Aid or Trade?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Britain will soon be taking a call on the 280 mn Pound a year development aid it has been providing to India.

A bit about it: UK considers India to be a key strategic partner, and it also realized some years ago, that while India has been growing at a rapid pace, it still is home to one-third of the world’s people who live below $1.25 a day, and the average income is one-third of China’s. They also identified 8 states in India where 65% of India’s poor resided. Three of these states, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa became core focus states for UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).

Now, despite the economic crisis and slowdown that UK has been facing for several years now, it has been benevolent enough to offer an annual 280 mn Pound aid to India.

But are we Indians so ungrateful and unconcerned, through this period, and now when UK is re-assessing that aid (perhaps reduce it or pull it back altogether), we act like a bunch of stupid bums with our ridiculous comments:

When Pranab Mukherjee was Finance Minister, he had dismissed British aid calling it “peanuts”.

Today, P. Chidambaram says we did not need the aid.

Both he and Khurshid have been chanting things like “Aid is past, trade is future”.

Why the hell did we take it if we didn’t need it? And why show unnecessary attitude towards the UK in this regard? When initial discussions for the aid were taking place itself, we could have told the British minister heading DfID that we could take care of the finances for initiatives to those 8 of our Indian states ourselves, and that we perhaps could use their assistance with regards to ensuring that our finances have maximum benefit to those 8 of our states. We could have told the British that they could either focus those funds inward, towards benefiting their own economy, or perhaps towards countries much more in need of the aid, instead of us. But did we do any of that?

On one hand, we have a scam surfacing ever few weeks, which proves that there is sufficient and more funds to focus not only on 8 of our states, but on all 28 of them plus the 7 union territories, and yet have some funds for similar initiatives abroad, where we could offer aid to needy countries.

But we were, and perhaps will be, too busy filling our own pockets to bother.

Greed in itself is bad, but greed accompanied by this kind of ignorant arrogance, much worse.

Compromise? Don’t!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Compromise? Don’t!

Several foreign countries have been following the professional hire-n-fire policy for several years if not decades, now. We Indians on the other hand, still go strong on references and the ‘chalta hain’ (a Hindi phrase meaning ‘it’s alright, no big deal’), ‘adjust maadi’ (maadi is a Kannada word meaning ‘to do’, in this case, asking someone to adjust) and ‘ki farak paenda’ (a popular Hindi phrase meaning ‘what difference will it make’) attitude.

Do you think Infosys would have been what it is if they fed their ever-increasing hunger for talented workforce with just about any relative, friend or a friend of a friend? Sure they would’ve filled seats in a jiffy, but I strongly doubt Infy would’ve made it even half as far.

I remember some elders telling me years ago, that it’s all about networking, all about the contacts you have, etc. And sure it worked brilliantly when I was watching the Godfather movie. All the ‘offer you can’t refuse’ and ‘I will call upon you to do me a service in return’; but it doesn’t seem to have a very good effect in the corporate world. If favours are done or asked for in any manner that’s less than at what they call ‘arms’ length’, it is, without doubt, going to compromise on something.

Close friends don’t feel uncomfortable in declining requests if they have reasons to. And they feel comfortable in expressing the inability to do so, and it doesn’t in any way, affect the friendship either.

But in our rat race, we have really gotten programmed with the whole ‘doing a favor, asking a favor’ routine. So much so, it is second nature. Often at the cost of compromising on something else. Ki farak paenda after all, aye..?

And don’t you feel its way beyond time that we Indians graduated from call centre jobs? Even if we were considered good at being the ‘back end’ to the world (no pun intended). I ask you now – can you think of any one company, where you’d feel genuinely satisfied with the level of service, were you to call their helpline? Hell, even I’ve worked with a call centre, years ago, so I know what I’m talking about. And believe me, in the past few years, interacting with call centres of the likes of biggies like Vodafone, I can genuinely relate to the frustration and helplessness that foreigners may have felt over the years, when we’ve struggled to ‘resolve an issue’ for them.

And while I still have some hilarious memories from work at the time. For instance, the general process was flawed then, and it is flawed now. So after almost a decade of BPOs, the least we could have done is worked on and simplified the process? Made more sensible options on the IVR? Or made agents more efficient at what they do? Perhaps taught them to ’empathize’ with customers rather than doing a mindless line-by-line delivery of a script? And finally, if it isn’t too much trouble, ensure that the ‘issue’ was resolved? But I guess ‘woh bhi chalta hain yaar’.

So put a bunch of ‘chalta hain’ attitude people in a company, and what do you get? Then put a bunch of companies with a large number of ‘chalta hain’ attitude employees in them together, and what do you get? And while we’re at that, what if we have a nation with several such companies, then what do we get?

What I’m guessing is, a strong probable cause for the next slowdown, where there is a strong possibility that India would play host, because employees and organizations compromised on several little things, and just drifted along, till a point where, just like the gig at the CWG, products, services and efforts start collapsing in front of bigger audiences.

Compromise then, just became a real dangerous word for me right now, something representing slow degradation. How about for you?

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