My elder brother always desired to be a doctor. He missed the opportunity and chose to work in the allied field by starting his career as Medical Representative with a German MNC in the mid-80s. My father had worked as a ‘Government Servant’ all his life and was a bit sceptical about his choice.
Back in the 80s, beyond the conventional streams of Engineering and Medicine, there were not many lucrative career options available for a young graduate. In fact jobs were hard to come by in those pre-liberalization days and one would be considered to have been fortunate to land a job offer with an MNC pharmaceutical group. However the offer caused a great schism between my father and elder brother as somehow he was not very keen on his son working in the private sector. My father was naturally drawn to the world of job security and ‘norm based progression’ and the private sector seemed to be rather fanciful to his mind.
Also the job offer meant that my brother would step out of home territory and possibly keep across cities all over India. His colleagues felt that this and the fact that it was a sales job was a sure shot recipe for disaster and he would be lured into developing bad habits.
Thankfully my brother was determined about pursuing his dream and so he accepted the offer. In fact he had read Arthur Hailey’s acclaimed novel, ‘Strong Medicine’ and was drawn to the rewarding world of a career in sales. The initial regime was tough as the new recruits assembled for a rigorous training program. The schedule was taxing and the day started early and then stretched late into the night. The exams were recurrent and tough so there was no slack cut for them. But it was a youthful group, fresh out of campus and secluded homes, and they enjoyed the freedom.
Post the training, my brother was posted to a small town near Pune and that meant he came on a visit every alternate weekends. His travelled a lot on his job and the sales job was really rewarding so long as you achieved your targets. My father saw with great pride, his son settle down well in a career and have financial stability. He rather conveniently forgot his earlier opposition to the proposal.
Things moved on in a manner that my father was transferred to Ahmedabad and my brother was able to move to Pune. This created a unique situation wherein my parents moved to Ahmedabad while I and my elder brother stayed on in Pune. I was still studying in school and those days were really fun.
The home was typically like a bachelor’s pad – my brother’s friends would drop me to spend time. We would be playing games ranging from Carrom to Chess to Cards. Often we went out for movies and usually we ate out in restaurants. My brother would be occupied in the morning and late in the evening. So this left us a nice siesta slot in the afternoons by when I would have returned from my school and we would spend a few hours together.
It was great to live independent lives and since I was good at studies, the carefree schedule never caused any anxieties. My brother’s job was exciting though there was the inevitable pressure of the sales month-end. I guess no sales person can ever escape that since there is enormous stress to ensure the monthly numbers are delivered.
And yet he enjoyed his job – meeting talented doctors, trade savvy stockist and chemists my brother developed a good understanding of the trade and the drivers that impacted business volumes. To some extent the interpersonal relationships and market knowledge were more useful to drive business volumes rather than developing relationships with the doctors and enhancing ones knowledge of the medical world. My brother was always more comfortable with the academics than managing people. All the same he developed his coping strategies and did well enough. His self-belief that hard work will deliver success and one should persevere in making efforts, were the ideal ingredients to keep up the tempo in the job that brought in disappointments every day. Facing rejection is a routine affair for every sales person and most of them learn to cope with it.
I realized this in bits and pieces – on the whole the period was a like a never-ending picnic for me. For we were enjoying life, finding time and space to celebrate at the drop of a hat. And the memories strengthened my own resolve to find a suitable career in the private sector as and when I grew up. It was nothing specific but the appeal of instant recognition and rewards for ones efforts was a surefire motivator. And eventually I did find my vocation in sales; the only difference being that although I was a Science graduate as well I sold retail finance products instead of medicines.