Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reliability and lessons learnt

One aspect which you will learn to deal with  you on your return back is what I would call the reliability factor of people in India. Here are some of my experiences in various situations.
  • Directions from pedestrians: There have been a number of instances where I have had to stop and ask for directions on the road from random people. Due to lack of appropriate sign boards and the ever changing rules (in terms of one-ways and blocked roads), getting directions from passerbys are sometimes a necessity. What initially surprised me was that everyone seemed to know exactly where I was headed with confident nods and answers. Pleasantly surprised, I would heed their directions only to find myself stranded in the completely opposite direction. People never seem to say NO to a question - but in the eagerness to help often times send you the wrong way! Lesson Learnt  -- Ask for directions 2 or 3 times to make sure they tally up.
  • Coworkers and employees- My experience here again was similar. People were either afraid to say "no" or "I don't know". Be it the fear of admitting ignorance or an unwillingness to do something, the first tendency was to say yes and figure out things later. Often times the 'later' would never come and would lead to missed deadlines and wrong directions with work. Lesson learnt  -- Double check  folks understand what they're signing up for and encourage saying no when necessary. 
  • Real estate agents -- Anyone who would narrate their experiences with real estate in India would probably recount some unpleasant encounters with their realtors. I happened to buy some property a few years ago while I was visiting. Given the time frame I had we had engaged a 'known' realtor who would help us out. We ended up seeing property after property, but when it came down to meeting the owners for negotiation, the owners were no where to be seen. Only later were we told that this was a common bait and and hook tactic used by realtors. They bait you with lots of property which aren't really for sale, claiming exorbitant prices for them. then they show you the one they're really trying to push with a lower cost. In comparison this looks like a steal and you're hooked. Lesson learnt - there's no such things as a quick investment in real estate. Homework is key. I'm working on a blog post on my property buying experience, so stay tuned for that.
  • Vendors,  Business partners and customers -- I could write a chapter on this, but one that springs to mind was with a vendor, a fairly large established company that takes up machine building and fabrication. We had contracted out some lab equipment to them and were working on a tight deadline. One of my engineers was following up closely with their progress. One milestone was to examine the equipment before it was finished to approve the design and functioning. He takes an appointment and double checks before leaving (with the owner of the company) that it's ready for inspection. To his surprise when he arrives - the machine isn't there. He was given some lame excuse that his supplier didn't deliver the machine. I was so pissed that I confronted the owner on the phone and what was shocking was his lack of apology or regret. He flat-out denied that he said the machine was ready for inspection. Lesson Learnt: Find a vendor/partner you trust and don't let them go. 
However in light of these experiences and frustration - I noticed that reliability which was until then taken for granted -- presented a huge opportunity to differentiate. Realiability has been a mantra which I periodically bring up with my team. Putting this in practice has been a challenge, but one which is slowly yielding results. We have good feedback and trust from customers. One even recently mentioned to me that they had recommended my firm (Qualitas) to their management as a company not to be lost at any cost. Lesson Learnt - Don't take reliability for granted.

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