never move. You come right back where you started - on certain, familiar grounds of  your childhood. We experience the world, and we travel. But all our travels remind us of home. The one place where every journey begins and ends.

Source: www.fodors.com









Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Experiences of a store manager

When i left my job at Croma, as a store manager, after 3 years to join my dad, i left i with a bitter sweet feeling.
It had been a great experience, but there was so much more i could have done and learnt. Education does not prepare you for what you have to face.

Here is an article i had written after i left.

I started my work at Croma on 1st June 2009.

I remember sitting at the conference room at the SO, writing on the green pad 1/06/2009…my first day/my first job. It was scary but at the same time I was excited. I knew I was about to enter a world I had no knowledge of but a world that I would fit in anyway. And so wrong I was.

The project at Mumbai taught me about the retail world and what should I expect from it? Did it teach me how to run a store? No.
Did I make an effort to learn how a store should run? Honestly No. I was busy trying to understand the little details..the products, how to sell them, what customers expect…the discounts, or markdowns as they are called in retail. Was that wrong? I don’t think so. It was my first job, in a unknown sector, with lesser known products. I felt the way to go about this was down to up. Know everything I have to know about the products, and then other things like handling the store could be learnt – MY FIRST MISTAKE. I placed learning about the products and learning about the processes to run a store on an equal platform. Now, after  19 months I can confidently say, process knowledge is 60%of the job, handling people 30% and product knowledge 10% or even lesser.

I took over 'M' store, I knew I was not ready but I also knew I would learn to sail once I was put on the boat. I relied on my ADM who had been in the system for 3 years. I thought he was the final authority on everything. My area manager, in fact told me to not rely on him but on the SOPs - MY SECOND MISTAKE. I did not understand the significance of what my area told me then. Processes are at the heart of running a store. Processes form the order in the chaos. Processes maintain consistency. And it is true not just for retail. Not even then did I go through and try to understand the SOPs.

What I did learn from Megamall was how to set up a store. It was store I had set up with my own hands, with my young team of 20 staff. We had taken the store from a mere block of furniture to a well merchandised store. The store manager of Juhu, the flagship store was the closest to my store and he dropped in to help me understand how to merchandise – MY THIRD MISTAKE. The fact that the operations head asked hin to drop in and help me I took it on my ego. Did they think I was not capable of handling a 8000 sq foot store on my own? Honestly, of course I wasn’t. Shouldn’t I have welcomed the help and learnt as much as I could from him? How many people got the chance to interact and understand from a guy who handles a 20000 sq foot store, a flagship store?
My learning – no one gives a damn about your ego in the industry / company, especially when it is misplaced. That is how the professional world works. Did I really expect my operations head to call me and say that it was not the lack of belief but business need that he was being asked to look into my store? No. and I should have been mature to realize that I needed that help. Ego has no place in the industry. You show results. Results speak for you and your efforts.   Of course, I met store managers who themselves spoke / boasted about their stores in the hope of getting attention / promotion for themselves and you cannot be judgmental and say that what they did was shallow. It wasn’t. In a space of 40 store managers, you have to open your mouth and blow your own trumpet. But I understood that there are some things you cannot do, because they are dead against your nature. Even now, after everything, I would still not be comfortable talking about my success to boss or any other person. So what did I learn? Results speak for themselves. Efforts are seen, maybe even acknowledged, but never recognized if not translated into results. In the end numbers speak. But no one is paid for efforts alone. The balance scorecard used to measure a store manager’s performance does not have a yardstick for efforts put in. it has benchmarks for numbers – sales, profits, bottom lines, attrition rate( yes, even people management is measurable and measured).

I moved to Pune after a lot of false alarms. When I interacted with some other store managers in the later stages, they told me exactly how much they used to pester area managers for shifting them to other regions. I never did. Why? Was he God or the demon I was scared of? MY FOURTH MISTAKE – Escalating your issues to your bosses and super bosses is not a crime but a necessity. In handling 40 other stores and their managers, did I expect my area manager to keep a track of what was happening to my career path? Of course not.

My learning – in the mesh- mash of the retail world, you need to shout…maybe not loudly…but shout anyway to be heard. No one is a mind reader, least of all your bosses. You want something, you be shameless and ask for it. What was the worst that could happen? He would ask me to be patient? But at least it would be registered somewhere in his mind. (This was my dad s advice that I kept ignoring).

Then I moved to Pune, I realized, had a completely different work culture, bordering on laziness. As young, fresh and vibrant my team was in Mumbai, that old (in the system), lazy, laid back my team was in Pune. The farther you are from the head office, the lesser the control it has on processes and systems. It was in Pune that I was first introduced to my fear of Delegation – MY FIFTH MISTAKE. I knew I had to delegate my work. Yes, in understood that, but some controlling tendency in me did not let me do it. To the extent, that I hated my job. Every decision was mine, every effort was mine and as long as the staff did not have to work, they were happy. It was a vicious cycle where I did not delegate, the staff did not work, I thought the staff did not work and hence I did not delegate.
My learning – running a store is like running a mini city. Everything from housekeeping, staff problems, customer issues, merchandising, cleanliness, warehousing depends on you. And if the mayor of a city was alone expected to do everything what kind of cities would we have?

From day one at another store I continued my mistake of not delegating, either to ADMs, DMs or staff. I am no super woman. I read somewhere that a good manager is one who trains his team in such a way that even if he is absent, the team works as a whole, he is not a cog of the wheel as is believed, without whom the wheel cannot move forward. In this sense, I failed miserably. MY SIXTH MISTAKE – it takes a lot of courage for me to actually ask myself this question – Did I bother training even ONE person in any of my team thoroughly? My honest answer would be No. because I never thought any one of them was capable of that kind of work. Now that I think about it, instead of complaining to my mom about how inadequate my managers were, /could I have trained them better? Couldn't I have given them realistic expectations; concrete actions, fundamental training, and then measured their results? Wouldn't that have made my job easier?

My learning – everyone is not born with retail experience and process expertise. The most important job of a store manager is not sales. Sales happen anyway. Sales do not depend on the store manager. The most important job is to train my team. Starting with my ADMS and DMs.  If they would have been trained properly, my tactical workload would have been reduced to half, leaving me with time to train the staff on merchandising standards, SOPs, so that the staff could take merchandising decisions on their own, so that the staff could be trained for appraisals. Why does Pune staff not qualify for appraisals for promotion to next level? It is solely the failure of the store managers. Store managers who have been given the resources to train the staff, but do not have the time to because they are doing a department managers job, who is in turn doing the assistant department managers job, who are in turn no better equipped than the sales staff.
. A store manager needs to be a disciplinarian, a headmaster hated but feared. You help the staff in the time of In all the stores, I tended to slack off on the discipline after the initial few days. I do blame myself but I also feel it is because when you work at a place for more than 10 hours and you are alienated, because you are the boss, you have no colleagues, you tend to get bored alone, is why you start interacting more and more with the staff and the discipline slacks off.  But how could I have let my personal reason of boredom come in the way of my professional conduct? As crude as it sounds, it is very important that the line between you and the other managers as well as the staff is clear at all points. It does sound extremely crude, but that it what matters. Only tough managers can get things done. I would rather have people hate me, but do their work for the fear of me, than love me and not do their work knowing that I am their ‘friend’.
I proudly told my parents that 3 people cried at my farewell. I realize now, I would have been happier if 5 people had cried out of joy that I was finally leavingtheir need, no doubt, you teach them everything that they need to know about the job, but if the job is not done in spite of the training, they should be taken to task. I failed on the training front, so there was no question of taking them to task on something they didn’t know how to do in the first place.
Lastly, coming to the final problem I faced during handover.
I had never received such a handover (I did not demand it either because I did not know the process). But I had to give a thorough handover. The stock discrepancies which came up had come up before and had been mailed to my area manager. Sent items deleted and my boss putting his hands up – that taught me MY SEVENTH MISTAKE – the importance of escalations.

If my area manager did not let me show the discrepancy in the stock takes, what stopped me from approaching regional manager, if he did not help why not head of operations, my CEO? My learning – when you are the sole person in charge of an entity like a store, it is very important to get the albatross off your neck, basically pass on the responsibility or at least the information higher up, beyond your boss if issues are not solved. Escalation of every tiny, trivial event is important, and for the very basic reason – SYOA! Save your own Ass! Documentation and escalation is the key.
I entered the company believing that I would make an excellent store manager, half way through the journey I thought I was really doing a good job, then the more I learnt, the more I realized that I was doing a half decent job and I leave the company thinking there was so much more to learn, and all that I have seen is the tip of the iceberg.

But I am not disappointed. I consider myself lucky that at the age of 24 I got to handle 3 very different stores, set up one store, manage a team of 40 people and though I come out of it a little bit bummed, but not crushed. I can now appreciate the fact as to why most of the store managers are 30 years of age and above. It requires a great deal of maturity, a far bigger view of the whole picture, a lot of experience, to actually call yourself a good store manager.
However, through it all I emerge a confident manager. I accept all that I have done wrong; I see how it went all wrong. And I know the mistakes that I will never commit henceforth. Yes, it was a world I could not properly fit in as I expected on my first day of the job. But it was a world I could become a part of, if I had persisted.


It was, however, without doubt, the greatest learning experience of my life.

Neha Mirashi
Ex-store Manager

Croma