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Solve this employee harassment case and win Rs 25,000

Last updated on: November 22, 2011 12:02 IST

Solve this employee harassment case and win Rs 25,000

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Tanmoy Goswami

The Tata Consultancy Services-Smart Manager Case Contest is the oldest and most prestigious competition of its kind in India.

Apart from a one-year free subscription to The Smart Manager, India's first world-class management magazine, winners from the 'manager' and 'student' categories stand to win cash prises of Rs 25,000 each.

All you have to do is read the case, see the question you have to answer on the last slide, click on The Smart Manager logo below, and post your solutions by December 8, 2011. All the best!



Rajinder Verma, the proprietor of the Solitaire Group of Hotels, was fast asleep in his hotel room when his mobile rang.

It was one in the afternoon. The night before, Verma had hosted a New Year's Eve party for a group of international business associates at Casa Solitaire in Goa, and he had gone to bed only after breakfast.

The group was in India to take part in the first International Hospitality Conclave to be organized in India, from January 5th to 8th.

The Conclave had seen successful editions in Australia, South Africa, the United States and China, and this was India's chance to make a mark.

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Image: A hotelier is caught between his secretary and potential partners.

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Verma was particularly excited about the event, because his company was participating in it as principal sponsor.

Verma had taken the opportunity to fly down his closest associates - leading hoteliers from various parts of the world - a week in advance, so that he could give them a flavor of New Year celebrations in India.

From December 29 to 31, he had taken his guests to three glittering parties at his luxury hotels in Delhi, Mumbai and Goa, impressing them with SGH's opulent properties as well as generous doses of Indian hospitality.

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Image: Verma had taken his guests to three glittering parties at his luxury hotels.

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Widely regarded as a soft-spoken, media-shy teetotaler obsessed with work and ethical dealings, the 45-year old Verma could nonetheless be a very charming host.

This New Year's eve, he thought he had done that reputation no harm at all.

Verma looked at his mobile with half-opened eyes and saw the name 'Anand Basu'.

Basu was the manager of Casa Solitaire. Even in his semi-awakened state, Verma found it unusual that Basu called him on his mobile when he was staying at the same hotel.

This time, he had even given everyone clear instructions not to wake him up.

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Image: Verma looked at his mobile with half-opened eyes and saw the name 'Anand Basu'.

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He was still thinking about all this as he pressed the 'receive call' button on his phone.

Before he could say anything, Basu's frantic voice woke him up with a jolt.

"Sir, I am really sorry to disturb you. But there is a major issue and I just could not wait. There is a problem with our guests..."

Basu had called from the staff conference room on the fifth floor of Casa Solitaire.

Verma reached there in 10 minutes to find only one other person sitting there with Basu.

It was Annika Chauhan, SGH's young and dashing press secretary.

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Image: Basu had called from the staff conference room.

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Even as he covered the 10 metres from the conference room door to the centre table where Basu and Chauhan sat, Verma could tell from their looks that something terrible had happened.

Chauhan in particular looked shaken. Verma came closer and saw that she was weeping.

After listening to Chauhan for 15 minutes without interrupting her, Verma was left feeling utterly shocked.

Verma had risen as an entrepreneur without any family legacy or connections, and he had built his empire through a mix of grit, resourcefulness and extraordinary determination.

He was thus no stranger to crises, but this one was like a time bomb waiting to explode.

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Image: Verma was no stranger to crises, but this one was like a time bomb.

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Over the course of that half-an-hour, Chauhan narrated to Verma how three men from the group he was hosting had repeatedly subjected her to "inappropriate behavior."

Chauhan had been with the group in Delhi, Mumbai as well as Goa, tasked with compiling a press release on the delegation's visit.

She claimed that these three men had often made the odd "funny" remark about her even in Delhi and Mumbai, but she had decided to ignore these incidents and not bother Verma about them.

However, at the New Year's Eve bash in Goa, things had apparently gone out of control.

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Image: She claimed that these three men had often made the odd 'funny' remark.

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The men had sought out Chauhan and made certain unsavory comments during the special party in the Casa Solitaire ballroom, some of which were allegedly close to "racial abuse".

When Chauhan tried firmly avoiding them, they were enraged and got more abusive.

The whole incident played out in several short bursts through the evening.

The ballroom was noisy and crowded with many high-profile guests from all over the world, and the three men rightly assumed that Chauhan would not be able to kick up a fuss in such a setting.

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Image: The whole incident played out in several short bursts through the evening.

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Perhaps they had also assumed that even if she complained to Verma later, he too would do nothing because of their high-value business relationship.

Chauhan had finally slipped out of the hotel quietly just before midnight and taken shelter at a friend's house.

"Indeed," Verma reminisced, "I could not find her last night when I was personally wishing all the staff present in the ballroom..."

Chauhan's friend, who also happened to be a women's rights activist, had first calmed her down and then asked her to call the police first thing in the morning.

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Image: Chauhan had finally slipped out of the hotel quietly.

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But out of respect for her employer, she had waited for Verma to wake up, till she spotted one of the three men glaring at her when she had gone for lunch at the hotel's Chinese restaurant.

Consequently, she had called up Basu and confided in her before breaking down in tears.

Verma took a long, deep breath. Not only were these three men a crucial part of SGH's international growth plans, their companies were also associate sponsors of India's first ever International Hospitality Conclave, which was only a few days away.

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Image: Verma took a long, deep breath.

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Before this, he had never had occasion to question their characters, but Chauhan's story left him in a complete mental mess.

This was allegedly about harassment - one word outside, and the scandal would be of epic proportions.

Chauhan had seemingly made up her mind. She was going to report the whole affair to the cops.

Verma sank in his chair, and for the first time in his career, he had a feeling close to despair.

"What am I going to do now...?" he asked himself, afraid that this was going to be the worst possible start to a New Year that had promised so much.

Your question: What should Verma do?



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