LESSONS FROM THE PAST 12: Are Indians Too Individualistic? – Moneylife

Chess Training

The city of Mumbai is crumbling under the weight of 1.6 million people, that is, over 1% of Indias population. Half of Mumbai lives on the streets or in slums. The road system, the public transport of rails and buses, the water and power supply, and the sanitation, just cannot take this.

The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is the largest in the country, and boasts of the highest revenues. In fact, its revenue is higher in quantum than the revenues of some of the smaller states in the country. But the BMC as it is called, is also reported to be a cesspool of corruption. Most of the administrators and elected corporators feel it is their right to have a hand in the till-and grab as much as they can, so they have enough money for their retirement; or to contest the next election, and a little more. This is public knowledge.

I still remember that when the civic elections were announced for 16 February 2012, there was a wave of excitement. The atmosphere was still electric with memories of Anna Hazares historic fast for the introduction of the anti-corruption bill (Lokpal bill). Here was an opportunity to get out of the grip of political parties and professional politicians for whom politics is a commercial revenue earning career rather than a service to the community. Groups of concerned citizens with high integrity and good intentions got together and formed Mumbai 227- an organization to put up respected, concerned citizens to fight the elections in the 227 wards of the city. But can respected citizens get together and work as a team?

There are arguments about the selection; about the selection committee; there is understandable inability to field candidates in all the 227 wards; there is inability to fund and therefore a limitation on publicity and other expenses: all the problems that come from bringing individuals to form a coherent group, with each one pulling in a different direction. A role model, and an anchor the first citizen candidate to win at the last election, immediately left to start his own party. A new political party Lok Satta with the same objectives as Mumbai 227, has put up clean candidates and will fight both Mumbai 227 and the political parties on its own.

Cooperation, coordination, team working, to serve a common cause, seems to have no place on any agenda. Is it any wonder that politicians may finally have the last laugh?

And this is true of cooperative housing societies (CHS) too. I am a member of three such. Most members are so self-centred, and reluctant to give an inch for the common good, that these societies need to be renamedNon-Cooperative Societies!

It is evident from the amount of research done in our laboratories and the number of patents filed. The number is so small compared to, say, China. Good research needs good teamwork, which may be severely lacking in our research effort.

This is also evident in our sports, where India excels in individual sports- billiards, rifle shooting; tennis; badminton and chess. It begins to become difficult when it comes to doubles in tennis and in badminton. It becomes worse in hockey and then even worse in cricket, when they talk in hushed tones about the rift between MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag.

It is said that Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese work much better as teams. Indians tend to be individualistic. Perhaps they are. Perhaps we must make a big effort to change- at least in situations where teamwork is critical and important to success.

We have known about Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in Japan where MITI coordinates the work of all exporting organisations and makes sure that one Japanese company does not undercut the quote of another company in foreign projects. This ensures that both the company, and more important, the country, gains. There is willing cooperation among competitors!

We have also known that Japanese companies cooperate to run common training programs on different post retirement careers, for their employees who are due to retire. This approach makes it more economical for each company, while at the same time, helping to build relationships between participants from different companies, who may not have the same interests.

We know about the development of chaebols in South Korea, the gigantic conglomerates where each company within the conglomerate actively helps the development of another, so that ultimately the chaebol will succeed. The phenomenal growth of S Korean economy can be attributed to this concept of co-operation.

When it comes to India, we normally relate the story of the jar of crabs, which has no lid. They are Indian crabs. Any crab trying to jump out of the jar, will be firmly held back by the other crabs. These other crabs have no ambitions and are content to stay where they are and maintain the status quo. What a pity. But this must change, if we are to move forward as a nation.

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LESSONS FROM THE PAST 12: Are Indians Too Individualistic? - Moneylife

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