India is famous for its ‘jugaad’ culture – in which individual skills compensate for lack of materials and technology. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this – a poor culture of dynamic maintenance. It is one thing to keep things going – often through jugaad – by innovatively fixing problems when they occur. However, preventing problems by ensuring parts are changed before expiry period, keeping a check on wear and tear, etc., is not a habit. It may be the result of economic compulsions but it often leads to the kind of tragedy that occurred in a Palghar hospital on Friday. Ultimately, the thirteen lives lost were a much higher price than it would have cost to ensure ACs don’t suddenly burst into flames. Also, the entire lifetime of effort by the promoters to build the hospital has been rendered worthless by this simple shortcoming.
Dynamic maintenance ensures this overall cost is kept low, however expensive it may seem to managers. Hiring an extra couple of technicians, ensuring good quality material is used, and keeping up with technological improvements may seem a headache, but it is worth the effort. It is also important that the regulatory authorities who prepare the various checks and audits keep up with the times and do not just continue with outdated rules. Bribe-taking is particularly a hurdle to improving conditions.
India as a nation is in a largely transitional stage – having to meet 21st century challenges with largely 20th century technology and 19th century laws and regulations. So much of business management training is merely copied from foreign curricula without considering the Indian reality. So, while managers are trained in certain elements of business such as profit making and balance sheets, they lack the anticipatory skills and basic ethics. Too often, the customer is the last person on their list of priorities. The manner in which so many sections of the medical community have shamelessly begun milking India’s present crisis is evidence of that. Unfortunately, this mindset results in bringing the entire business edifice down in catastrophic ways.
The late Prince Philip was not very off the mark when he had described a badly wired switchboard as ‘work done by an Indian’. India has come to be associated with such shortcut work – it helps in overcoming immediate crisis as ‘jugaad’ but becomes an impediment to progress if it infiltrates the general business culture. This must be quickly remedied.