My Dream of a Quality Nation

As I’m writing this article the world is celebrating World Quality Day. In 1990, the United Nations promulgated World Quality Day which is celebrated worldwide on second Thursday of November each year. The idea behind the WQD is to promote quality as a driver and tool for prosperity of organizations, its people and nations.

Twenty-seven long years have gone since then. Let’s introspect how much we, India and Indians have achieved, how much progress have we made in terms of building a reputation of our country is a Quality Nation, a country that produces and offers world-class products and services that world is looking forward to receive. Time has come to look inward, whether we have worked smart enough and given our best to create an India that can be truly called – a Quality Nation.

I’m a proud Indian, a proud engineer and I have absolute pride in whatever we have achieved so far, the milestone India has achieved, our excellence in science technology and space but yet some where I think we failed our nation to elevate to a class that gets us respect of most trusted nation in terms of quality. Have we invented an innovative product and delivered to the world that creates a “waw”-“what a product what a piece of art” ! To be honest the answer is a frustrating “no”. Something then has gone wrong, we have not given our best-for sure, there were compromises for sure! There were reasons we possibly failed to overcome. The reasons could be many, I will not go into detail in this article within the short space of time, however I think the time has come that we respond to the call of our duty. We must join hands to respond to the call of our Hon’ble Prime Minister “Make in India” -to make this dream a reality. To me it’s not a political slogan-it’s a call for resurgence of India to transform India into a nation- that we would be proud of. We must rise, we have to make a pledge, on World Quality Day today, that we would work towards making a better India, in whatever capacity we work, wherever we work. Whatever we do must be world-class and some total of our work would give us the place which are National poet, our pride, Kabiguru Rabidranath Tagore dreamt “Bharat Amar Jagat Sabhai-shrestho Ashon labey” .He dreamt a dream that “my India would elevate itself to the place of supreme respect in the world”.

Well, now, we are comrades in this journey. I would like to benchmark my country to the best of the best. In my list Japan comes on top. A country that has emerged from its ruins, a country that was ill reputed for poor quality- the country of producer of defective and faulty products! In last 67 years, Japan has shown the world, they are incredible, and earned the respect of the world for its unquestionable commitment to quality, a country that learned to produce only and only outstanding products. Japanese products today are synonymous to quality. Why we can’t achieve this place? Why in spite of having far greater resources that God has granted us and blessed our country with, we cannot achieve the place of same respect that Japan has. We need to respond and answer these fundamental questions. Have we conducted our business the way we should have? If Japan, a tiny country in the world can become industrial giant, what stops us in India? A country of 1.3 Billion people? Having 7th largest geographical space ! We need quality leadership. Run business the quality way, produce and offer the best for our own people and the world. Rest all will follow.

Another country I have tremendous respect for is Deutschland. Germany has been one of the most forerunner in the quality moment of the world. In 13th Century – a directive was issued in Berlin to ensure that previously controlled and checked materials of the highest quality can only be sold. Inspectors so called “Mitmeister” are forerunner of today’s Quality Auditors or quality inspectors who used to inspect and mark the good products with Quality mark. Those were giving headaches for British products in the United Kingdom! World Exhibition in Paris in 1867, 1873 in Vienna and Philadelphia in 1876 spread reputation of German Quality beyond their border. This tradition of excellence continues till today, I am sure all of you those who are reading this article would agree 100% that Germany has been one of the most trusted name in terms of quality and reliability in the world. Look at Mercedes, Audi, BMW, these are great piece of fine arts. Look at Siemen! The list is big, truly big! I bet no one would expect a German product to be faulty. Place of respect like this is not easy to achieve, this comes with the different kind of commitments, and to be honest, I feel, this is where we need to shake up. There are good exceptions fortunately, there are organizations who have been extremely successful and enlightened the image of their own organizations and name of our country. All I’m trying to say is that there are great Indian companies, those make us proud, however few good names would not change the perception of corporate India, to make it a quality nation, we need all, all companies to follow certain minimum standards of reliability below which it cannot be an Indian product! Such is the reputation we have to make; this is the kind of pledge we need to take today. I dream this dream!

Another country that would be great to compare us with would be China. I have travelled China extensively over last 15 years for business and I have seen the phenomenal growth China has made. Every time I visit, I find it’s a different world-things got so much better! It is truly incredible to see in torrential rain at midnight, full loaded 40 feet Trailers are cruising at hundred plus kilometer per hour. The road crossings are matter of past, hundreds of thousands of flyovers all over the country makes movement non-stop- speed that is incredible-speed that is taking a nation forward ! We are falling behind in the race, every time I visited, I felt the same painfully, we are slow, we have not learned to be fast, our roads limit speed at 40! We did everything to slow movement down! We delay projects, and thereby make loss for us and for our clients, we lose their confidence, ruin the reputation of our own organization and our country and this is what should be non-negotiable.

Good news is, China does not enjoy the reputation of an unquestionably reliable country for its quality. Trust me this is also not true, China produces products those are comparable to the best in the world and those are not cheap. Again there are products those are poor in quality, absolutely poor at times. This inconsistency is not what you would expect to see in Germany or Japan.

We therefore need to be consistent. Great every time-at least Good to start with. Fortunately, most Indian products are still treated as reliable, possibly we do not deliver on time. We are in Global Market and would be constantly compared with the best. We need create quality people, we need to move fast, build better roads and ports, improve process to produce faster, produce with better quality. We had dreamers like “ JRD”  who told us not to be “satisfied with the second best”, he told us to ”forever strive for excellence or even perfection in any task however small”. He was truly a Ratna, a Jewel of India, who dreamt big, dreamt for a nation, dreamt for organization of outstanding values, so when TATAs took over the automotive Giant from the UK, I wasn’t surprised, this was bound to happen, his dream had power, there was genuine conviction, a genuine desire to be the best in the world. So we have absolute hopes. We need to take inspiration from his dreams. When I stay in Taj, we see the fineness of Indian hospitality with world-class standard. Those hotels are not just “a place to be”, they are “The place to be”!

I would like to take the speed from China, and the traditional belief in quality from Germany, and an eye for details and perfection of incredible Japanese, in fact better and faster than them, with Indian soul of spirituality that we had been known for time immemorial and there is no reason why we can’t be. My friends –I am not telling for Indian products for export Alone-I am talking about India as a whole- I am talking about hospitality, health care and all! We are the one who told the world for the first time “Atithi Debo Bhaba “and “Basudheibo Kutumbakam”. Let us take a pledge to live this philosophy –in our lives –the best way we can-rest will follow.

So what is the roadmap? What we need to do? The first thing that we must do is to create quality minds, mind those will refuse to accept “anything less than the very best” and is willing to give and “nothing less than the very best”. We need to introduce quality education in our curriculum in its purest form. Those are running business must retool ourselves in the fundamental concepts and principles of Quality. These principles should guide our business. There can be no compromise, there can be no mediocrity, because no one wants to remember and is interested to remember the second best, yes, no one even is interested to remember the second man in the most powerful country in the world. We must adopt the Quality principles founding Quality Management system based on ISO 9001 standard in our business, because this is a collage of proven practices that good organization followed to become great. We have to follow the requirements of the standard in their true essence and meaning. Just compliance for any certification would not do and will derail us, the way it has done to many and wreaked havoc already in India.  We must go beyond; short cuts will destroy us. We must look at excellence models, for Example European Foundation for Quality Management, EFQM, for example, we must adopt those principles in our daily lives, in organizations we work for or manage and in everything that we do. A skillful and intelligent deployment of “enablers”, with the right process, with the right leadership, engaging the right people, by developing and offering the best of the products and services that our customers and the world is looking forward to, we can earn loyalty of our customers in global market and achieve sustained success for our organization and benefit our nation. This is great business. Japan with their unshakable commitment for excellence and continuous improvement has shown the world that it is possible to earn respect and loyalty yet reduce cost significantly and be competitive by improved processes, by being innovative. Imagine, they can sell their products transporting thousands of miles and can still beat the most powerful nation, America, in their own country, with more attractive and reliable product at more competitive price.

Time has come that we pull out our socks, and get set to go….and the best time is now!


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