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January 30, 2018

26 ways to success - N for Nativity - " You can take an Indian out of India but you can’t take India out of an Indian" article published in The Hans India on 6th May 2016

You can take an Indian out of India but you can’t take India out of an Indian

India is a country of paradoxes. One of the oldest civilizations in the world yet inhabited by the world’s youngest population. A country full of poverty but still has the fastest growing population of neo rich. Though it has 50% of the world’s illiterates, it has almost conquered the mighty United States of America with its intellectual prowess and is striving hard to occupy its rightful place in the world. It is said that in India for every 20 kilometres the languages changes, the people change and so does the food habits. It is not one country; rather it is many countries rolled into one mighty India.

India is a place of great opportunities but one needs to tread carefully. Given below are examples of companies, individuals and even places using Indian nativity and ingenuity successfully.

1. Frugal engineering: India is the country of the frugal engineering. Low cost products and ideas are a great hit. Right from 5 rupees icecream, 50 rupees shirt, 250 rupees smart phone (Freedom phone). India is the land of opportunities. But care should be exercised. Indians are very shrewd and can very easily separate the grain from the chaff. Nokia realized this to their horror. The company that was synonymous with cell phones in India and the product that was the first phone for crores of Indians had to bite the dust. Their crime - not being up to date and the inability to offer the latest in the technology. And a belief that Indians always want only the cheapest of the products.

2. Jugaad:  Jugaad is the Indian way of managing things with the least of the resources. It is the Indian way of thumping the world. In India everything is a challenge and Indians have mastered the game of doing things with minimum fuss and maximum result. Where else in the world would one find “Indian Chinese food, Bread Bajji, Bread Upma”. Old rice is not thrown away it becomes vadiyum. Or even better it is made into tasty curd rice that is greatly relished. India can show the world the way to recycle and use things. Jugaad the country vehicle used in Northern India is a marvel of Ingenuity. It is a wonder that it moves at all! Very noisy and slow, it shows a face of India that we all should admire. We will win, no matter what it takes to achieve the goal. 

3. Dharavi one of the biggest slums in the world continues to astound people. It is only 500 acres in size but houses an astonishing 3 lakh people. It has people cheek to jowl. But there is hope and aspirations. Dharavi’s total turnover is estimated at a mind boggling 1 billion US dollars (Rupees 6,700 crores). Most of its residents are very poor and are not well qualified. But they have one sterling quality that modern MBA’s lack –fire in the belly. It is that quality that drives people from Dharavi to succeed against all odds.

4. The willingness to stay and fight: Coming from the bottom of the ranks has made Indians very street smart. They are very adept at improvising and staying ahead of the competition. Indian food has blossomed and has become even more popular after the entry of the MNC food giants. Indian Vada Pav and Pav Bhaji are giving MacDonald and KFC a run for their money and are winning the battle hands down.

Indians are good at street level tactics. Pepsi realized this when it reentered India in the late 80s. It realized that its production line was not operational. The reason - the returnable glass bottles were not coming back to the bottling plants. The perpetuator! Its agile and nimble competitor who quietly bought Pepsi’s empty bottle off the street and smashed them into smithereens. By the time Pepsi got new bottles the damage was done – the dream of a spectacular reentry had turned sour.

A MNC shaving Systems Company that rewrote the way men shave and present themselves had a nasty surprise when they entered India. Their sales people discovered rusted blades in many markets. It was the handiwork of its Indian competitor which bought their blades and deliberately rusted them and reintroduced them into the market. Naturally the customer would take the shiny Indian blade set rather than the rusted MNC product. Truly amazing!

5. One rupee shampoo sachet was the brain child of C.K. Ranganathan, Chairman and Managing Director of CavinKare. CavinKare introduced Chic Shampoo in a sachet form for the first time in 1982.  It is one innovation all Indians should be proud of. It was a master stroke. C.K. Ranganathan realized that for most Indians a 100 ml bottle of shampoo was simply not affordable. But the aspiration remained. That is where the Indian brilliance came in. He introduced the same shampoo (not an inferior downgraded product) at a price of 1 rupee. It was a win-win situation. The customer got what he wanted and the manufacturers got the volumes and the market exploded.

It was the best sampling technique and with the expanding incomes the sachet owners started buying shampoo bottles. And sachets paved the way for convenience usage and since then sachet usage has expanded to many other products like pickles, toothpaste, jams, fairness creams, pan masala, hair oil, packaged water and many others. Sachets are the inspiration for the very popular pre-paid recharge mobile cards. India is one of the few countries in the world where pre-paid cards out sell post paids by 10:1. This behaviour finds resonance across income categories. Indians are very happy and comfortable with the hassle free convenience that prepaids offer.  The power of usage or non-usage remains with the customer.

6. Aravind Eye Hospitals, Madurai is an eye hospital chain founded by Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy. As of 2012, Aravind has treated nearly 32 million patients and performed 4 million surgeries, the majority of them done at a very low cost or completely free making it the world’s largest and most productive eye-care facility. And the inspiration came from the speed and efficiency of operations of the MacDonald chain. Aravind emulated the service efficiency of MacDonald’s and adapted it to the eye care.

Aravind performs surgeries on a large scale with treatment being free or heavily subsidized for the poor, cross subsidized by the paying patients. Aravind established its own intraocular lens manufacturing facility, Auro lab and blood bank to reduce costs. The cost of the intraocular lens was brought down from Rs 12,000/- ($ 200) to Rs 300 ($ 5). Great example of what fierce determination and a single minded purpose can achieve.

So how do we develop the magic skill of Indian nativity?

1.     Keep your eyes and ears open: Keeping eyes and ears open is very important. Oyo rooms was a brilliant concept, arising out of a dire need – a need to have hassle free, comfortable, affordable and reliable rooms for travellers.

2.  India has a great history, explore its texts and do research: Indian history is full of great products and services. Indians had the know-how of making the Aeroplane (Pushpaka Vimana) much before the Wright brothers. Our books and scriptures could be a treasure of wisdom and knowledge.

3.  Try to find out best practices in rural India: In a country of illiterates there can be lots of wisdom and solutions in the verbal domain. Recording and understanding the verbal knowledge could be the first strep towards finding best practices long hidden from the formal written domain.

4.  Listen to people’s problems, opportunities could be hiding behind:  People usually have problems. Correct understanding and analysis of the problem could be a great avenue for new business opportunities.

5.   Try to apply successful western concepts to solve Indian problems: Aravind eye hospital is a brilliant example of taking a successful assembly line concept and applying for a completely different field. And the result - many Indians are getting the gift of eyesight.

6.     Question the holy cows: Questioning the holy cows should be practiced. Develop a healthy sense of silent questioning and skepticism. Always question yourself “If I were in this position, how would I solve it?”

7.    Be willing to experiment and do not be fixated by a single idea or concept: New discoveries and new products will not be borne quickly. Be willing to seamlessly move from one concept to another. Mixing and matching of various concepts is the need of the hour.

8.    Find a social relevance: In the world that is slowly getting jaded with materialism and unlimited supply of products, social relevance could find ready acceptance. The stupendous success of Patanjali range of products is a live example of what cleverly thought and executed nativity can achieve.

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