Do not reinvent the wheel. If someone somewhere has done it well before you, replicate it – that is the present day business mantra. Knowledge management and best practice sharing are accepted norms in businesses these days.And with our high technological and communications capabilities, it is as easily done as said.
But here is a different perspective. It says that India has done well in many industries because it has not followed the norms, and often tried and tested methods, of similar industries elsewhere.
They’ve learned to question the basic concepts of their industries, an attitude born of collective experience. For decades after achieving independence in 1947, India imposed severe restrictions on the capital private companies could tap, the technologies they could import, and the foreign exchange they could hold. So the best ones learned how to devise ingenious, low-cost solutions to their problems and even reimagine industries such as software services.
I tend to agree. India is different and things that work there often tend to be different from those elsewhere. Acknowledging, accepting and using those differences to the best advantage have been instrumental in many of India’s success stories. The article goes onto cite many examples of radical Indian business models, including Bharati’s deep outsourcing strategy, Tata’s On-Demand cars and ITC’s e-chaupal (electronic town square).
Even if you dig one level deeper and look at the day to day workings of a company, India is different and in my opinion, that has stood us in good stead. A friend who works in an MNC and has to deal with countries all over the world used to gripe that all their businesses in all countries can be compared in one single excel table, save India – because India has to be measured by different metrics and almost always had anomalies. Systems that Indian subsidiaries of MNCs use tend to be home developed rather than the usual one-fit-all model that is forced upon every other country – because development is cheaper in India and the end product is much better customized for local needs. Often faced with lower budgets (before the recent realisation of India’s potential by the rest of the world), Indian companies have really learned to scrape the bottom – “waste not want not” is ingrained into most Indians even at a young age – and they grew up to be great at managing costs and finding new ways to streamline processes to maximise efficiency.
On a personal front too, I have always felt India is secluded. When I am outside of India, I watch world news. When I am in India, I watch Indian news. And no one really seems to care all that much about what happens outside of India – at least not to the extent that the rest of the world is nosey about the remaining rest of the world. Now, I admit this could be skewed, because when I am in India, I am usually in vacation mode and not really concerned about world events. But then no one else seems to be that concerned either. I cant say if the seclusion and independence of thought has been more good than bad. But if it has in some way contributed to the many indigenous innovations, it certainly is not all bad. And more importantly, the concept of not reinventing the wheel may not be redundant, but at least keep enough distance to see if the wheel is the best fit for your car.