A Junto Strategy Project
During our visit to the Welingkar Institute or “We School,” the professor giving us an overview of India noted that India was a country of paradox (i.e., the very rich right next to the very poor, a female prime minister alongside the sex trade, etc.). Her comment was a very honest assessment of the current state of affairs in India. This paradox was on full display in Bangalore: the high tech industry living with wiring that would give my electrician uncle nightmares.
Leaving the airport in Bangalore, I thought we were back in the West. The roads leading out of the airport were well paved, well taken care of and sufficient for the traffic. But it only lasted 5 minutes. For the remaining TWO hours we weaved in and out of traffic, avoided getting crushed by converging trucks and counted our blessings that we hadn’t had much to eat before our cab ride. Construction was everywhere. It was a city struggling to keep up with the growth.
The highlight of the Bangalore visit for me was the time we spent at an Indian company called GMR. The are not a “high-tech” company. They are an infrastructure company – roads, airports, energy. I will be making another post about our time with their CSR head and how they are using a foundation arm to accomplish some great things that I think we could learn from in the West. But GMR was Indian. They had learned from the West, but I appreciated that they had kept what was good about who they were as Indians and used the exposure as additive versus whole-hog replacement (which was the sense I got during our visit to GENPACT – a GE founded company in Bangalore that has been spun off).
Here is just a sample of some thoughts I captured from their CEO who came and spent some time with us:
Q: What are some of the unique strengths of Indians?
A: The spirituality of our people and knowing who we are. It is important to know your purpose in life and in finding balance. We are a very accepting people. This can also be a weakness at times, but overall is a strength. We are also a people of education and science. It is in our DNA. Three hudred of the top 500 companies in the world have R&D centers in India, so that DNA of physics, chemistry…of science in general is in our DNA.
Q: What are some of the weaknesses of the Indian culture?
A: We can get too attached to what we own or a particular asset that we don’t let go, even when it would be to our great benefit. As I mentioned with tolerance. It can be a virtue, but at times we can accept too much, especially when it comes to corruption and to lack of quality. We also need to be careful not to create undue dependence.
Again some honest comments by on of India’s top 50 most powerful people, G.M. Rao. I have to say that blunt honesty and ability to give an honest assessment of the good and bad was a recurring theme. Of course one of the GMR executives was quick to point out that while they are great at being honest and talking a good game; actions for progress were often elusive.
Chalk it up to the Indian Paradox.