The ANALyst

Leverage, optimise, synergise

The Strange Ways of the Emerging Economy


Every country, every region, every culture in the world is different and to be able to survive and thrive in a globalized economy one has to be able to adapt to and learn the best aspects of these differences in a nimble manner.

I think the above line sums up my learnings from the Emerging Economy so far. Leading a team in the EE has proven to be very different to leading one in my former habitat. What struck me as very odd was a lack of punctuality, a lack of general professionalism towards colleagues and work, an unwillingness to question authority and general chaos. Surely, that can’t be all there is to it. You do not become one of the world’s fastest growing economies by having attributes like the ones mentioned above. What then, is the truth? Is there something I did not see at first? Does something lie beneath?

‘The truth’ is something that I am still discovering. What I have learnt is that yes there is chaos, and a lot of it, but beneath the chaos, the system somehow just works. Let me explain with a typical general example:

Deadline for Project ABC is say 10th of December and the estimated effort altogether is 400 hours over 2 months. If you were to check the status of the progress of the project on the 1st of December, you would be shocked to see that the project is not even 20% complete. When questioned, the team members will give you an ‘it will get done, why on earth are you worried’ kind of look. There is absolutely no sense of urgency whatsoever. Schedule a meeting and I can guarantee, 20% of the team members will not turn up with no explanation given and the rest will be late.

Fast forward to December 8th – the situation now is completely different. The entire team is present, usually closed up in a meeting room with expressions on their faces that you could easily mistake it for a war strategy planning room. The work will continue nonstop until the last minute and 59th second before the deadline. And guess what, by 0 hours and 0 seconds, it will be complete. How? It is something that needs to be seen to be understood. What if unexpected events or challenges turn up? They do, and the methods, innovations and ‘work arounds’ used by the team members to resolve them can only be described in one word – brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!!!

Despite all the chaos, despite the lackadaisical attitude, everything just works. And the quality of the final result is at par with any I have seen anywhere in the world. The innovation used to complete 400 hours worth of work in 48 – unparalleled. The entropy extends far beyond the workplace to every aspect of life in the Emerging Economy – roads are completely broken, road discipline is not followed, yet the traffic flows; police is corrupt, yet crimes are largely contained; facilities and staff at educational institutions are woefully inadequate, yet the Emerging Economy produces the most number of engineers in the world each year; there is no infrastructure, yet the world’s largest (and smallest) corporations are setting up shop here; the cost of labour has increased manifold since outsourcing began, yet the companies haven’t left; the government is pathetic and spineless, yet the country strives forward; there are people living on a dollar a day, yet they have a smile on their faces.

This country fascinates and intrigues me everyday. I have never seen anything like it before. It can be frustrating, annoying, painful, stuffy, chaotic yet it is beautiful and mystical. I would never recommend the Emerging Economy’s style of work anywhere else in the world – it just wouldn’t work. Yet, when I see it here it is amazing. This is what makes the Emerging Economy truly unique.

It is the differences, not just the similarities, that we see in each other that make life beautiful. It is important for us to accept, learn and understand these differences in order to create harmony.

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December 2, 2009 - Posted by | Emerging Economy, General Rambling, Life

3 Comments »

  1. I think that below article refers somewhat to your post… 😉 http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/dec2009/id2009121_864965.htm?link_position=link1

    Comment by student | December 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. Yes it does appear to be very similar. I have indeed heard of the term “jugaad” being used a lot. Some of the comments in the article do seem to suggest that the word has a negative connotation and usually results in the loss of quality. What the comments fail to address is that sometimes, you just don’t have the resources to do top quality work and you have to settle for compromise. This is true in the New World, the Old World and the Emerging Economy.

    Comment by banalyst | December 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. As a person who is born,studied and now working in one of the world’s best tech companies, i can actually write a paper based on my experience and analysis. 🙂 Let me stick to the below few points.

    1. Unity in Diversity is one thing which we are taught with great emphasis in school. So this gets extended to living in a society with millionares and BPL people!
    2. There is a phrase called,”chalta hai” (which i hate the most) and that is applicable everywhere, everyday and used by almost everybody.
    3. We are so used to chaos,corruption and all negatives. While people admire Singapore for being spotlessly clean, the same and ofcourse the NRIs come back here and throw banana peels out of their tinted car windows,without even caring about the adjacent 2 wheeler.

    And regarding your 400hours effort getting completed in 48hours, i’ll first doubt the effort estimates 🙂 Secondly, while i agree that we are brilliant,it is one pocketful… there is still less of innovation happening here…we are still the implementors, not creators. One example is look at the number of Phds produced by the same colleges which spew out so many engineers…even the less number of patents filed by companies from here.

    Having said all this, whenever i went onsite longterm, i get country sick and whenever my manager asked me to shift there, somehow i end up saying no because of this stupid country.(and hopefully that is going to change soon)

    Comment by afan | December 9, 2009 | Reply


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