India’s economy is expected to expand by about 6.5% over the next 2-3 years. In fact, it is intrinsically better positioned than the economies of many other countries. This is mainly due to the resilience and reliance on domestic drivers, unlike the global economy. India would not slow down; it would maintain the pace of growth. We remain optimistic whatever the odds, and it is time to look back and look forward. In this context, MMA organized a discussion on the theme “India’s Pathways to Success: Winning in the Next Decade,” where thought-leaders shared their insights.
Internal migration is an overwhelming reality that underscores India’s developmental landscape. While migration opens up new vistas of work for millions of people on the move, it also pushes people into unequal and highly exploitative work regimes. Skilled migrant workers are less vulnerable to exploitation, but their departure deprives some developing states of the valuable labour needed for their development. International Labour Organization (ILO) standards on migrant labour provide adequate protection to this vulnerable category of workers. There are many questions around inter-state migration/migrants. These pertain to the changing demography, social structure, and also outward remittances of migrant workers to their parent states. This has socio-economic and political electoral consequences for both the donor and recipient states, especially the latter, particularly in the context of prevailing and evolving political dynamics and their influence on society.
In this context, MMA organized a discussion on the theme “Inter-State Migration: Demography and Economy.” The article on the discussion is published as cover story in this issue with an embedded video. Check it out.
Silicon Valley Bank
The shutdown and takeover of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) by US regulators has raised a number of questions on how it would impact Indian start-ups and what does it mean for Indian banks. SVB played an important role as partner for the global startup economy. It is clear that SVB did not suffer loan defaults but was hit by bond losers that many US banks are vulnerable to, and SVB is more of a lender than an investor. According to a research firm, Tracxn, SVB invested in about 21 Indian startups. At this stage, SVB’s failure has not assumed such proportions, even if a few startups suffered. However, the serious concern is that many VC’s deposited millions in SVB, which could lead them to further slowdown their funding initiatives.
The impact on Indian banks is not significant since they have little exposure to SVB. The good news is that Indian banks are tightly regulated and they are unlikely to face a similar fate. RBI’s stress test found that Indian banks would be able to withstand severe stress and that banks are at their best shape. That said, the sector is not without its challenges, including some of the clients left for higher returns in other investments avenues.
India’s retail inflation eased 6.44% in February from 6.52% in January.
This is however hardly satisfying given that it is still well above the RBIs 6% upper band. Hopefully, the inflation rate would drop in March. The US Federal reserve has raised the Federal fund rate for the 9th time in a row. Inflation will remain the Fed’s greatest priority and India’s Central Bank typically tends to mirror the Fed. Given this, it is highly likely that RBI will increase the repo rate or the interest at which it lends to banks, when it meets next April. This means that instalments on loans may go up further. Also with the interest rates in the US going up, foreign investors have better investment options available there. Its implication is that the Indian stock market will remain dull and that Rupee-Dollar exchange rate might come under further pressure.
Say cheese! Smile please!!
The latest World Happiness Report has much for India to think about. According to its ranking of countries, India is among the least happy nations—measured by social support, income, health, freedom, generosity and absence of corruption. India is ranked 125th, coming behind Nepal, Bangladesh, China and Sri Lanka. On top of the rank is Finland, crowned the happiest nation for six years in a row followed by Denmark and Iceland. These countries do well with initiatives such as a strong social safety net, but in India our policies are focused on expanding the economic pie rather than sharing it. Happiness involves more than just economic well-being; enlarging people’s financial strength would be a big step in the right direction. And for that, equitable growth is mandatory.
In this context, an event organized by MMA on “A Happier You: Strategies to Achieve Peak Joy in Work and Life Using the Science of Happiness” is interesting and insightful. Do read the article published in this issue and watch the video.
One year into the Ukraine War
The Ukraine War entered the second year. It is a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe. It has traumatized a generation of children and has accelerated food and energy crisis in most parts of the world. In the hostile atmosphere, where both Russia and Ukraine are still unrelenting, peace negotiations are the only solutions to end the war. The rest of the world has to ensure that this happens at the earliest. In this context, MMA is organizing a discussion on the theme “One year into the Ukraine War” on 17th April 2023 at MMA Management Centre. Please join us in person or watch it live.
MMA Flagship Events
The MMA Annual Convention and Women Managers Convention organized by MMA was a grand success. A galaxy of eminent speakers addressed the delegates. Both the conventions were attended by a large number of delegates—over 1500 in person and over 35,000 online. I am indeed thankful to our members and Managing Committee members for their unstinted support which enabled grand success of the MMA flagship events.
I am delighted to present to you articles on the inaugural and keynote of the Annual Convention for your reading pleasure. You can also watch the video recording of the convention. Click to view the full coverage of the Annual Convention and the Women Managers Convention.
We urge you to constantly send in your feedback—positive ones as well as criticisms, both equally are important inputs in enabling us to get better at what we do.
As always, we would be happy to hear your views, comments and suggestions.
Dr Mukesh Jain, IPS, talks about positivity and its effect on personal well-being inside and out. Mr Rajagopal Swaminathan, Founder CEO, La Poochi (Azzetta) and Dr Asit K Barma, Director, Bharathidasan Institute of Management shared their insights in a conversation with the author.
Michelangelo was one of the greatest sculptors humanity produced. Someone asked Michelangelo, “What do you do to make your statues look so lively and full of life?” Michelangelo replied, “I don’t make statues. Every stone has a beautiful statue in it. I just remove the unnecessary stone out of it.” At a very abstract and philosophical level, the Science of Happiness is about removing the unnecessary stones, which are our wrong notions and principles and stories about what gives us happiness. We all have numerous ideas about what happiness is and what will give happiness. But unfortunately, that is anecdotal—something which my father or teacher or guru taught me. What they experienced as happiness may or may not apply to us. Fortunately, in the last 25 to 30 years, there has been an evolution of a science called positive psychology. For hundreds and hundreds of years, psychologists had emphasised on the negative part of psychology, studying the mentally ill like the neurotic and psychotic people. The analysts were trying to elicit negative energies or negative memories of people’s childhood.
In 1990s, people decided to focus on the positive part—like how people flourish and how they become successful. Ironically, if you try to remove the negativity from a person like neuroticism, he doesn’t become flourishing and successful. The whole science of positive psychology is a different ballgame. But before we understand positive psychology, we must know the clear distinction between self-help and positive psychology.
Self-help vs. positive psychology
Positive Psychology is not self-help. We keep reading so many self-help books. Typically, they have two or three problems. One, you would have realized that on reading them, you get really energized and motivation goes up. But within two or three days, the motivation goes back to the normal situation. The problem with self-help is it follows a one-size-fits-all approach. If a person born in a very poor family followed a particular strategy and got very rich, the author will propagate that this is the strategy for you also to follow to become rich. That actually doesn’t happen. Your circumstances are different from mine; your skill sets are different from mine. The recommendations are not scientific.
They also tend to overgeneralise. If three people who are extremely fluent in English have good business success, can I generalize that all people who are fluent in English can become successful businessmen? No. It has to be scientifically experimented. Self-help books have the hallow effect. If somebody has achieved success in one field, they will try to say that whatever the person says about other fields also may be true. So self-help is not positive psychology and it is not scientific at all.
Since childhood, we have been taught a happiness equation: If you do hard work, you will be successful. If you are successful, you will be happy. If this equation is broken at two places, first, hard work does not necessarily lead to success. There are so many intervening variables. Second, even if you get success, it does not always lead to happiness. In the process of getting success, you might miss some of the important things like health, family happiness, your child’s education, the company of your best friends, etc. Happiness cannot be the endpoint.
We have also faced a paradigm: If I get this degree, I’ll be happy; If I get married to this girlfriend, I’ll be happy; If I get a four bedroom apartment, I’ll be happy. Positive psychologists say that this is not the proper equation. They say that the real happiness equation, demonstrated by millions of experiments is this: Happiness cannot be the endpoint but it has to be the starting point. Be happy. If you are happy, then you will do a lot of good work, which will anyway convert into success. If you go to your office being happy, you do something energetically. You help other people. Other people in turn help you. You end up doing good work, which ultimately converts into success.
If we deliberate on why we are not happy, we can find out that psychologists have zeroed in on four important things that are impediments to our happiness and they are: Impact Bias; Shifting Goalposts; Negative Bias and Comparison.
For every event in our life, we tend to assign that by achieving a feat, we’ll get a certain amount of happiness. For example, when we want to get admission into one of the best engineering colleges or management institutes, we think we will be so much happier. We may put it on a scale and there is always a gap. Psychologists say that this perceived gap will create unhappiness in our life.
We achieve so many things in life. But whatever happiness we had attributed to these goals, we don’t really enjoy on achieving the goals. We keep shifting the goalposts. Every time we achieve certain things, we shift the goalposts for a next target. Ultimately, we miss the happiness of that particular goal which we had attributed.
We all have an intrinsic negative bias in our mind which is related to our survival instinct. For example, if I’m sitting in my office at about 2.33 PM and my boss calls me on intercom and tells me to meet him when I leave my office at 7 PM, in my mind, I start worrying if something has gone wrong. If my son or daughter has gone to some birthday party and does not return by the expected time, I am filled with only negative thoughts, because, we are wired for negative thoughts and this has got something to do with our evolution. When people lived in caves thousands of years ago, there were only two possibilities whenever there was noise outside the cave. Either the man could have killed a small animal to eat or he could have been attacked by a tiger. It was safer to assume that there was a tiger outside the cave. This negativity that continued down the ages, stops us from being happy. We have to consciously overcome this negativity
Psychologists say that in Olympics, silver medallists are less happy than the bronze medallists. Because the silver medallists compare them with the gold medallists and feel for missing the gold medal narrowly. But the bronze medallists are happy to at least figure in the list of medallists, rather than being left out, without any medal. A Maruti car owner residing in a colony of people owning Mercedes car will be the least happy person. But if they live in a colony full of two wheeler owners, they are happy, as they compare themselves with others. Comparison is probably one of the important reasons as to why we are unhappy.
Back to the old ways
Dan Gilbert, a great expert on positive psychology, did some wonderful experiments and one of which was about winning the lottery. When he asked the respondents, ‘If you win a lottery of say, five crore rupees, what will happen to your happiness?’ they said it will go up continuously. By winning the lottery, Dan Gilbert says, one’s happiness goes up but only for a while. Then it comes back to the normal level. Similarly, he did experiments with people who met with some serious accidents and were wheelchair bound after the accidents. He measured their happiness after the accident and extrapolated it before the accident. He found that after the accident, people’s happiness came down, but only for a while. Then it came back to its normal level. That means, something inside you is pulling you back to the same level.
The gene factor
Happiness has also got to do with genetics. Psychological experiments were done in Minnesota, United States, using two groups of twins—identical twins and fraternal twins. Identical twins come from the same zygote and fraternal twins come from different zygotes. This essentially means that identical twins have the same genetic structure, while fraternal twins may have some common genetic structure or not. They studied 1300 pairs of fraternal twins and identical twins from the age of zero till 14 years and followed their psychological makeup, how they got stressed, etc. They discovered that identical twins are much closer in their psychological happiness compared to fraternal twins.
There is a gene called 5 HTT, in every one of us. We have two different variations of that. Some people have the shorter variation and some have the longer variation. People with shorter variation tend to be more sensitive towards happiness. If a nice, funny video is shown to both of them, the shorter variation people will laugh more intensely. So, gene has something to do with happiness.
Sonja Lyubomirsky has done several studies and meta studies and she has reached the conclusion that 50% of our happiness comes from our genes. This is both good and bad news. The good news is that 50% is still in our hands and the bad news is that we can’t do anything about our 50%. Sonja also says that only 10% of our happiness comes from external circumstances like driving a car, sitting in the clouds, etc. 40% which is a major chunk of our happiness comes from our thoughts and actions.
Search for meaning
Psychologists discovered that it’s not the positive things like going to a theatre, eating good food or singing a song that give greater happiness. On the other hand, things that provide meaningfulness and purpose in life are those that give real happiness. Richard Ryan, Veronica Huta and their team did some experiments to find out this. They went to a college and divided the whole group into two parts. For the next 10 days, one group was asked to do one positive activity which made them happy. On day 1, they could go to a music class, day 2 to a cricket match and so on. The second group was asked to do one meaningful activity per day for the next 10 days. They could sit with a lady who is a cancer terminal patient on the first day and teach a blind boy to learn braille on the second day.
Their happiness was measured at three points – on day zero, on day ten and after three months of the experiment. On day zero, it was the same for everyone. After ten days, the happiness was more for group 1 (who did one positive activity that made them happy) but after three months, the group which did one meaningful job a day had substantially higher happiness. They could remember each and every moment of the time they spent in doing those activities. Even after one year, their happiness was higher.
Author and TED speaker, Emily Smith, has written a book, ‘The Power of Meaning.’ She talks about four pillars of meaning that give us happiness. (Loving and engaged relationships; a sense of purpose; an attitude of optimism; and a connection to spirituality). She says that despair in people’s lives is not because of lack of happiness but lack of meaning. People who have meaning in life are more resilient, they do better in school and their work and they even live longer.
In management schools, we hear about job enrichment and job rotation. Even without changing the content of the job, can you craft it so that it becomes more meaningful? Job crafting is a wonderful concept. We have seen people in our organizations who are extremely intelligent, talented and energetic, but they become dysfunctional. Their meaning is not aligned to the organization’s meaning.
We must create an atmosphere of positivity and nurture positive emotions like pride and gratitude, which create happiness. There is a famous study of nuns done in the US that brings out the correlation between positivity in linguistic expressions and longevity. Handwritten notes from several nuns, composed when they were young, were scored for emotional content and related to survival during ages 75 to 95. A strong association was found between positive emotional content in their notes and their longevity. (Snowdon, Danner and Frieson: Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings from the Nun Study). 90% of the nuns who had written that they felt very positive, found the going exciting and that they were learning a lot, continued to live till 85 years whereas only 34% of those who had many grudges and complaints in their notes, survived till the age of 85.
Whenever somebody does a good thing to us, we are grateful. But psychologists say that unless we express our gratitude, the benefits don’t come to us. In Indian culture, we tend to presume that whatever our parents or spouses have done for us is part of their duty. The fact is, the more we express our gratitude, the more it creates happiness for us. When we go to sleep, we can write a gratitude journal. We can also make gratitude visits, when we want to visit the person to express thanks.
Relations, experience, mindfulness
Social Relationships matter a lot for our happiness. Good relations make us healthy and happy. We are not talking about how many friends we have on Facebook or LinkedIn or WhatsApp. It is the high quality of connections in our life. Money gives happiness but only up to a certain point and not as much as we thought. Researchers arrived at this conclusion by surveying a group of people. For example, when asked to rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 10, if their salary was increased threefold, they said that it will increase from 4.5 to 8.5 or 9. But another group of people who were already drawing a much higher salary rated their happiness only around 5. The study was done on different groups of people with similar geographical and social backgrounds.
More than material possessions or purchases, experience gives you more happiness. So a nice vacation with family or a nice dinner or party would give more happiness than buying a good car or an iPad. Also, whenever you want to get happiness, create an anticipation effect. Let’s say you want to go for a foreign vacation next month. In the one month preceding the trip, you’re extremely excited and planning for the trip, which is probably better than the actual visit. If you want to buy a movie ticket, don’t buy it for today evening but buy it for two days hence, so that, for two days you will anticipate that happiness.
Mindfulness is another aspect of happiness. Thinking of negative things that happened in the past or worrying about the future stop you from being happy or productive. If you are fully engaged in your present work, you are not only happy but also, you are more productive and creative.
The four chemicals
Dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin and serotonin are the four chemicals that our body produces. Eating chocolates can produce dopamine in us but we can also get it by hugging a loved one. Doing exercise or dancing can give us a lot of endorphin. Listening to good music can produce good serotonin. Helping the body generate these brain chemicals can be the immediate artificial outside interventions to give us happiness.
To summarize, experimenters in positive psychology have come to the conclusion that happiness is 50% genetic but still 40% is in our hands. That 40% is thoughts and actions of ours. Seek meaning and purpose in life. Create positive moments and positive emotions. When you start from your home to the office, don’t ignore that little beautiful boy or the rose flower shop on the way. Be grateful not just to your parents but to a worker in your office or a subordinate who helped you make a nice and effective presentation. Maintaining social relations and high quality connections can probably be the best thing you can do to achieve happiness. Practice mindfulness. Remember the four chemicals that can give us happiness. If we follow all these strategies and become happy, our families, organisations and nations will become happy. Happiness has a habit of creating a virtuous feedback loop.
When we join the civil services, we go to Mussoorie for our foundation course—whatever service we belong to. On the first day when we joined Mussoorie, we started walking in the evening along the Mall Road. There was a point where it was written ‘Echo point.’ We wanted to test whether the echo point really works. One of my friends started barking like a dog. The whole valley reverberated with the dog’s voice. I told my friend, “You are a good singer. Why don’t you sing a good song?” He started singing a nice song and within minutes, the Mussoorie Valley echoed the nice musical song. Life, I think, is an echo point. Whatever we give to our life, it comes back to us in a multipolar form.
Ms Bharathi Baskar, Motivational Speaker, Writer and Diversity Champion, on the state of women in corporates and on life’s lessons on what to leave and what to choose.
I’ve been in the corporate sector for almost three decades. I have an interesting observation to share. At the bottom of the pyramid, that’s the entry level, in banks, IT, FMCG or other companies, they hire more women than men. As the pyramid goes to the middle-level management, there are about 70 men and 30 women, across the industry. When you reach the top of the pyramid, we have about 94 men and 6 women. I call it the theory of falling women.
Why are they falling? In the corporate world, it’s one of our biggest challenges to ensure that we promote diversity. Some of you might be asking me why I should be disturbed about it, because it was no women at the top some time ago. I’m not happy about it at all. Because this number has stayed as it is, for the last 15 years. That’s what is worrying me. This number is not seeing an arithmetic or geometric progression. If we take the academic area, in our schools and colleges, women dominate the space. Some of us, who belong to the generation that saw our mothers or grandmothers to be the first entrants into educational institutions, could vouch for that. We see that girls are definitely entering more and more into colleges in engineering, science, medical and other disciplines. The academic dominance is not converting itself into dominance in the corporate world. Why would that be?
Don’t shoot two horses
When it comes to sharing household duties, we are definitely not where we should have been, though it’s much better. I hope the younger generation, when they get married and when they have children, will change diapers, feed their children, take them to school and attend parent-teacher meetings. Also, there are things that women want to do and they’re not willing to let go. So that’s what I’m here to discuss.
Sometimes you will have to leave certain things when you want to get something else. There is a Russian proverb that says that if somebody tries to shoot two horses, for sure, he will not shoot either. So when women try to do multiple things—they want to be the best mother, the best wife, the best host, the best person in the office and dressed up as best as they could be. If you want to do everything, sometimes your focus is lost. You’re forced to give up something at one stage and the easy option is the career.
At office, it’s difficult to raise your hand when an assignment is given to you. I have seen it in my organization several times. Let’s say there is a boss and there are 10 people in the room. The boss announces a project. Maybe there are two women and eight men in that room. The boss asks which one of them thinks to be the best suited to lead the project. From whatever I have witnessed, all eight men will most certainly raise their hands, whether they are really qualified to do the project or not and if they believe they can do it or not. No questions asked. The two women will look at each other. If one woman half raises the hand, the other woman will also do the same.
Our minds are very much conditioned. We don’t try to assess whether we are qualified for the project. Our first thoughts are about what will happen, if I take up a project and go home at 10. Do I have to travel more and more? Does it mean that I need to take on more load? Who’s going to take care of my kid? We always have a cluster of thoughts in our minds, rather than being focussed single-mindedly on our ambitions in our career. Is it good or bad? I’m not here to judge. I’m not here to say that the two women should have raised their hands. No, I’m not going to say that.
I think we need to come to an equilibrium in the society and abundance, where the best will get the assignment, irrespective of the gender. If it happens to be a woman, then the domestic duties will have to be equally shared by the other members of the home, including the husband. If they decide and share the household duties and responsibilities in such a way that they ensure that there is no guilt in the mind of the woman who has taken up that additional assignment, then this six will become 10 and then 15 and then 30. One fine day it will be 50.
Ashwin’s master stroke
I’m not a big fan of cricket. But sometimes I would love to watch the last overs of the games, just to see the adrenaline rush in the crowd. Many of you may remember the recent T20 world cup match played between India and Pakistan, where in the last over, India had to get 16 runs to win. Virat Kohli was batting like a man possessed. He was at his best on that day. On the other side, supporting him was Hardik Pandya. He got out and Kohli continued to score and did his best. Dinesh Karthik came in and got out. We had one ball remaining and two runs to win.
Ravichandran Ashwin came in. As he revealed in an interview later, Ashwin was absolutely not prepared to walk in. He cursed Dinesh Karthik, walked from the dressing room to the middle of the ground, which he describes as the longest walk in his life. He went in and faced the first ball that was bowled at him. Guess what? Ashwin left that ball and it was declared a wide. His judgment was absolutely good. He could see that it was a wide and then he left it. They called it, ‘well left,’ and I heard that for the first time and it really inspired me.
What happened when he left the ball? How did he take that decision? I was really intrigued by that. The pressure was so much. This is the last ball and you have only two runs to win. There is every reason that he could have attempted to play the ball and hit the winning shot, yet he decided to leave the ball. That gave the Indian team an extra ball and an extra run. When the extra ball came, it was worth playing. He played it, scored a run and we won the match. That’s one of the best wins that we have had. Of course, it’s against Pakistan. What else would you ask for?
Well left is well played
I could even remember that when I was studying in a government school, mostly in Tamil medium, we had a cricket coach. In retrospect, I’m really surprised that government schools offered such good facilities. Generally, girls don’t play cricket at that age. We haven’t seen much of cricket either because very few houses had televisions. Every time, we tried to be a little aggressive and hit a ball that was going a little off the pitch or outside, our coach would lose his cool and scream at us. But every time, we took an informed decision and left the ball, he would call us and tell us that we did well.
‘Well-left,’ is the most underrated shot played in cricket as well as in life. Sometimes, it’s better not to play some of the balls that are coming to us. I am not propagating procrastination or inaction here. All I am saying is that let’s not try to play all the balls that come to us. Let’s choose our balls and battles. In organizations as well, I have seen this behavior, especially in members of the senior leadership. Some of them want to get involved in everything and that would be micro management, at its best. They would get involved in matters where they have absolutely no expertise, concern, responsibility or authority, but their voices will be there. They will have a comment on everything.
Eventually, it becomes a personality disorder that unless you say something, you feel that you’re not complete. Many a time, this behavior leads to being people who are ‘last-word freaks.’ ‘My word has to be the last everywhere.’ What I have learned is that when you focus only on your goals and things that you really want to do, you’ll do much better, rather than trying to hit every ball and getting out. If you leave some balls, your chances of survival are much better than in cricket. It’s very important that you ignore certain comments made on you.
The grass is blue
Once a tiger and a donkey got into an argument. The donkey said that the grass is blue in color. The tiger said, “Are you nuts? The grass is green in color.” They were arguing and arguing and it reached a certain point when they wanted to present it for arbitration. They went to the arbitrator—the Lion, the king of the jungle. The king was seated on his throne. The donkey and tiger approached the lion. As they were going closer to the Lion King, the donkey screamed, “Your Majesty. Don’t you agree that the grass is blue in color?” The king, without wasting much time said, “Yes.”
The donkey said, “This tiger is annoying me, arguing with me. He says that the grass is green in color. Would you please punish him?” The king said, “Yes. I will punish him with six weeks of silence.” The donkey was absolutely thrilled and happy. He kept chanting that the grass is blue and went off. The tiger said, “Your Majesty. I accept the punishment. But may I ask you one question? Isn’t it true that the grass is green?”
“Of course, it is green,” said the king. “Then why do you punish me?” asked the tiger. The king replied, “Your punishment has got nothing to do with whether the grass is blue or green in color. A courageous, independent, intelligent creature like you is wasting your time, arguing with a donkey if the grass is blue or green. On top of that, you have the audacity to bring it for arbitration and waste my time too. The punishment is for that.”
Sometimes, whether you agree or not, we are donkeys and many times we are tigers and seldom we are lions. If the other person is not willing to see the reason, it is best to leave the argument, because we have got more important things to do. A lot of us have had this experience with a toothache. We might need to wait a day or two to visit the dentist. In that interim one day or two days, there is this temptation to take our tongue to the tooth, which is giving us the pain and then feel the tooth. Though the pain will increase, it’s extremely difficult to resist the temptation to take your tongue to the ailing tooth and feel that excruciating pain. Why do we do that? Because it’s very difficult to resist the temptation. Sometimes in our homes, in our workplaces, in the social platforms that we are operating, there is a temptation to say certain things, which we know for sure, are going to be absolutely useless for us. Yet, we end up saying that word, and then spend probably the next 15 days or one month or whatever, trying to defend our position. How much of our time is lost in doing this!
We talk about time management and often hear that everybody has got 24 hours. There are goals for us to follow. There are things to do, of which there are compulsive assignments. The only way to do it is to release certain things and pick up only those things that are going to help you. Do things where your focus should lie on.
Poet Thiruvalluvar in Thirukural, a collection of couplets, describes the behavior of a stork. The stork, he says, patiently waits by the river and allows tiny fish to pass through. It waits till it sights a big fish and then grabs it. That’s exactly what we need to practice for ‘well left.’ When we leave certain things, it gives us ample time and space to do the things that we really want to do.
The hare & the tortoise story retold
Let me narrate one more story which is the Zen version of the hare and tortoise story. All of us have heard the original story. In the Zen version of the story, the hare comes and talks to us. It says, “Yes. I am the hare who lost to the tortoise. That’s what Aesop has made you believe. Actually, I didn’t lose the race. I quit the race. But Aesop wrote the fable in such a way that the entire world thinks that I have lost the race. Do you think that a hare will lose to a tortoise? Do you believe that if somebody is halfway in the race, he will sleep to let the tortoise, of all species, to pass him by? No, I didn’t lose. I was not even sleeping.
“I entered the race because the stupid tortoise went about calling me for the race, for a long time. When I knew that I was far, far ahead, I decided to just rest for a while at a lush green meadow there. There was a good stream and carrots were available for me. When I was taking my break, a bearded Zen guru appeared and asked me, “Hey, what are you doing here?” “I’m running a race?” I said. “Are you running a race? I see you sitting here,” the guru retorted. I explained, “I’m actually running a race. But I decided to sit for a while because the tortoise, my opponent, is far behind.”
The guru chided me, “You’re running a race with the tortoise. Everyone knows that the hare is faster than the tortoise. If they give you a medal for winning the race, where will you hang it? Let me get it straight. Today, you’re running a race to prove that you’re faster than the tortoise. Tomorrow, you will run to prove that you are faster than the snake and the day after, it will be against an elephant or any other creature. When will you stop running this race?”
Run your real race
“That’s when I decided that I would quit the race. But the story was made in such a way that I was resting and the tortoise had surpassed me. Whether it’s a marathon or a sprint, I am always faster than the tortoise. I decided I must choose my true competitors and exit from the race.” So, according to the Zen version of the story, the hare had ‘well left,’ so he has the energy and time to run the race with the real opponents.
Friends, if at all, a race has to be run in life, you will have to choose what you really want to do. There are certain words that you will have to leave unspoken and there are certain actions that you will have to desist from doing. An immediate temptation to give back, is not going to be good for you in the long run. There are certain assignments and tasks that you’ll have to give up so that you have the time to focus on your Swadharma. Your Swadharma is where your heart and mind lies.
It’s a very tough decision on what to leave and what to choose. There is only one way to do it. Find out where your natural talent lies and what you are interested in naturally, and then you have ample choices for choosing the ones that you really want to do and thereby you will achieve your goals. Remember, when you’re trying to hit two horses, you will end up hitting none of them.
Dr Lata Rajagopalan’s fireside chat with Bharati Baskar
When did you discover that you could be an orator?
Very young, when I was probably about eight or nine years old, I was selected for a school drama. When I was on stage, I was very reluctant like anybody else at that age. But once I got onto the stage and heard the audience clap, I found out this was going to be very close to my heart.
Who inspired you to develop this facet of becoming an orator?
My eldest sister. She is the first orator in our family. She continues to be a huge inspiration though she’s not on stage anymore. I followed her everywhere she went. At one stage, she stopped but I continued.
What genres of movies do you like watching?
Any movie where a woman is shown as an intelligent person or good.
Who is your favorite singer?
The one and only SPB.
An author you admire?
In Tamil, I admire Jaya Mohan. He is a leading author in Tamil literature today. He can also write in Malayalam. He has written Mahabharata in 14 volumes, having about 25,000 pages. I think this is the longest novel ever written in the world. In English, Jeffrey Archer is my favorite. I love short stories.
Have you ever been nervous on stage?
I have been nervous, I think, on every stage. You’ll learn how not to show your nervousness over a period of time.
Do you prepare extensively on topics or do you take a hint of the topics and speak?
Literary topics need a lot of preparation. Social topics, generally I don’t prepare. You have to be just you. Go with the vibe. You’re on the stage and you take off from what your previous speaker has spoken. If it’s about a different topic, like something on physics, medicine, etc, I do prepare.
Do you argue a lot in real life? It must be hard to win against you.
I don’t argue much at home. I leave some of the things. Certain things are well left.
Does your family play a role in your preparations?
Not in my preparations, because I just keep it to myself. My second daughter is a critic. Usually, my husband and my elder daughter say that I’ve done well, whether I’ve really done well or not. If at all, I get a topic about finance, then I take some tips from my husband, Baskar, who is a chartered accountant.
Do you aspire to be a moderator in debates?
Most certainly. I am already a moderator in shows but maybe not in the popular Sun TV debate where we have our moderator, Mr. Solomon Pappiah. It’s lovely to work with him as a team. When I am a moderator, I enjoy that position equally well.
Every time we watch Television debates in America, we realize that debating skills seem to decide political careers. Have you ever thought of entering politics?
Not really. I am at a stage in life when I want to give back something. I’ve had a very long and I am still having a career in banking. I’ve been on stage for almost 22 years. Now it’s time to give back to the younger generation. There are a lot of questions in their minds, and sometimes they don’t know whom to ask those questions to. I want to be in that position. Politics is not my space.
The keynote address at this year’s annual convention was delivered by Mr. Arun Maira, Thought Leader, Author, Former Member of Planning Commission of India, and Former India Chairman, Boston Consulting Group
At the outset, let me put some facts on the table. I will compare some vital statistics of the world’s two largest economies—the US and China, and the world’s two largest democracies—India and the US.
Firstly, their populations. India and China have around 1.4 billion humans each living in them. The US, with 331 million, has around one -fourth India’s and China’s populations. Compare their land areas. China is 9.7 million square kilometers. The US, only a tad smaller, is 9.4 million square kilometers. India is much smaller: 3.3 million square kilometers. Thus, Indians have only one-third as much land as Chinese have, and one-twelfth what US citizens have. Therefore, Indian citizens must husband their land and water resources with much greater care than US and Chinese citizens. Now let’s compare the sizes of the three countries’ economies in 2022. The US was $21 trillion; China $15 trillion. And India, $2.7 trillion. China has come into the same league as the US. The Indian economy is far behind: one-seventh the size of the US’ and less than one-fifth the size of China’s.
It wasn’t always like this. Let’s go back to 1990. Then, the US economy was $6 trillion. China was $396 billion and India a little less at $326 billion. Per capita incomes in China and India were comparable then. Now incomes in China are five times higher than in India: Chinese citizens are much better off than Indians. India’s pattern of growth must change. Growth must be much more inclusive to raise the income levels of all Indian citizens, not only those at the top. Also, it must be more environmentally sustainable. Assessments of the growth patterns of countries in 2011-12 revealed that the growth of the Indian economy, though amongst the fastest in the world then, was the least environmentally sustainable, and the least inclusive.
The growth of countries in South Asia, S.E. Asia, and BRICS, was compared using the international Sustainable Economic Development Assessment framework (SEDA). It measures growth along three tracks: economic growth, inclusion in growth, and environmental sustainability. The assessment revealed that, with every unit of GDP growth, India’s natural environment was being damaged more than in all other countries. Ground water levels were dropping fastest in India; soil quality was degrading; and Indian cities were the most polluted.
Every unit of India’s GDP growth was also producing the least number of additional jobs compared to all these countries. This was an ominous warning. With its vast population of young people who were expected to provide a demographic dividend to India’s growth, the economy must generate jobs for them. Because, unless they are employed and earn sufficiently, they will not provide the required big boosts to consumption and savings. The warnings were not heeded. Ten years later, slow growth of farmers’ incomes, and unemployment and under-employment, have become the Achilles Heel of the Indian economy. Sadly, the warnings from SEDA were not heeded. The paradigm of first: More economic growth. We will see how the redistribution of its benefits, continued: More capitalism, less socialism. This was the global economic paradigm; our economists followed along.
After the global financial crisis in 2008, when millions of citizens in the US and Europe lost their homes and livelihoods, policymakers vowed, never again. A few lifeboats were put out. However, the Titanic did not change course. The furniture on the upper deck was plushed up, and inequalities within countries increased further. Then came the even larger Covid crisis. While millions lost their livelihoods, stock-markets boomed.
In 2008, a high level, international commission chaired by Noble Laureate economist Michael Spence brought together 22 policymakers, academics, and business leaders to examine various aspects of economic growth and development. Montek Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of India’s Planning Commission was a member. It published its Growth Report in 2009. Spence, presenting the findings in New Delhi said that prevalent market liberal economic theories explained how to make economic growth faster. They don’t explain how to make growth inclusive at the same time. Thus, the theory of first increase the pie and then wait for the trickle down continues.
India must adopt a new strategy to ensure that inclusion happens much faster along with faster growth. India also needs a competitive growth strategy to catch up with countries that are ahead of it.
A good competition strategy must be based on the resource that a corporation or a country has more of than its competitors. If a country sits on large petroleum resources, its national strategy must be founded on the use of hydro-carbon resources for growth. Indeed, this is how Saudi Arabia has become very wealthy. It has world-scale, and world-class, petroleum refining and petrochemical industries. A country with larger copper and mineral resources than other countries can build its economy on the strengths of its mineral extraction and process industries, as Chile has.
What is the resource India has more of than any other country in the world? It is young people. India’s growth strategy must be founded on the employment of larger numbers of human beings in its economic enterprises. They are abundant, willing to work, and willing to learn. Our large population of people seeking employment can be India’s assets: they can provide Indian enterprises a competitive advantage.
However, in conventional corporate accounting, human beings do not even appear on the asset side of the register, along with other assets, like buildings and machinery. Human beings are accounted for on the cost and income side. To be used only when required for production.
The values of all assets on the balance sheet depreciate over time. Accounting law requires that companies report depreciation of their assets’ values.
Human beings are unusual assets. They are the only assets whose value can increase over time. Human beings have an ability to learn and to improve their own capabilities. Provided of course they are enabled to. Not only can human beings improve their own capabilities; they can also improve the performance of the company’s machines, and efficiency in the use of other materials if they are motivated to.
Thus, human beings are the only appreciating assets a company has, and a country has. Japan does not have petroleum, mineral, or chemical resources. Despite this, Japanese companies in many industries became world-beaters because they made Japanese workers their competitive advantage.
In 2013, the Planning Commission asked Bain and Company to look at the HR strategies of Indian companies spread across several industries and several regions of the country. Companies were separated roughly into two categories. Category A were those who considered their employees as assets and invested in them. For Category B companies employees were costs. Category B companies demanded more flexibility in labor laws. They employed large numbers of workers through contractors to reduce their own costs. They spent less on training too.
Bain compared the financial performances of companies in the same industry and in the same region so that no external factors would vitiate the comparison. They found that Category A companies had more sustained, and stronger, growth in revenues and profits than Category B companies.
A dictum of management is that you manage what you measure. “Productivity” is a central concept in national and company economics. Productivity is a ratio of input and output: a measure of how much input is required to produce the desired output. The output is the numerator and the input the denominator. There are two ways to improve any productivity ratio. The easier way is to reduce the quantity in the denominator. The more difficult way is to keep the denominator constant, and yet produce more output.
The most important productivity ratio any manager should be concerned with is how to get the most output from the scarcest or most expensive resource the enterprise has. A universal practice, in corporate, as well as national accounting, is to measure productivity as output per unit of labor. This presumes that human labor is the scarcest resource and that it should be substituted by other resources, such as capital.
However, labor is the most abundant resource India has, and the least utilized unfortunately. Whereas financial capital is relatively scarce. Therefore, the productivity of the Indian economy should be measured by how many good jobs each unit of financial capital produces. Companies too should re-examine their strategies for global competitiveness. Value the potential of Indian people. Engage them, nurture them, care for them. They will be your competitive advantage. Nurturing Indian citizens as appreciating assets, not as burdens, will make India’s growth more inclusive and faster too.
The entire world needs, and India too, a new paradigm of progress founded on three pillars: People, Planet, and Profit.
People are not merely resources for Profit.
Let us turn to environmental sustainability. In the drive for faster economic growth, we are building more man-made infrastructure—more roads, more dams, more ports, more urban infrastructure. In the process we are damaging the infrastructure that Nature provides for taking care of itself and of us too.
Land is flattened and water bodies are covered to build modern urban infrastructure. The consequence is both, diminishing water resources, as well as floods that overwhelm cities. Mountain slopes are cut to build roads and towns. The consequence is landslides that destroy property and lives. River sand is mined for urban construction, and rivers change course and flood. Breakwaters to build ports are causing beaches to erode pulling down buildings along the shore.
The economic activity for altering Nature’s infrastructure—cutting of slopes, levelling the land, filling water bodies, etc. adds to GDP. Adding man-designed, and man-built concrete and steel infrastructure on top adds even more to GDP. Finally, even activities for clearing the rubble after disasters and rescuing people add to GDP. GDP keeps going up with more modern, man-made, infrastructure while Nature’s infrastructure is destroyed.
People, Planet, and Profit represent three forms of capital: human capital, natural capital, and financial capital. In the economy, financial capital prevails. People are resources to create more financial capital. Nature’s capital—its soil, minerals, water, and vegetation—are also resources to be extracted and exploited to produce more profit for financial capital.
Some business lobbies are changing People, Planet, and Profit, to People, Planet, and Prosperity. Under Prosperity they put technology, business, and market economics. They seem to have high-jacked the meaning of Prosperity, leaving out the thriving of human beings and Nature from the concept of prosperity.
Francis Bacon, a founder of the European scientific enlightenment, said that science and technology has given Man the power to put order into unruly Nature. Science and technology have advanced too far ahead of wisdom. Now Nature is fighting back against human hubris.
We should be seeking more wisdom and less technology to save the world. We must learn again that the minds of humans are a small part of a very rich and complex natural system. The system sustains us. We cannot, with our small minds, redesign the system.
The sciences have advanced greatly since the seventeenth century, by breaking out into silos of knowledge. As medical science has advanced, specialists know more and more about less and less of the human body. As the social sciences have advanced, they have split into economics, sociology, and political science, and many sub-specialties amongst them. Humanity has lost the ability for enlightened systems thinking: the ability to understand the whole of which each of us is only a part.
The global agenda for saving People, Planet, and Profits is being driven by experts in their disciplines—each within their scientific silos. Climate scientists research the physics of climate change. They have located carbon in the atmosphere as the physical cause. They advocate technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Economists and business managers are experts in methods for increasing and deploying financial capital to produce more profit and more GDP. Those who care principally for the well-being of humans seem to have their own sciences.
The experts in their separate disciplines do not understand each other’s jargon. In fact, they don’t even like each other: because they fear that the others are interfering in their solutions. They are in different political formations with different ideologies: socialists, environmentalists, and capitalists.
The world needs a paradigm shift for solving the systemic problems of increasing inequities, continuing climate change, and collapsing global financial and trade systems. These problems are inter-related. They cannot be solved separately.
Top-down universal solutions will not work because these problems take different shapes in different parts of the world. A universal solution for reducing carbon, for example, will make problems of poverty and inequity worse in many places. Designs of social security systems must be based on the shapes of local economies.
The world needs a new paradigm for solving systemic problems, to solve the inter-related problems of People, Planet, and Profit, which have been caused by a wrong theory of economic growth.
We need local systems solutions cooperatively implemented within communities. We need to listen to each other within our communities and in our countries, with respect for each other. By listening to other points-of-view we will be able to understand our own realities, and we will learn what we must improve together to make the world better for everyone.
The world is being divided into fragments by narrow domestic walls. Social media is poisoning our minds against our own neighbors. We must learn to listen. Especially to people who we think are not like us. Then only will we learn to live in harmony.
I will end with a simple, but powerful solution. It is a poem on Listening.
It is time to press the pause button;
Put our smartphones on silent.
Shut out the tweets, trolls, and soundbites;
And stop the windmills in our minds.
It is time to listen.
To listen to the whispers in the trees;
To the caring in our hearts;
And most of all, to the voices of People Not Like Us.
The past year has seen multiple global events impact growth and economic and energy security. Amidst these headwinds, India – with a resilient economy and strong domestic demand – is poised to take on the challenges of subdued global demand and energy self-sufficiency. The theme of this year’s annual convention, “India’s Century: How to Drive Sustainable, Inclusive Growth?” saw prominent speakers and eminent panelists discuss about the path ahead for the country in the coming years.
When we talk about the India’s century, sustainability needs to be the core of the discussion.
Mr N K Premachandran, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
The practice of management plays a very important role in building the future of our country. The application of highly sophisticated management technology is able to resolve most of the issues. As a policy maker, I have the strong belief that we will be able to resolve most of the contentious issues facing our country if we have a proper and scientific management of the resources in a planned manner.
Inclusive growth: A key national agenda
Sustainable and inclusive growth is one of the most important subjects to be discussed in the light of the structural economic reforms being pursued aggressively in our country for the last three decades. It is significant to note that during the last budget session, Her Excellency, the President of India, in her presidential speech to the joint session of the parliament, began her address with the term ‘inclusive development.’ The Honorable Finance Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman also began her budget speech with the sentence on ‘inclusive development.’ She also enlisted seven priorities that have been described as ‘seven pillars’ or Saptarshi to drive the country in the amritkaal—the next 25 years up to 2047. The first of these priorities is inclusive development. The government believes in sab ka sath, sabh ka vikas.
In the never ending rights for economic growth by all nations, unfortunately, we have forgotten about the term sustainability. The modern concept of sustainable development was defined in the year 1987 by the Brundtland Report, as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ When we talk about the India’s century, sustainability needs to be the core of the discussion.
Two schools of thought
There are two schools of thought on this-one, the socialistic point of view and second, the neoliberal economic point of view. I would like to prescribe a mix of both. India opened its doors to the outside world in mid-1980s and beginning of 1990s with our policies of liberalization, privatization, and globalization. Since then, the economic and social growth of the nation has been rising. In the current world economic conditions, we are exposed to anything and everything in any part of the world.
We saw the 2008 world economic crisis and later the European economic crisis. In these crises, India was the least affected because of its economic stability, which was mainly due to its strict economic policies along with the support of its strong public sector presence, especially in the banking and insurance sector. The lesson from such crises is that the future lies in controlled and monitored globalization. More focus has to be placed on self-sustaining policies and those that support domestic companies. That is why the government of India under the leadership of Hon’ Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is talking about the ‘make in India’ program.
Focus on domestic sectors
It does not mean that we must restrict FDI, FPI or trade relations. Our focus needs to be on domestic sectors—the public sector as well as the private sector. This may seem like a socialistic ideology. However, this could be the biggest weapon in a capitalistic market, by providing a competitive market space between the multinational companies and local companies. This can happen only if the public sector undertakings are well protected and supported by the government. Since the PSU are supported by the government institutions, they have a level of accountability to the customers and people. We also need a strong private sector. It has played a major role in building our nation.
Looking at a microscopic level, the future depends on self-subsistence or inclusive development. During the pandemic, we saw an overnight shutdown of borders and boundaries, which were opened in the year 1991. On a macro level, we witnessed unprecedented disruption of supply chains, shortage of food, power failure and disruption in economic markets. But on a micro scale, we witnessed shortage of food in stores, rationing, salary cuts and loss of jobs. As we were not self-sufficient, we depended on other nations for access to our daily requirements. Therefore, the first step of inclusive growth is self-subsistence.
Reality is different
The basic principle of liberalism is that wealth creation leads to development and employment. But unfortunately, this is not happening in our country. We have the best growth in the world—6.6% GDP growth, which we have achieved even after the pandemic. We are able to contain the revenue deficit as committed in the last budget. India has become the fifth largest economy in the world and we are trying to become $5 trillion economy. But if we examine the ground realities, there are many worrying factors.
In the global hunger index, India has shifted from 101 to 107. In the human development index, out of 142 countries, it is in 132 or 133. There is an exponential growth of unemployment in the country. As per the latest economic survey report, 16.7% of the total population in the country is coming within the purview of multi-dimensional poverty index. These show that inclusive and equitable development is not being addressed in a proper manner.
The undernourished children of today, after 15 or 20 years will become the future of the country. Mahatma Gandhi said that the future of India lies in its villages. This was the idealism or foresight of Mahatma Gandhi. He explained that the real India lies in its seven lakh villages. If Indian civilization is to make its full contribution to the growth of a stable world order, it is this vast mass of humanity that has to be made to lead again.
Rejuvenate traditional industries
Self-sustenance can be implemented by rejuvenating the geography-specific traditional industries. This need not be seen as a concept of anti-globalization. Rather, this could be an opportunity for developing some of the loss-making traditional industries. If utilized properly through value addition and proper marketing on a global level, the export potential of such products can be tapped. This will be pro-globalization, as they utilize local labour and local resources. These industries employ the indigenous people of that geographic location. Industries in third world countries are mainly labour intensive and have a high potential for employment and utilization of local resources.
I represent the Kollam Lok Sabha constituency (in Kerala) which is considered as the cashew capital of the country. More than 1.5 lakh cashew workers are there. Because of international competition after the structural economic reforms, 95% of all the cashew factories are now closed and 1.5 lakh workers are jobless. They live in poverty and survive only because of the MGNREGA.
COVID-19 has shed light on the importance of subsistence. In this world of globalization, we are all interconnected. From an economic point of view, this is necessary and unavoidable. However, this also forces us to choose a cheaper product or service from another country rather than producing it locally, such as the cashew industry. The future of globalization is not buying better quality product or service from outside, rather making the better product here, for our self-subsistence. We need to create a competitive environment between the private sector and the public sector to maintain a balance of profits, for the companies as well as the customers.
Islands of prosperity, however rich, will not be sustainable in any way. We have to address the basic issues faced by the downtrodden people, the scheduled castes, other backward communities and economically weaker sections and people belonging to the northeast and states like Jammu Kashmir. Then only, the fruits of our development and growth will reach the all the citizens, in all regions.
Becoming a growth outperformer
Mr Jaidit Brar, Sr Partner, McKinsey
Amongst so many parts of the world, it is in India where there is a lot of excitement about growth potential and opportunity. We could potentially double our GDP. I’m not saying that there are no challenges, but at least the trajectory and the platform for achieving that are clear.
Rather than discussing too much of the macro trends, let us see what each of us, as people who are leading businesses and institutions, can do to really enable and accelerate this overall potential. Within that, the first theme is: How do you enable your own companies to become growth outperformers? Second, we find that being inclusive and sustainable is not only an obligation, but it is actually the only way to do it.
The one-in-five club
Our research shows that if you take the top companies in the country (we looked around 1000 companies), one in five companies in the last 10 years—and this includes the COVID years—has grown at two to three times the GDP, i.e., more than 15%. The top 10% of these have been growing at 23% per annum. It means that if you are in this one in five club and take this aspiration over the next 10 years, you will become four times your current size. Is it that only smaller companies managed to achieve this growth? No. One third of these companies were smaller companies but even many large companies have been able to achieve this kind of growth.
Growth is our oxygen
Growth is the only oxygen which creates a virtuous cycle, which a country like India needs. Growth starts with a lot of capacity creation. It requires a lot of investment in equipment, supply chain and enabling infrastructure. To grow at two, three times the rate of GDP, it requires real innovation in creating new products and services and in particular, for underserved segments. Innovations and new business models fundamentally change the cost structure and create accessibility for all. That’s where real growth comes from.
If we have to invest so much, we’re also answerable to our shareholders. We found that companies which were able to deliver a 15% CAGR, created almost 4X shareholder value in five years. Growth enhances profitability. Half of the one-in-five club (that is, one in 10 companies) were able to expand their profit margins significantly.
We have heard the famous saying that top line is vanity and cash flow is sanity. But interestingly, from our study, what is very clear is that growth and profitability go together. A majority of growth outperformers grew profits, even faster than revenues. Growth mindset becomes a big enabler, because, companies that think about growth and look to generate surplus for growth are relentless on cost and value engineering. Secondly, they are very focused on the quality of revenue and not just the revenue. Third, companies are forced to fundamentally reexamine their business models. They ask questions such as: How do you go to market? Are you selling a product? Or are you selling that product bundled into a service?
We are all excited to read the news of large aircraft orders being placed from India. But look at the other side of that. In the last 10 years, Indians have been able to get personal mobility. A set of companies with growth mindset, are making use of that.
There are so many challenges in achieving this growth. In addition to supply chain shortages, inflation, COVID and talent shortages, India is a highly competitive market. Real opportunity comes on the other side of each of those challenges. We also looked at the track record of companies which were not growth outperformers and how easy or tough, it is for them to change their trajectory.
About 30% of slow growing companies will remain slow growing companies in the next five years but another 30% have become the fastest growing companies. If you’re a fast growth company, you have reasonable odds-one in four chances—that you can stay as a fast growth company. But if you’re slower, you have to put in a fair bit of effort. There’s one third chance that you can turn around your growth trajectory dramatically.
What have these companies done right? They always start with the mindset of growth. If you do not set a high aspiration, it is very tough for growth to happen. The second factor is the choice of where you play—the choice of the sector you are in and within that sector, how you find the hidden opportunities and allocate resources in a very thoughtful way. In a market like India, just your core business will not support this kind of growth. You must relentlessly look at adjacencies.
There are some industries like financial services and information technology which have grown so dramatically. A significant amount of unbanked people have got banked, leading to the underlying expansion of credit. So half of the financial services companies, just by the pure presence in the right sector, have grown so much. Given the amount of disruption that is happening in India, there is so much more opportunity.
There are so many more breakout sectors. The manufacturing base is expanding and supply chains are getting created either on PLI or a bunch of other things. Interestingly, it’s not the core opportunity but the tier two and tier three opportunity which comes with it, which is more significant. For example, it’s not just about what’s happening in the hydrogen space but the hydrogen value chain that matters. It’s not just the electric vehicle but all the value chains which are getting created with that. Water is also an important part of inclusive growth.
The underlying building material sector is growing at only 6 or 7%. But plumbing pipes, faucets and some segments are growing at 15 to 20. This is because of the penetration and the usage and the fact that there is a big opportunity in getting a lot more of piped water.
Do not despair, if you are in a sector, like industrials or some other sector, which you feel does not have that much opportunity. The reality is that in every sector, there are hidden opportunities. For example, take states. The top five states have grown at 1.52 times the average. The next 100 or 200 cities are growing at 10 to 12%. There is a huge amount of underserved segments in the country and you can create products and services for them.
We find that the chunk of the growth comes from the core business. You can see for Asia that a third of the growth comes from adjacencies and breakouts. If you allocate all your resources to your core business and do not think hard enough about adjacencies, it will not be that easy to grow. But if you are active in identifying those, then they will give you a huge amount of space and tailwinds.
Along with growth, sustainability is very important. The most exciting thing about sustainability is that 80% of India, which will exist in 30 years from now is yet to be built. For us, it’s not a challenge of retrofitting but building the future in a smarter way. We have to build additional capacity in various sectors, which are traditionally thought of as polluting sectors. Each of this is an opportunity. Apart from renewable power, material circularity, sustainable agriculture and supply chains and everything associated with EV and green hydrogen present significant opportunity for value creation.
Finally, comes the question of inclusion, which is even more significant than sustainability. Inclusion is not a choice anymore. Unless you think inclusive, where will you find the talent and new markets to go? We have seen that the productivity of plants, which have significant amount of women employees, is very high. After COVID, people are leveraging gig workers. A lot of talented people who may not want to work full time, make a huge difference to those companies. Many of the adjacent opportunities come from the underserved markets and regions.
So, please set very bold aspirations for your companies on growth. It is possible that there is a playbook. Two, think about resource allocations very hard and in particular resource allocation, which will come with all the sustainable opportunities. Three, as you think about your own talent, your own workforce, and investments, look at the underserved regions and parts. They will become huge unlocks for your growth and make you more inclusive.
As a prelude to the MMA Annual Convention 2023, a competition was held on the theme “India’s Century: How to Drive Sustainable, Inclusive Growth?” About 75 young managers from various leading corporates participated. This article is from the winning presentation submitted by Saranya Mala T, Shreya V, and Ramya S—all from Saint-Gobain, Sriperumbudur.
Manufacturing jobs are an important source of employment for large workforces in developing countries. Of the 8 million workers employed in India’s formal manufacturing industries in 2019-20, 1.6 million (19.7%) were women, data from the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) shows. Of the 1.6 million women workers across India, 0.68 million (43%) were working in the factories of Tamil Nadu alone. In fact, nearly three-fourths (72%) of all women working in industries were employed in the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Few countries—because of their size and population—are poised to benefit from equality. In India, currently only 25 percent of the labour force is female and their contribution to domestic GDP is 17 percent—this is less than half the global average. According to The World Bank, doubling the percentage of women in the workforce would boost India’s growth rate from 7.5 to 9% and raise the country’s GDP to US$700 billion by 2025. According to studies, women barely constitute 12% in the manufacturing sector, just 3% in core engineering. The post-pandemic situation of women’s employment in manufacturing is likely to be much worse. CEDA-CMIE bulletins have highlighted that total manufacturing employment halved by 2020-21, and that overall employment of women had taken a much bigger hit.
There are several reasons why women are under-represented in the manufacturing and heavy industries sector. The obvious ones are that these require hard manual labour—not a correct assumption always—and that the hours are long and that they are not as lucrative as other professions. Another more compelling reason is that women are not encouraged to acquire the skills to go into this sector. On the other hand, women also bring collaboration, innovation and creative thinking to the workplace. As manufacturers strive to foster creativity, they have found that gender diversity boosts employee morale and retention. As a result, there has also been some growth in women employment not only in manufacturing, but also in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related fields.
Chennai is the “top city for women in India,” as per a study released by the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) firm Avtar Group. The study ranked 111 cities based on their social and industrial inclusion parameters towards nurturing a conducive ecosystem for women. The study notes that Tamil Nadu’s cities fare comparatively better on liveability. From a company’s perspective too, women in the workforce makes a company a better place to work for all, regardless of gender. A higher percentage of women in an organisation may translate to lower burnout, more job satisfaction, more organizational dedication and more meaningful work as well. Workforces with a higher percentage of women have said that they are likely to stay with their employer for reasons such as enjoyable work, work-life balance and an overall positive workplace culture. Experts say that women’s effective communication skills improve collaborative work efforts, while their intuition, sensitivity and emotional intelligence (EQ) help create a balanced workforce. For a rich, open corporate culture that is in tune with the world around us, we, at Saint-Gobain, recognize and respect the uniqueness of each individual. We want to integrate and mobilize these differences by creating an environment that promotes equity and equality, which are essential to true professional growth. We, therefore, commit to a principle of zero-tolerance of discrimination and promote diversity in all its forms: gender, nationality, social origin, training, professional, generational and disability. Our performance in terms of inclusion and diversity allows us to be included in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index 2023 for the fifth consecutive year. Saint-Gobain announced new objectives for gender diversity: “Our objective for 2025 is to reach 15% of women in Operations”. So, in addition to the inclusion of more women in the shop floor, the Mirror Line at Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd, Sriperumbudur, World Glass Complex, was converted to a unit of all-women plant.
● To convert the line to all-women (30 nos.) by Q2 2023
● Sustain all operational indicators (like OEE, Yield, etc.)
Manning /on-boarding, and on-the-job training
Finding the right people for the right job roles makes all the difference between a good and great result, whether it is day-to-day operations or year-to-year performance. It ensures that staff turnover falls, morale rises, and performance takes off. So, the manning and on-boarding at Saint-Gobain always follows the Pyramid model of recruitment:
Entry level: Tulir training
Tulir is an entry-level developmental model for selecting women trainees who have completed their engineering diploma from any of the polytechnic colleges in Tamil Nadu. The Tulir Diploma Engineering Trainee (DET) program is one such model where the Technician Apprentice trains in the organization under The Apprentice Act 1961 for a period of 12 months in the Mirror Plant.
Selection process and joining
The eligible list of candidates is collected from the placement coordinators based on the eligibility criteria at Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd.
Applicants are taken through a streamlined recruitment process through deployment of scientific tools such as Business Process Aptitude Test (BPAT).
Physical activities for the candidates are conducted.
This is followed by Group Discussions / Technical and HR interviews before the candidates are selected.
After being ascertained as medically fit, the trainees join the Mirror Plant.
Orientation on the SGIPL systems, operations, HR Policies, canteen and other relevant procedures is given elaborately.
In order to provide them with necessary amenities during their initial phase of apprenticeship, they are provided with three months accommodation at the Transit house.
According to a research by Gallup, 87% of millennials claimed that L&D in the workplace is important. Around two-thirds insisted that they would consider the opportunities to learn and grow when applying for a job.
Corporate training sessions of 14-15 days is given to the trainees with Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF) being the training partner. This encompasses classroom sessions on soft skills / basics of electrical / mechanical / instrumentation / PLC, etc. (pasted here is the timetable followed in the past year).
Functional induction @WGC
Tulir trainees are taken through detailed induction on safety / soft skills / induction and line visits to all businesses at the World Glass Complex (WGC). Initially, first-hand knowledge and experience through classroom sessions is provided on the glass manufacturing process and the multiple value addition processes. The trainees will then visit the manufacturing lines to understand the vision and mission of the business better. During this induction phase, they tend to interact with the leadership team as well.
Functional training partnered with TVS
Trainees are sent to TVS Training Centre for a period of 45 days to undergo training in:
Soft Skills – Communication / Self-Confidence
Industrial Safety / Lean / First aid / Fire Safety
Basics of electrical / mechanical / chemical / pneumatics / maintenance / quality / pumps fitting shop / PLC / VFD etc.
Every 10 days, there will be a Gemba visit to the Mirror Line to connect their learning with on-hand processes.
Industrial visits to two industries with predominantly women workforce
Weekly review by the employees at the Mirror Line in keeping with the training needs (e.g., A maintenance engineer at the Mirror Line will review the work undertaken by the trainees)
Mirror plant induction
Inducted trainees will undergo at least three days of training in each section of Mirror Line. After this, a review will be conducted with the leadership team to make a decision on the deployment of training.
Shadow / on-the-job training
After their deployment, the trainees undergo on-the-job / shadow training with their coaches. Each trainee is assigned a coach / mentor throughout their training phase. Every month, they will have weekly reports and daily diary submissions along with the performance tracker on multiple criteria:
Suggestions provided per month
One Point Lesson
Quick Kaizen done
E-Tag (Breakdown Anomalies recording)
TF1 – TF5 (Accident tracker)
Violation Challan (PPE Adherence)
Boost Learning (Online Learning modules – no of hours completed)
Tri-monthly review with coaches / trainers / mentors / functional heads / Operations Head / WCM / EHS / HR to assess the progress of women trainees.
Taking up roles
Post their apprenticeship, the trainees will undergo interview with the functional head along with the HR to decide on their conversion from being an apprentice to an employee.
Junior level: Lateral hires
Women lateral recruitment happens through drives across automotive / process industries. They undergo 3-5 days of induction at the World Glass Complex and visit all the functions to understand the business. The classroom session of the Mirror plant is elaborately provided in all the sections with mid review to assess the progress of employees. They are then deployed in the different sections of the plant post the final review.
Employers must take note of global practices such as parental leave and flexible hours are incorporated into workplace functioning. The idea should be to make maximum use of human resources and make a shift towards a more gender inclusive workplace. Women excel whenever they have the opportunity and conducive conditions.
The operational guidelines for engaging women employees in the World Glass complex were released to reinforce Saint-Gobain’s commitment to engage women and encourage gender diversity in manufacturing. It helps to create a positive and supportive work environment for women employees, so as to encourage them to extend their service in night shifts and to ensure that all statutory provisions are complied with, and to protect the rights of women to work with dignity and respect.
‘We Care’ leave at WGC
The ‘We Care’ leave system was introduced as part of the Wellness Pillar to foster a pro-health and supportive eco-system. This initiative is applicable to women employees of Glass, Glass Solutions, Sekurit and HOHO. The objective is to make women in the workforce feel well-cared for and create a culture of care, acceptance, trust and empathy. As part of the ‘We Care’ Leave system, women can avail one day leave per month, ‘no questions asked’, over and above the stipulated leave. They can also work from home, post aligning with their respective managers.
In order to make women feel motivated, productive and comfortable at work, multiple measures have to be adopted and policies implemented. From civil Infrastructure to safety provisions, having an enabling work environment supports women to thrive in the workplace. As part of this, the following enablers are inculcated to make change management a smoother affair:
Accommodation for three months for Tulir trainees and dedicated transport facility for the mirror teams in shifts
Revamped civil infrastructure
Women security in all shifts in the plant and escort during transportation
Women paramedics in all shifts
Unconscious gender bias is defined as unintentional and automatic mental associations based on gender, stemming from traditions, norms, values, culture and/or experience. Automatic associations feed into decision-making, enabling a quick assessment of an individual according to gender and gender stereotypes. Organizations can take steps to counteract bias; even unconscious bias in an individual does not automatically translate into bias in the workplace.
Partnering with ‘Great Place to Work’, gender sensitization workshops were conducted for male employees starting from the leadership team to the functional and shift teams. But this is a work-in-progress, and it involves recurrent sessions on gender sensitization to make diversity initiatives sustainable and make unconscious gender bias preventable.
The ‘well-being study’ on women employees of the Mirror Line
A well-being study is currently being conducted to explore different expectations, needs and well-being implications of employees. The study will come up with suggestions and recommendations to make the work environment women-friendly, more likeable, and comfortable for them to work resiliently. This study aims to:
Understand the socio-economic, functional, and emotional requirements of women employees at the Mirror Line.
Map out their challenges (pain points and barriers) faced inside and out of the workplace, hindering efficiency and work-life balance.
Women need help, especially those just starting or changing careers. One valuable source of help is strong, effective mentors. Mentors can provide a great deal of help in guiding women through the new and unprecedented challenges they confront. One study found that 87 percent of mentors and mentees feel empowered by the relationship and reported greater confidence and career satisfaction. And, it turns out that mentees and mentors are both promoted far more often (5 times and 6 times, respectively) than those employees without mentors. A mentorship programme, ‘SG Sakhi’ for the Mirror Line women is planned to be rolled out. This is because these women need someone inside the factory for them to look up to for their holistic development of career and personal front.
Women empowerment with gender equality is the key to fundamental human rights. It is pivotal in our journey towards a more peaceful, progressive and sustainable world. Evolving–and closing the gender divide–is inevitable and is being made possible through equal opportunities and equal representation for women. Women are just as ambitious as men. But in many companies, they face headwinds that signal it will be harder to advance. And finally, it’s increasingly important to women that they work for companies that prioritize flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Young millennial women are even more ambitious and place a higher premium on working in an equitable, supportive, and inclusive workplace. So, diversity initiatives such as the all-women staff at the Mirror Line at Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd are step in the right direction to drive a sustainable inclusive growth in this 21st Century India.