Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 11: Ready to Go

I travel tomorrow, so the whole day today was focused on the work of wrapping up things, closing off bits that I haven't done earlier and scrambling to make some real progress. Increasingly, my work is about making peace in international culture wars, and I spent hours today explaining to my colleagues why certain things are different in different cultures and why it still may be okay.

The two key questions I keep facing is why do Indians behave so differently from Europeans, and why is it so difficult to do business in India. The first question I accept as valid, though rather obvious: Because Indians are different people. It is clearly wrong to expect them to behave as Europeans do; in fact, it is naive to have that expectation in the first place. Besides, I feel there is an underlying value judgement - 'I can take a German for his word, but not an Indian' - which keeps popping up. I don't agree: If you understand what the Indian is saying, he will turn out to be a man of his words too. The underlying assumption, I would guess, is that Indians must pay a high premium for anything coming from Europe, and accept wisdom because an European businessman said so. This is the presumption I spend a lot of time contradicting, and pointing out that those days of automatic superiority are gone, and businesses will do better being realistic and being able to see that Indians indeed know how to do business.

That leads to the second question, an assertion I completely disagree with. I know there are league tables of ease of doing business, and India ranks somewhere towards the bottom of pile. But that's not the point: The difficulty of doing business, in the context of the conversation, isn't about the rules and regulations, which is being reformed, but about being able to turn a profit. I do not think building a successful business in India is any more difficult than building one in America, or in Japan, or in the UK. I am often told about a number of UK businesses which have tried and failed, but I know some of them, and I know that this failure came from the pre-assumption of the imperial legacy, and the expectation that Indians are rather dumb people who can taken for a ride. Businesses failed to plan for India, failed to understand the country and respect the culture, and failed to do the basic things that make a business successful. Hence, they failed: No surprises there. The surprise is that they blamed the market rather than themselves, and their own incapability to think. But, then, here is a Golden Rule: Next time you hear an entrepreneur blame a market, you know you haven't got a business there.

But, anyway, leaving out those spoilers, I am getting my life back on track. Hard work, indeed, and watching my last year's work coming undone in a few weeks is also a bit heart-wrecking. But, at the hindsight, that was not much work: That was more talk of work, and more hope than concrete progress. When I am in a mood as I am now, I quite like destruction of this sort, and I know unless I am stripped of all my dreaming, I can't start working on real things. With the Online College project off the table, and being in a bit of void about meaningful things to do in England, I am being a bit depressed, but also enjoying the freshness of a clean slate. I just know one thing: I would not want to be doing what I do now at the end of this 100-day period. This is giving me the urgency and purpose that I need, in abundance.

If I get a few more days like today, this will happen. Today was one of those rare productive days, when I could really focus my energies and get things done. I guess what I need to achieve is the ability to repeat such things every day, without a break. I know this already, and currently basking under this real good feeling of achieving a lot of things in the span of last 12 hours. I cherish this feeling - I want this back every evening.

I must admit that the rather dispiriting discussion this morning about Indians really helped me. It made me deeply angry, I must admit, but also told me to change some of my work practises - let's say, not to be nice and call a spade a spade when needed - and show, yes, them. Hopefully, this feeling also help to keep myself focused on the job.

So, here I go. Flight at 1:30 in the afternoon - my usual route, Dubai and all. I am desperate to make things work in India, and I think I have a very good chance to do it now. Hopefully, this will all work out and I shall be able to achieve what I have set myself up for. But, it will be hard work, and I shall keep recording how I get along.

1 comment:

mandeep said...

All the Best. You have begun to break out from the monotony of a job you do not consider inspiring and have embarked on a journey you believe will help you achieve your goals.
There are many who continue in the monotony of jobs they do not like but are too afraid to break away.
Looking forward to your updates.
Cheers Babu Moshai !

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