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October 13, 2014

Transformation Challenges .....................India way

Like most of the World and business organisations India is undergoing significant transformation and offers some very interesting insights into Leading and managing change.

Lot has been written about Anna Hazare and anti corruption movement. Images plastered all over news papers, television and  websites; of youngsters (most of them aged between 16-25 years) riding bikes with pillion riders standing behind them, sometimes as much as four people on one bike, in violation of traffic and safety rules continue to disturb me both as a person and as professional. Unfortunately this is a common scene in all political, religious and social rallies as well as day to day traffic on roads.

Sounds trivial? Why is this important? Here is context data:

Across India, every ten days over 4000 people die in road accidents, majority of them are on two wheeler and are under 35 years of age. This is more than all people lost in Kargil War. India loses more people in six months in road accidents than has lost to wars and terrorism since Independence.

Ask any communication and branding expert and they will verify the blunder. Not to forget, tendency to break rules and laws is root cause of corruption (bribery). So how can people leading anti corruption movement and demanding accountability in public service themselves be tolerant of such behaviors? It’s like a corporate leader supporting processes and people responsible for malfunction of most promising products.

As a person looking to invest in India, will be genuinely concerned. When I see Urban/ Semi Urban, educated, with means (owners of bikes, vehicles etc) who are most likely to be part of work force being hired behaving so irresponsibly.

I am reminded of a story told by Pramod Bhasin (ex CEO & Chairman, Genpact / Leader - GE Capital India). He was at Chinese airport on a rainy day. A group of maintenance workers were walking in a line towards Aircraft; there was puddle of water and first one jumped to cross over. Entire crew followed him without breaking line. If this was in India, we would have someone jumping over it, another few deciding to take a detour from right, some from left and so on. Bottom line, in general Indians don’t demonstrate discipline, more so self discipline.

Businesses need predictability, consistency and respect for law & rules to thrive.

Similarly, at launch of Clean India campaign, after Prime Minister and crowd departed, venue was littered with pamphlets distributed by organizers (Govt of India). If your goal is to clean than you can’t be adding to waste generation. To manage waste we have to start by managing and curbing waste generating behavior and leaders must lead by example, for campaign to succeed, root causes have to be dealt with. It’s not only about littering but total waste of national resources (read organisational resources in context of businesses). Allocating huge resources, fancy ad campaigns etc will have no impact unless underlying attitudes and processes change. For example, using technology and connecting with people, similar to Prime Minister’s address to school children on 5th September, would have been a much more effective approach.

Last year, I was reading results of a study by an international agency. According to this study approximately 175 mm Indian families (of 4 people) earn less than $1350 p.a. translating into 700 mm people or roughly 10% of humanity having less than 1 $ per day to live. In this back drop providing for skill development, education and employment (schemes like MGNREGA) is understandably any government’s priority. With current controversy in media over increased allocation of fund for material the MGNREGA is once again in focus. One is reminded of Cliché – definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)

These programs continue to repeat mistakes of past 67 years since independence. Every year instead of reducing people’s dependence on such programs and reservations in jobs/admissions we have agitations and lobbying to include more people.

Make in India, Clean India, Making FDI norms easy, MGNREGA, Reservations etc are means to end, but we continue treating them as goal itself. Effective business organizations start with customer to set their goals and work backwards to change/create processes to meet their goals. Similarly, India has to start focusing on improving life of its 1250 mm people and integrate various initiatives to make them successful.

Here are some examples of creating people (customer) centric solutions, instead trying to force fit, subsidies and fund people in systems which do not serve their purpose.

Select youngsters in age group of 12-15 years from these families. Create a three year program comprising of two blocks of 6 hours each. It’s possible to provide education equivalent to six academic years (roughly 180 to 200 days) in 6 hours X 1080 days. Use second block to provide technical and vocational training for three years providing them employment on completion of three years. During this time pay these youngsters $ 3 per day from MGNREGA and provide meals from Mid Day meal scheme. This will create far more valuable assets and set these families truly free.  With collaboration and involvement of industry this can create pipeline of employable young talent for industries, services, Armed forces, Para-military forces, healthcare services, police etc.

Provide government and community land (village panchayat, temples etc) on lease (instead of transferring ownership) to build cold storage, large retail stores etc. Include solar power generation firms by providing roof tops to set up plants and ask them to fund construction in lieu of rent/cost of land. Unlike conventional power generation, solar power can be generated through clusters of small units catering to local communities resulting in lower costs and T&D losses. Similarly funds can be used from MGNREGA, health and education budgets to construct schools, healthcare facilities in collaboration with solar energy firms. This is all possible by creating enabling regulatory framework.

Organised retail is need of hour. We continue to debate corporate versus local shop owners, domestic companies versus foreign companies etc. Why not promote cooperative model, exiting small shop owners can form cooperatives and nationwide network of such local cooperatives can provide benefits to consumers and opportunities businesses. We have extremely successful example in dairy sector - Amul to learn from. Once again funds from schemes like MGNREGA should be used to promote such enterprises at village level.
It’s simple, to be efficient; dispose what is not required, figure out what is important and hold on tight to what you want most!

I am reminded of a presentation in circulation few years back about difference in developed and developing/under developed nations. Difference between Developed and under developed nations is attitude of people, framed over the years by education and culture.
It’s time to stop rhetoric like India is Great (Mera Bharat Mahan) and change to let’s make India Better.

Warm Regards,

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