The Genesis of Enigmatic Society!

प्रत्येक वस्तुला जागा

प्रत्येक वस्तू जागेवर

कराल असे तुम्ही

तर कामे होतील भराभर

This is a saying in Marathi that Jaya remembered from her childhood. Renowned social worker Gangutai Patwardhan used to say this! It translates as below.

Each thing has its own place

The thing should always be in its place

If you follow this

All your work will be done quickly

This is exactly what Japanese concept of 5S says. 5S is a method/Japanese concept for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office space). See the yellow box! The blue box is equally important!

5s-explanation_med_hr

Our society, our lives are like a workplace. Rich and the poor share the same roads and infrastructure. So it is a responsibility of rich, poor and the middle-class to maintain the infra properly, and follow the rules of the society. To me, it is the responsibility of middle-class as their number is large, they are educated and many of them have seen the world.

But the more we change the more we remain the same. I remember when the whole world was holding its collective breath when 1st January 2000 dawned and Y2K was supposed to get things crashing world over, due to the supposed computer glitch. Indian computer companies made a giant-killing by providing a fantastic solution. There were high hopes that in the 21st century finally, India urf Bharat will look forward to getting its deserved place in the world order.

Where are we today at the end of 2018, almost twenty years from the beginning of the new century, but has our society improved? As usual, we have taken two steps forward and three steps backwards. This morning, I was standing in my balcony on my 7th floor home, chatting with my friend Dilip on phone. I saw a scooter stopping in front of a bungalow. An apparently educated lady simply dumped her garbage and drove off. I was observing for the next 15 minutes and saw ¾ more people do the same.

This is a very normal happening in India. We are in Yo-Yo mode all the time, we improve in certain areas and we go back two steps in another area. We have a global company chief in Nadella, Sundar Pichai and Indra Nooyi. We have ISRO sending Satellites after Satellites in space. Then we have people throwing their trash as they wish. We have Municipal Corporations dumping drainage water in rivers without processing. Industrial waste is also dumped in rivers without processing any many places. Under the garb of religion, dead bodies are dumped in the river Ganga!

When Anna Hazare started his Journey for Jan Lokpal Bill in the year 2011, not many had given him a chance of getting through without a great struggle, if at all. But one point which almost nobody had budgeted for was the great awakening of the Middle Class because of this movement. This middle-class was to be the vehicle for India’s journey towards “advanced” society.

Who are middle-class people and what is middle-class mentality? I would define a middle-class person as a person, who is like you and me, who is coming up in life. When one heard TV discussions read articles in those times, it was felt as if being middle class was really rude. The intelligentsia on panels was shocked to see the middle class coming on the road to express their views and argue when middle-class was supposed to be docile.

Now that the awakening had taken place, the same Middle class was being blamed as being too vociferous, too impatient, too aggressive and so on. The intelligentsia had hoped that the middle class will always remain dormant and never go against the proven theories of remaining mute. But with new electronic mediums of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS and so on, this group found a way of expressing their views and communicating openly with others.

There is a flip side to this. Not every cause needs Anna’s intervention; the local issues should be handled locally but the onus is still on the middle-class to lead.

You don’t need Anna to get local roads repaired. You don’t need Anna to solve your daily water problems. You don’t need Anna to clear garbage on the roads! Let Anna handle national level issues like Lokpal. But we don’t bother about our own behaviour. We spit betel leaf juice anywhere. We have unique behaviour on the Pune Mumbai expressway. There are two toll stations on the expressway. After each one, there are washrooms. But some of us drive about 5 Km ahead and then urinate in open. Our government has made laws, especially for villages, which ensures that any person who wants to stand for elections must have a toilet at home. People were still found going to their fields for morning ablutions, some men said they felt manly if they used the field instead of using toilets!

While chatting with friends, the subject of “State of our Nation” always comes up. The conclusion is always the same. Everybody is confused. There is a saying in Marathi, “हे असच चालायचं!” Things will never change. Someone I know was a sophisticated trainer in world’s renowned airline. Every Saturday, he would go a Mandir and offer a small container full of oil to a deity. It was poured in an area from where it would go down the drain. I don’t know how much oil was wasted every day; this could have been given to charity instead of wasting it. This is a story of a highly trained engineer. If the so-called educated people take part in such rituals, remain stuck in such beliefs, how will we ever reach the “Developed” state? I have seen many roadside tea stall owners performing a ritual. They brew their first cup of tea for the day and throw it on the ground. I asked a few of them why they did it? I was told that it gives them good luck for the days business. I asked them why not give it free to someone deserving instead of wasting it, they had no answer.

For our country to become “advanced” what needs to be done, I do not know. Every person’s definition of “advanced” will be different. As long as we don’t come out of the mentality of two steps forward and three steps backwards, the so-called advancement is not possible. For the last 15 years, we are showing economic growth of 7 to 8 % year to year. Effects of this growth are visible but our “backward” thinking dilutes this progress. According to me, the middle-class is the growth engine of the nation but this class also still remains in Yo-Yo mode. In technology, in modern methods, the middle class shows the forward thrust; at the same time the rituals, acts of blind faith are celebrated on a much larger scale because now there is money around. Even in today’s times, I have seen a lady, our relative, go into trance during a religious function. She is a normal college educated lady like ladies we meet normally, but still, she went in a trance, which at least I thought was happening only in uneducated class. The blog below gives my thoughts on such events.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/

Let me as usual end up on a positive note. We have terrific enterprise, enthusiasm. Our nation is a nation of young people with energy. Let us put this energy to proper use and make sure that we don’t take any backward steps. If everybody folllows the Marathi lines above, then trash will always go in trash bins, vehicles will be parked in their places, roads will not be required to be repaired after every monsoon! We may start “looking” like a developed nation.

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Do we have it in us?

Historically, in the last two hundred years at least, we have seen nations moving from Agro Based economies to Manufacturing economies to Service based Economies. The latest classic example of this is China. From 7th decade in the last century, till today they have shown fascinating growth and China has become the manufacturing hub of the world. India was late in this transformation and we were forced into liberalization by the precipice we reached in 1992. India had no money to pay for foreign goods/debts and had to move their “family gold” (it is the gold stock that nations hold for such situations) abroad to borrow the money. Rest as they say is history. 

We reached a growth rate between six and eight % and the effect of that growth is seen all over India, in the last 25 years. But there is a twist in the story here. India has not exactly skipped the manufacturing phase of the growth but it appears that we are jumping more towards the Service based economy. I was wondering why this is happening and as usual, found that this is very complex to understand and even more complex to explain but still I am venturing into trying to explain.  

First and foremost, I feel that with the internet around and excellent connectivity world over, we all know what is happening anywhere in the world. What new products are available, what better gadgets are available is known the world over,  very fast. So, aspirations of the people change very rapidly. But the generations don’t become rich in such small durations. With 8% kind of growth and the speed of growth, this change is even more lopsided than in olden days. Rich are becoming richer faster and by leaps and bound. The disparity between the rich and the poor is galloping rapidly.  This is where the comparison between China and India always comes into the picture. There is no question that China has done much better than India during this period but at the same time, there are certain human aspects that need to be understood. 

China still has a lot of poverty but with the authoritarian government, they make sure to hide this fact. If required, they block websites which try to display such things. Beijing does have a large poor area, well hidden from prying reporters. If any reporter tries to break the government diktat, the reporters get thrown into jail. China simply crushes uprisings or behaviours they don’t like. In India, we are opposite to that. We have people in our society who love the display and discuss India’s poverty by making an argument about freedom of speech but the main reasons are always political. We have this history. In the olden days, 60’s in the last century, we had people like Satyajit Ray who took pride in producing films which advertised India’s poverty. By no means I am saying not to discuss our poverty, in fact, we as a nation should accept facts of life then only we can improve, denial mode is not going to help anyone. But pride in showing poverty is a bit too much.  

With an authoritarian government, it was very easy for China to declare one-child policy. This has brought down population growth rate drastically from 90’s of last decade. This helped China improve per capita income. In India, we tried family planning but it did not succeed as it was done half-heartedly. In poor strata of the society the family planning was a disaster and hence our per capita income showed an increase but not to the extent China could show!  

Government policies about manufacturing, imports and exports have changed very slowly over a period. With this, there was not much incentive for global giants to be in India. By the time they started coming in the bigger way, we see the reversal of trend due to other reasons. Electric Vehicles! EV’s are changing world scenario rapidly, though we may not see many EV’s on road for next five years, the development and investment patterns of these giants are now changing and trying to adapt to their new global strategies based on EV’s. India is not a priority for them! For their own reasons GM and MAN trucks have withdrawn from India and some more are expected to do so. But what happens in China? India’ pride and numero uno, Suzuki has completely withdrawn from China. In India, its share is more than 50% but in China, it was less than 1% of the market! This indicates that Chinese and Indian market requirements are poles apart. Hence, bigger and larger want to be in China and not India!

Another thing that happened in between was Y2K. I am not still sure if it was a real problem! Not a single failure of any system was declared in the world when on 01/01/2001, the Sun rose in the sky! To me, it was more of hype than the real problem. Indian service company giants made a real killing out of it! There came up new industry czars and they popularized the culture of white-collar subcontractors. It was good for the country that finally we started making big money. We started to have a society of young millionaires initially in Rupee terms, then in dollar terms too! Life has been Roses all the way. So, why bother to disturb the bandwagon.

There were some hopes in the industry when small companies like Quick Heal and Tally started making software products but this trend never caught up for the fear that we will lose on easy money. Yes, there appeared to be the trend which showed some changes a couple of years back. But these were due to one Mr Trump who started changing visa rules for our service giants. Not because the Giants wanted to change their ways and go up the value chain! What’s in a name? As long as hot dollars keep coming in the kitty nobody is bothered. Even in the IT industry where we supposedly have thousands of trained manpower, we have missed on things like IOT, AI, the Virtual reality which are already on the way. Are we ready for this? Using these new things company’s world over are creating “products”. Do our glorified contractors have the gumption to take up the challenge? Do they have will to fight it out with Silicon Valleys of the US, Israel? Or do we want to remain service providers to these new product companies? I am hearing the names like Tally and Quick Heal of the new era but I am honestly doubtful that big shots will take it up. Probably, it is better to be the doyen of the industry with billions in the pocket, giving talks blah blah blah. Why bother about being a struggling product creator?  

I am always positive about everything, but I am really not sure of service providers switching to a new avatar of products manufacturer. There are always very few Steve Jobs and Bill Gates! India has already jumped to service industry in the transition!  

Low Aim is a Crime!

India got its independence in 1947. India missed the industrialization bus by a century because British allowed only a few benefits of industrialization to percolate to India.  Before independence educated Indians were interested in working for British, whatever work they could get, mostly they got clerical jobs; those were the only real jobs available anyway! British chose the people for senior admin positions and made them brown sahebs. These proxy Britishers were more British than the Britishers themselves.

This scenario put India under the gloom of disease of getting satisfied on achieving small things and doing mundane things. This led to metastatic mentality of under achievers; those who were trying to do something different were looked down upon and discouraged from doing anything different. Some of us from our generation were able to improve on this thought process and later generation became even more active and started taking risks.

IT sector was the first sector where India did pretty well, financially. Y2K issue was the one that gave impetus to Indian IT sector; middle class started growing faster than ever and large Indian populace started having money, living in foreign countries for work and started buying their own homes in a big way. This of course combined with official opening of Indian economy in 90’s. Effect of higher salaries in IT sector was seen in other sectors like engineering, pharma, finance and so on. But this success hid one thing from general populace and even from IT sector that the “great” work that we were doing was actually mundane work done for others as a service. This model kept on working well till about a couple of years back. Then the signals started coming that the mundane work that was outsourced to India can be automated so….

Circa 2017! Large Indian IT companies are sitting on big pile of US Dollars. This indicates their past success, financially. But it appears that these large “successful” companies were run more by accountants than by entrepreneurs! So they have made big money, hundreds of thousands of millions, many of them in dollar terms. But since the scenario started changing a couple of years back, it is obvious that if you don’t move up the value chain, you are going to come down as fast as you have gone up! The fact that these companies are sitting on a big pile of dollars shows that our mentality of mundane “services” type of work has not changed. This pile of money should not have been there; it should have been invested in going up the value chain! But even today this money is being used to buy back shares! The big bosses have not thought in terms of creating own IPR’s or products in any field, IT or Engineering or Pharma! When “services” are generating money why bother.

To give an example of how things are changing, when you “talk” to say Amazon on chat about some issues, the “Ravindra” or “Asha” who is taking to you may be a “BOT”. What is a BOT? An Internet Bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering (web crawler), in which an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. More than half of all web traffic is made up of bots. (This is Wikipedia definition of BOT)

How this is typically done is very similar to self-check-out counters in big departmental stores. At these check-out stations, for a group of ten such stations there is one supervisor helping, if you need any help. So what this system does is, instead ten people manning ten checkout stations, one person is sufficient. These BOTS also do the same thing. Now do you understand how the nature of business is changing? If your business is dependent on someone else’s way of working, you are in trouble if automation comes into picture.

What is the way out? Going up the value chain; but if you are a company with 100 to 150 thousand employees with “service” level skills you have tough task on hand. Basically it’s a tough call for the senior management to change its own ways from accountant based running module to technologist based running module. Who runs highly successful companies? Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, you just list such companies and will see that these are technology driven companies. Yes, finances are very important but if the company is run by accountants they will never take risks! But when you don’t take risks and try and don’t keep abreast with new technologies or create new technologies, you will never know what hit you! How many of us know that Google and Apple are spending big money on Car technology, and they are creating newer technology in cars which was never even thought of. Nvidia is already a big auto system vendor to VW’s, Audis and Mercs of this world. They have invented technologies which are forcing these Auto giants to use new technologies to remain competitive in business. Elon Musk of Tesla had the audacity to start making Electric Cars and even start making space vehicles using venture capital.

Of course there is silver lining to each dark cloud! The surprise is that the silver lining is coming not from private sector but Government sector. ISRO, Metro projects implementation, Solar Energy project implementations, highways all over India are sign of we Indians have started getting hang of the situation. On IT side one of the success stories of product selling is Tally ERP. Yes it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and is unquestionably India’s “Numero Uno” product on IT side! If Tally is doable why can’t others do it? India is the largest democracy and is the only country in the world where all elections use EVM’s- electronic voting machines! Paper ballots are Passe’ in India! The EVM’s were developed by C-DAC! Aadhar card is one such initiative that has become pride of the nation! All these projects indicate that we are slowly coming out of the Chalta Hai mentality! Chalta Hai is a phrase indicating Small achievement is good enough! We should have Sachin Tendulkar’s in each field then only we as a nation can start achieving things!

So friends we started with discussion about Indian mentality of being happy with whatever little is achieved! Will our giants survive the onslaught of market changes? They have the money but do they have the wherewithal other than money? Do they have the mind set? Do they have the technological willpower to go up the value chain? Going up value chain is real hard and smart work. I hope these giants do it, but we are still discussing US H1B visa rules, which is the backbone of current business model of sending people on site to provide services! I hope our current young generation and future generation are as audacious as Elon Musk!