Are we ready for “Make In India”?

Make In India sounds great and appeals to our patriotic feelings, but are we really ready for Prime Minister’s invitation to the world to come Make in India. First of all we need to understand that this slogan has many aspects to it. The first and foremost aspect of this is the Red Tape in our bureaucracy which has throttled our business engines for decades now. This aspect has been dissected and discussed many times over and is seen as the biggest roadblock that the Modi Government can improve. My focus in this blog is more on a slightly different aspect of this call i.e. are our work-force really ready for this dream to come true.

For quite some time though our manufacturing side has taken a hit, India’s services have consistently grown. Leading the pack has been the IT software services where the outsourcing has changed the way software is developed these days. Some time back, I had the good opportunity to hear one of the pioneers of India’s IT Software Mr. Narayana Murthy and hear his views on Challenges of doing business in India. Interestingly all these five challenges had more to do with the workforce and not much to do with the Red Tape and Government policies. Of the five major impediments that Mr. Narayana Murthy talked about i.e. Lack of discipline, Oral Culture, Reticent to losing face, Aversion to Data and Hierarchy as a means to violate agreed norms, the first four actually stem from one of our strengths which is actually social engineering. Our ability to work with different cultures and socially adjust with different ethnicity and work cultures has been the main pillar for our success in the Services Industry. But during this adjustment and evolution, we have picked up the first four lacunae which we try to mask with our social engineering skills and personal rapport with individuals and managers.

For a successful manufacturing country and product hub, unfortunately these lacunae can spell the doom. One of the keys to manufacturing on a large scale is consistency and timeliness and they cannot be achieved without discipline. Similarly, another key aspect of any manufacturing is a fixed set of commitments that are written down and committed and this will mean that the Oral Culture has to evolve to meet stricter commitments. Probably, the biggest challenge in becoming a manufacturing and product hub is the ability to live with diverse ideas some of which will be diametrically opposite to one’s views. Also, most of innovations undergo several rounds of failure before tasting success, so if we are reticent to losing face and do not want to learn from past experiences, we cannot be great innovators. Finally most of the worlds biggest manufacturers look forward for constant improvement to their products and most common mechanism is through Data collection and analysis. Indians are great at both of these activities, but what is actually the impediment is that they are probably too clever and know how to interpret the data to paint a completely different picture. Now such things are good boosting the balance sheets and putting a positive spin, in the long run such strategies do not work. If India is serious about Make In India, Indian managers need to come to terms with this and use Data as means for driving constant improvements within their teams and products. So in my opinion, this dream of our Prime Minister can only be achieved if the Indian workforce can come to terms with these four aspects.

Another aspect of the Make In India slogan is the promise of Zero defect, Zero effect manufacturing. The biggest roadblock to this promise is the self confidence of our workforce. In my dealings with many Indian companies including the companies that I have represented as well as vendors I have worked with, the first thing that they tell me when I talk about Zero defect is that this cannot be done. And this is basically the attitude of managers who have grown up in the Chalta hai era with this attitude, but they are in for a rude shock if they want to survive the new era. The world is seriously looking at Zero defect, Zero effect slogan and Mangalyaan has set the benchmark that others need to look to emulate. Some time back I had good pleasure of hearing India’s ex-president and ex head of ISRO, Dr. Abdul Kalam and his message to the youth of India was to have the self-confidence that we can do it. I think it is high time for the managers of today and the workforce of India to buy into this concept and take that extra mile towards the Zero defect culture.

I think the Prime Minister has thrown the gauntlet to us the managers and workforce of today to make his mantra of Make in India come true. The question is are we ready to take this challenge of nation building? Or are we going to let this opportunity slip by just because we cannot role up our sleeves and ready to take the pains to remove the last vestiges of Chalta hai era!!

– Ram Narayanan Sastry


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