Saturday, June 4, 2016

Social Service - the SSS way

A general feeling of tiredness got us talking about the need to check my sugar levels.  So, we decided yesterday night to go for a 'fasting sugar' test today morning at a hospital where we usually go.  I woke up this morning and dreaded the needle prick that I was to encounter in a few hours.  Have always welcomed an injection over gulping tablets; still, the prick of the needle is something I have never got used to.  

My better half was more enthusiastic about this morning schedule than me, having been the victim of more health related checks in the recent past.  And here I was, agonizing over the fact that the place was twenty minutes away and that we didn’t know a reliable place closer home as yet.  A mental check of health centers closest home gave a small list – many of them were easily rejected.  However, one was okayed as being very dependable – ‘Shanthi Social Services(SSS)’.  Despite living within 5km radius of this place, we have never been there, not for lack of reputation.  The organization’s reputation is impeccable.  Anyone will vouch for it, in terms of health services or the food in its canteen.  We ourselves can vouch for the services they provide in the Petrol Bunk as well as quality of gas.  We have hit the bunk early morning and many a times late night (11:00 p.m. and above) and have always found the employees friendly and cheerful.  Besides, George uncle, who we had met a month ago had vouched for the place.  The pendulum weighed heavily towards SSS.

This being just a simple test, the decision was quickly made – SSS, it is.  We decided to check the place to see for ourselves what we have heard from many.  As we entered the place, we found it very orderly despite being crowded at 8:30 a.m. in the morning, being a weekend.  The people, whether the watchman or at the counter were very polite in answering everyone’s queries.  The test by itself took as much time as in the hospital we used to go to.  The nurses were efficient – they didn’t search for a vein in my hand.  It was over in ten minutes and I was to go back after breakfast within an hour and half. So far, good as they did not have to search for my veins and I did not have to suffer multiple pricks before they achieved success.  I suggested we go home, which is a ten-minute drive while my husband suggested the canteen after which we could go back and give the blood sample.  Given the crowd I was apprehensive. 

The three queues had people filing in fast.  However, it moved slow and steady.  Availability of food was indicated on electronic display boards that kept updating quantity available and cost.  Within ten minutes we were at the counter serving food.  The place was neat and the tables were full.  People got their food(self-service) and found a place.  Water was served on the tables.  They finished, handed over their plates and left the place.  Supervisors helped people if required, and guided the workers in required cleaning.  None of them could be heard ordering or questioning.  They were smiling and getting things done.  One of the workers picked the card that had fallen from my pocket and gave it to me smiling - they were attentive in the midst of all that work.  Another fifteen minutes and we had finished our breakfast and were walking out discussing how they were running the place so efficiently.

Arun told me what he knew about the origins of the place.  SSS is run by Mr. Subramaniam who started the organization ‘Shanthi Gears Ltd’ that makes machinery - gears.  He is a first generation successful entrepreneur who today runs SSS.  They do not solicit or accept any donation.  And SSS runs like clockwork, maybe something he picked from his experience, I mused. 

The part I most liked about the organization is the emphasis on ‘service', their motto being ‘Service to humanity is service to God’.  This they achieve through quality, efficiency, humility and affordability.  The registration and test costs (sugar and haemoglobin) came to Rs.85/- .  More surprising was the food cost.  We ordered four sets of idli and two filter coffees (yes, we like our coffee the Tamilian way – nothing like the taste of filter coffee).  It cost us Rs.40/-.  Idli per set cost us Rs.5/- and per filter coffee cost us Rs. 10/- each.  I held the tokens and thought about the hotels charging for the same.  The idli was served with two chutneys and sambhar.  Of course, their running costs may be higher, but how much higher ?  For a common man, most hotels are not affordable due to high costs.  Further, food served cheap may not always be healthy and hygienic.  However, SSS was doing it, fulfilling both needs.  We had heard that there are many people who come in everyday for their meals, especially people from the surrounding (both business and otherwise).  The employee who manned the PR Desk, came in for breakfast, bought his token and joined the queue where food was served.  Another fifteen minutes and we finished breakfast.

Taking in the place, reading boards and looking at how things were run, we returned back to the counter to get the token for taking the blood sample (after food).  The employee, who had given me the earlier token looked at me and asked me, ‘How long since you had food ?’.  I truthfully told her that it is 25-30 minutes max.  She asked me to get back in an hour.  I told her that the nurse inside had asked me to get back within an hour and half.  Politely, she told me to get back exactly in that time and not before as one must wait for the test to be taken.  So, we went back to walking.

I have always avoided crowded places be it shopping, festivals or events due to the noise and the hustle and bustle that happens.  However, here, there was a crowd but there was order.  People were patient and those who were not, were directed politely to follow by the employees.  Arun told me that lunch time is very crowded and he has heard that the queue stretches outside the waiting hall some days.  

For colleges in Coimbatore who teach management, SSS is a case study that should be used.  Be it organizing, controlling, motivation or quality, one will find aspects in SSS that is worth being part of a case study that students can use to learn and be inspired.  For organizations, it is one to emulate.  Personally, it was a rewarding experience.  Of how one man aspires to do something good and works hard to succeed.  For behind the clockwork, lies commitment, diligence and hard work always.

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