A View From The Top

Updated: Aug 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
On July 30, a six-member team from Tata Honeywell Limited (THL) left Pune to scale the Kalindi Pass the highest altitude trek in India. You see, so enthused were they by the success of their trek to the Pin Parvati Pass in Himachal last August, the teams aspirations had taken a quantum leap this year.

MD Vinayak Deshpande, who has been romancing the mountains for long now, led from the front. Mr Deshpande, credited as a prime architect of THLs growth, has also been responsible for creating a culture of trekking in the company.

The THL trekking club, which was formed in 1989, has been conducting two annual treks in the Sahyadri ranges, with 50-60 employees taking off to the hills. It has also been supporting expeditions to much higher altitudes by employee groups, monetarily and by granting special leave.

The six-member team to Kalindi Pass was led by 53-year-old Achyut Vaidya, Head of Quality And Systems and a pro trekie. Mr Vaidyas familiarity with the Himalayas is thanks to many a past trek, as well as the Basic and Advanced Mountaineering courses hes taken at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. Under Sherpa Tenzing no less! Others team members were Mr Deshpandes wife Ujjwala (44), Dy GM corporate affairs Parag Tokekar (36), head OACES business division Nikhil Naniwadekar (36), and business head Hi Spec division, Ashish Gaikwad (36).

The trek was meticulously planned well in advance, in terms of necessary clearances from the Army and other authorities, arrangement of high altitude porter teams & equipment and suchlike. The route was carefully studied, diet was planned for, and the trek plan formulated in terms of resources, ration, equipment and medicines. To maintain fitness levels, the team trekked the 2,500-feet Sinhgad fort situated 25 kms from Pune, at the crack of dawn every weekend throughout the year.

Upon reaching Rishikesh, the team went to Gangotri by road and then the trek began on August 1. The 21-member team (including 15 support staff) hit Badrinath on August 14. This only after theyd negotiated the Gangotri, Vasuki, Chaturangi and Sweta glaciers, hundreds of boulders and Nandanvan, Kalindi Parbat and the Kalindi Pass.

The trek would typically kick off every morning at 7 am. The team would then carry on for about 7-8 hours straight. Says Mr Tokekar, Though we enjoyed good weather during daytime, it was only when we went to the valley that we faced White Out, a condition that can blind someone (due to the reflection of the sun on snow) unless proper measures are taken. Speaking off danger, on the penultimate day, the team lost three porters because one of them fell critically ill and two accompanied him back to civilisation.

Trekking offers more than that adrenalin rush, it seems. These expeditions... have given us a new perspective towards life, the way we work. In such expeditions, the group transcends individual boundaries to work as one unit, helping each other to surpass oneself. These terrains expose one to many expected events, which improves the speed in decision-making ability, says Mr Deshpande. Agrees Mr Tokekar, Its a very humbling experience and it boosts team spirit tremendously.

And no, prolonged absences from work dont upset THL in the least. Mr Deshpande shrugs and talks about the culture of delegation. We encourage younger managers to handle business independently. So, while some people are away, others who stay back also experience similar trekking at work, he smiles.

Clearly, theres only a very thin line between business and pleasure.