Added on Date 24.7.2016: Exactly 25 years back, Indian Industry was
liberalized with the budget presented by the then Finance Minister on date
24.7.1991. Not much has changed with the "Indian Quality Mindset", and
with the quality of products and services that we
get and expect, particularly from the government.
Why have Indians developed a pathetic attitude towards quality of products and
services, particularly services from the government? How does this
attitude impact corruption in Indian society? What does this attitude have to
do with the Great Indian Apathy - a belief that "Nothing will ever change in
India!"? And the typical Indian mindset of idolizing people?
Can we ever change this attitude? How are Corruption and Poor Quality inter-dependent?
INTERPLAY OF QUALITY AND CORRUPTION
businesses are going global. The internet and e-commerce are shrinking
the world so that the world market is now made available to the
consumer. Obviously the consumer has greater choice and would go for
the best quality. In this scenario, quality is the key to survival for
So far India was itself a big market to the Indian producer. Now the
country is moving towards open markets.
producers are under severe threat from the global market and unless
they produce quality, they will be extinct. When it comes to the issue
of quality, we Indians have been fast asleep. We need to be jolted out
of our slumber, and that is what this article attempts to do. This
article attempts to analyse the Indian Mindset to bring about an
awakening for quality. The article also analyses the interdependence of
Quality awareness and Corruption - how corruption impacts quality
and how demand for quality can cut corruption.
GREAT INDIAN APATHY: TYPICAL INDIAN MINDSET
average Indian has been conditioned to accept anything and not demand
quality. Most Indians have resigned to the fact that nothing will change with respect to quality of service and corruption in governments and government offices. The conditioning is so strong and deep that most Indians are not even aware that their actions are (or rather inaction is) driven by this firm belief. Let us dig into India's industrial history to
understand what is responsible for this typical Indian mindset.
Three important decisions, which were good for their time but were prolonged
beyond their "productive life" have contributed to this pathetic situation.
This article also demonstrates how old good decisions need to be ruthlessly
dumped and new decisions relevant to the changed conditions need to be made over
time. Certain decisions may be good for their time and become so dear to us
that we resist to change them. We forget that good decisions which bring about
positive change also cause changes which make the same old good decisions
irrelevant to the changed conditions.
Let us look at each of these factors in details. Each of these decisions,
though appropriate for their time, have caused havoc as new decisions
were not made and old ones dumped at the right time.
- Protected Market: We had been living in a
protected market where anything could sell. The
quality of goods produced has been anything from mediocre to bad. This
situation of protected market continued for so long that we Indians got
quite used to mediocrity and poor quality. We stopped expecting
quality, leave alone demanding quality. Our expectations were low and
there was no consumer awareness.
- Government Monopoly: Moreover, with most of the services
like transport, utilities, etc. under government monopoly, bureaucratic
processes led to extremely poor services. We developed a
of apathy - the belief that "Things will never improve in India" firmly took
root in our mind.
- Over employment, Lower pay: In the formative years,
employment of masses was a priority. Large number of people were employed
in public sector units. When you over employ, obviously you need to pay
lower salaries. As these officers grew in power because of the monopoly,
lower salaries and higher power pushed them into corruption. As corruption
grew, quality of goods and services dropped.
A LOOK AT HISTORY OF INDIAN INDUSTRY
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India gained independence, Indian government had to rebuild its economy
by supporting the infant industry and building a strong infrastructure.
Mr. Nehru, the then Prime Minister, created large public sector firms
as the private sector was not in a position to invest in the capital
intensive core sector. Most of the services like transport, postal
service, railways, etc. were retained in the government sector.
Apart from nurturing the infant industry, the government had a secondary
objective of providing employment to the poor masses. As a result, more
persons were employed where one was required. The salary was split
amongst more people, so obviously each one got low salary. For the
poverty-ridden masses, low salary was better than no salary. Each one
could at least make a living.
protect the nascent Indian industry, its market was protected by
imposing high customs duty. Otherwise, high quality imported goods
would have flooded the Indian markets and nipped the Indian industry in
the bud. The policy was appropriate for that time and for the
conditions prevailing then. The infant Indian industry needed support,
just as a child learning to walk would need hand
WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
If Nehru's Policy was Right for his Time, What went Wrong?
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If what Nehru did was just right for the time, where did we go wrong?
There were expectations of the Indian industry becoming a strong force
to reckon with. Why were the hopes belied?
Where we went wrong was that the policy was continued for too long. The
child was learning to walk, but we continued to hold the hands so that the
child never attempted to walk on its own. The Indian industry never
matured. And who was to blame for that? Most of us tend to blame Nehru,
or the subsequent governments and the stream of politicians who
followed. According to me, the finger points not to them, but to all of
us Indians - we all need to share the blame.
Indian Mentality of Idolizing People
We Indians have a strange mentality to idolise people. We see people
either as Ram, the God who is an ideal and is idolised, or Ravana, the
devil, who is condemned. We don't look at people as people. We tended
to idolise Nehru for long years and continued his policy just because
it was Nehru's Policy. Politicians of course did not have the courage
to deviate from the policy of an idol for fear of popular vote. I
remember having seen discussions on TV of eminent economists talking
highly of Nehru's policy and justifying its continuation much after his
We mis-interpreted his policy as one of supporting public sector and
opposing private sector. Due to our foolishness and our inability to go
against an idol, we kept on protecting the infant Indian industry with
closed market much after Nehru's demise, not realising that the infant
industry was growing up and needed to walk on its own without support.
Prolonged protection and support even when it grew up prevented the Indian
industry from becoming strong enough to fight competition from foreign goods.
What we Indians should have done was not blindly revere Nehru and his policy
but analyse it objectively. Long back, we should have asked ourselves
these questions - "What was the justification for his policy then? Are
the conditions still the same as they were when the policy
was conceived?" As the baby (Indian industry) was growing up, we should
have gradually tested its strength and capabilities in more and more
trying situations. There was need to bring in competition to the Indian
goods from foreign markets much earlier. We were
blindly following a leader without understanding the objectives of his
policy. Much later, Rajiv Gandhi had the courage to say, "What
Nehru did was right for his time, what I am doing is right for our
We Continued Nehru's Policies for too Long
We should have introduced competition in small doses through imported
goods and privatisation long back. This would have let the Indian
Industry gradually improve quality and stand the competition. As the
consumers would have got a taste of quality, they would have started
demanding more quality. In order to survive, Indian companies would
have been forced to modernise, to run efficiently, to produce quality
goods, to cut costs, improve processes, improve employee productivity,
upgrade technology and to improve management style.
Much later, after years of protection, when we suddenly woke up, we have
opened the floodgates and allowed foreign goods in. The Indian industry
was swept off its feet.
This one mistake of not introducing competition early has cost us dearly.
It has had an impact on the Indian mindset and bred corruption in the
ranks. This has in turn affected the quality of products that we
produce and the quality of service that we Indians have got so used to..
IMPACT OF THE COSTLY MISTAKE ON INDIAN SOCIETY
Great Indian Apathy - Indian Mindset
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We saw in the previous sections how an unduly prolonged protection of the Indian market led to
deterioration of quality of products and services. Let us see what
impact all these developments have had on the Indian psyche and Indian mindset.
Each Indian got used to mediocre quality of goods produced by the Indian
industries and poor quality of service from the government (as
government was a monopoly service provider). Particularly, people are
so used to inferior government service that they don't complain. They
know that the protests were falling on deaf ears and have given up.
They know that it is absolutely no use complaining against government.
That's what I call the Great Indian Apathy!
I remember an incident long back when private bus services were few, and
I was travelling in an inter city bus run by the government run state
transport. The bus broke down on the way where there was nothing but
wilderness. To my surprise, everyone got down quietly and waited on the
forlorn road to catch another bus which may (or may not) come. There
was not a word of protest. On the contrary, I heard one of the
passengers say as he got down, "It is after all a machine, and a
machine can fail any time". Can you beat this? Why should a machine fail
on the road? Why can't there be preventive maintenance? Why can't the
government make immediate alternate arrangement in case of failure?
We have become extremely tolerant. We have stopped demanding. Today I know
that the private banks give me much better service. But I shout at the
top of my voice for small problems demanding service and teaching them
a lesson or two on good customer service. Whereas with a public sector
bank, I know I would be a fool if I were to demand service. The average
Indian developed an attitude of apathy - a mindset when one resigns to
fate and says, "Things will never improve in India." We have stopped
complaining, stopped expecting service and obviously stopped demanding.
That's the Great Indian Apathy!
the public sector was over staffed, obviously the salary was also
divided and each employee was therefore paid low salary. Soon the
employees started feeling the pinch and found it difficult to sustain
on low salary. Need for more money for sustenance coupled with the
power of monopoly led to widespread corruption. Corruption has a direct
impact on the quality of goods and services. We Indians have learnt to live
with it and stopped complaining. We have developed an apathy towards both
poor quality and corruption.
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as our policy has had an impact on the quality of goods and services,
it has also affected the efficiency levels in all walks of our life and
particularly our workplace. As the public sector was over staffed in
order to provide employment to the multitude, the work got distributed
and each employee had more than enough time to do the work. Lethargy
prospered and efficiency suffered.
OF ALL THIS ON
THE QUALITY OF PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
The Effect of Indian Apathy on Quality
industry almost had a monopoly of Public Sector and a few private
companies. They enjoyed a protected market. It soon became a sellers'
market. People took anything, which was offered. People had just not
seen quality. Indians got so used to mediocre products that they did
not know what was quality. They were satisfied with mediocre goods.
the Indian industry, it was a happy situation. There was very little
competition, no threat to survival, so no pressing need to improve
quality to survive. As Indians did not demand quality, the industry
never had to tighten its belt. Anything they made, of any quality and
at any price, they could push down the Indian consumer's throat. In the
process, industry never had a need to run efficiently, or to improve
quality. It continued to produce sub standard material which was lopped
up by the Indian consumer.
The Effect of
Corruption on the Quality
there is corruption in the ranks, goods are purchased from (and
contracts are offered to) parties who can pay and not necessarily those
who provide quality. Poor quality of raw material may be accepted and
incompetent people may be hired to work as employees or contractors.
Survival then is not by quality but by money power. Thus corruption
directly proves to be a breeding ground for poor quality of goods and
of key services in India, like public transport (road, rail, and air),
entertainment, power, etc. were provided by only one agency - the
Government. There existed no alternative to the Indian consumer. There
was no need for service providers to give quality service. The
government servant enjoyed such monopoly and such security for his job
that he has been extremely rude to the consumer. In fact the consumer
has to almost beg to the government servant to get anything done.
HOW CAN WE PRODUCE QUALITY
strongly believe that, it will certainly help if all of us could
realise that we were fast asleep so far - and asleep for too long. We
need to wake up to the fact that our attitude and mindset has been
moulded over the years in an atmosphere of mediocrity and now we need
to break the shell of our closed minds and come out of it. We have been
conditioned to accept poor quality of goods from industry and poor quality of
services from government. We need to change our mindset. We need to start
demanding quality. With this change in mindset and with this awakening,
I am confident we can do it!
Indians! Wake up
Added on Date 25.7.2016:
Twenty five years have passed since the Indian Industry was liberalized, and almost the same since these thoughts were first penned. Conditions have not changed much with respect to the Indian Mindset with respect to quality, particularly with respect to the quality of services that we expect and get from the government.
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