In my last post, I wrote about how we went after the Ranbaxy project in Nigeria because Brand India’s reputation was at stake and delivering these project mattered to us
We had everything in place. Project plan, shipments, logistics. The only thing not in our control was the security element. And I’m not referring to site security here. We had this covered with security teams and cameras and guard dogs. If you’ve ever done business in Nigeria, and if you read my earlier post, you know what’s coming. Yep, the infamous Area Boys of Lagos.
The Area Boys are loosely organised gangs, the local mafia. They extort money from businesses, factories, public transporters, even regular people. They run the drug trade. They also operate as informal area security teams in exchange for compensation.
The Ranbaxy project was a big one. A logistical challenge with more than 110 containers distributed over 5 – 6 shipments. We’re talking 15 – 20 containers per shipment. We would have container vehicles parked for over 300 metres. We had to time our Customs clearances so well so that the vehicles always arrived in the middle of the day and were unloaded before dark. Any unloading after nightfall made us susceptible to the Area Boys.
I had a bodyguard in Nigeria, this giant of a guy called Solomon. Solomon was armed, but if we were to be attacked by a gang of 15 or 20, there was very little he could do. At most he would be able to negotiate on my behalf.
One evening, Mohit Kumar, I and both our teams were in the Site Office – a portacabin we had set up as the hub of our operations. We were going over the plans and schedules. Solomon was standing at the entrance. We looked up to see a convoy of eight jeeps packed with armed, fierce looking guys pull up to the site. We saw Solomon walk up to meet them.
Mohit and I were the only people who realised something was up. Our teams were deeply engrossed in the task at hand. We exchanged a look. We should have been scared. But in that moment, it didn’t occur to either of us to feel fear. I guess we didn’t feel scared because we knew whatever had to happen would happen. When things get really, really bad, you know they can only get better. And at least we had Solomon. He’d negotiate on our behalf.
After about 25 minutes of conversation, the Area Boys left. I came out to get some air. Solomon walked up to me and said in his lilting Nigerian accent, Boss, the problem is solved.” “What problem,” I asked. “I’ve settled things with the Area Boys. We hire them as our support security team for a monthly remuneration and they make sure we have no problem with anyone.” And that was it. Just like that, the Area Boys were no longer a problem.
Once this bit was settled, it was smooth sailing from there on out. We had nothing to worry on the technical front. But this bit, I can only call it divine intervention. We had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome. Things just fell so perfectly into place.
When you want something passionately, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.
If you’ve read the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, you will be familiar with this powerful truth. We wanted this project so badly, and we were determined to see it through to the end no matter what.
The Universe said Amen.
P.S. I would be remiss if I did not give a big shout out to our Life Engineers – Solomon, Zahir, Praful, Nagaraju, Kadir, Javed, Hemant, Bharghav and Tajammul for all the smarts, hard work and spirit they brought to this project. And of course, Team Ranbaxy – Mohit Kumar, Devendra Kalia, Parasher Biswas and Amaresh Nayak – all honorary Life Engineers.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.