Upgrade yourself, don’t blindly chase the masses – Q&A in DNA


Upgrade yourself, don’t blindly chase the masses – Q&A in DNA

Dheeraj Sinha, Chief Strategy Officer, South & South East Asia with the Grey Group and author of the recently-released ‘India Reloaded: Inside India’s Resurgent Consumer Market’ tells Pradyuman Maheshwari that the very things we are proud of — India’s jugaad mentality, or the fact that the country is a great, big billion-plus market place – are likely to be their undoing if companies start believing only these things to be true. Innovation and adapting to rapidly-changing tastes and conditions might provide businesses with a better chance of success.

1. We’ve always had ‘Jugaad mindset’ being celebrated, but you don’t think it speaks too highly of India and call it a handicap in the book? But it’s this mindset that has got India to where she is, right?

When I see the potential of India and where we could be versus where India is, it isn’t an encouraging story. Jugaad has meant that in manufacturing, we either imported critical machinery or copied them; we never invested in R&D. In service, jugaad means that we have little regard for standard operating procedures. Jugaad will never let us achieve excellence, it promotes shortcuts and fixing by hook or crook. The potholes on our roads which keep coming back, the several fire accidents owing to electrical shot-circuits, the incident of ward boys stitching people’s wounds in the Bulandshahr hospital are a few examples of jugaad in our everyday lives.

Jugaad may have been our answer to desperate situations – your vehicle breaks down on the road because of some electrical failure and some mechanic puts it back in motion by bypassing the fuse. But long-term growth is not about getting out of tricky situations through another trick. Unfortunately the lines between jugaad and sab chalta hai (everything is fair as far as the job gets done in the interim) are blurry. And that’s the reason I hold jugaad responsible for where India is today!

2. You’ve kind-of pooh-poohed the craze for reaching out to a billion-plus Indians. And how many products are blinded by the mass-market thinking. Our Prime Minister paints a rosy picture of ‘Demand’ in his speeches. Do you see a rise in this mindless chase of the billions?

I think from a socio-political perspective, the Prime Minister indeed has to care for the 1.25 billion populations. This is imminent when you realize that almost 600 million (census 2011) of this population doesn’t even have access to clean drinking water and toilets. But the business and marketing community needs to realize that there isn’t a consuming class out there, which amounts to 1.25 billion. According to the census of 2011, not more than 56 million people own four wheelers while around 198 million claim ownership of two-wheelers. The projected size of the middle-class at 300 million is then a big question mark.

My sense is that businesses are beginning to realize this. Many businesses in sectors such as telecom, retail and auto that went on the mass-market chase are under huge debts and haven’t tasted profitability even now. Meanwhile, those who have played an upgrade game have fared much better. Brands such as Mahindra and Mahindra in utility vehicles, Zara in retail, Micromax in mobile phones are few examples of businesses doing well on the back of upgrade-market-thinking.

3. This is your second book and you have a day-job that possibly requires you to give 500% of your time. How do you manage the time to write a book… and your advise to all those who want to, but can’t get around to doing it?

It’s certainly not easy to write with all the work and family commitments. When I am on a book project, I am writing in any free time that I get – in the morning, after work, on flights, over weekends. My reason to write is that I really want to put out these debates at the center-stage. I think to be able to write 65000 words that make sense, the purpose must come from within, if you have that, you’ll definitely write your book.


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