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In The Spotlight

Surviving through troubled times

Financial Express Article, 25/06/2012, Ganesh Natarajan

In an interesting contra-point provided on the state of the economy, Rajiv Kumar of industry body Ficci had said recently that the issue in India is not political paralysis but political distractions. The sudden momentum gathered by Anna Hazare and the IAC campaign provided excuses for the government and bureaucrats in most states to avoid taking decisions and even with the momentum now declining in public appeal, little is being done to shake decision makers out of their lethargy. Rajiv also mentioned the obsession with inclusion at the cost of growth. In a recent speech, President designate Pranab Mukherjee spoke a lot of financial inclusion and the need to remove impediments in the way of subsidies reaching the right hands. But apart from berating the corporate sector for being over critical, there still seems to be a paucity of ideas and a crisis of action to enable India to rediscover the economic growth track!

There are two positive signals for India and the global economy that hold out hope for a renaissance in domestic and global economic fortunes. A glimmer of hope exists that the European countries will finally close ranks and prevent a disorderly collapse of the Euro zone and in India, the typical deft politics played out by the UPA leader has created an interesting set of possibilities with a new occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan clearing the chair for a new FM to set India back on the course to economic growth.

Maybe the Prime Minister himself with some wise counsel from Montek, Rangarajan and Kaushik will find a way to weave some magic and save the country from stagflation and a lower deficit level without compromising the vote bank politics that is so important to a much battered UPA government. Wishful thinking? Maybe but we are talking about an intelligent group of people here who surely have what it takes to put India back on the growth track!

Meeting in the context of these interesting developments, the National Knowledge Committee of the CII had an interesting agenda to discuss when 35 of the best brains from industry and academia met in Mumbai to discuss how to widen and deepen the impact of knowledge on a larger section of society and the country itself. This Committee which has done yeoman service for CII in the last few years and organises the sell-out KM India conference every year enables chief knowledge officers to discuss key themes and also takes CII’s help to take the knowledge agenda to a larger CEO audience. The two themes discussed, the widening of the knowledge community in the country and the use of ‘best practices’ to build world class processes and systems in corporate sectors like IT services, retail, manufacturing and healthcare have the potential to provide much needed capability to students and career seekers and identify new sources of revenue and profit for companies in a soft economy.

The opportunities for ‘width’ are many. Even today the communities of best practice that exist in islands in organisations are unable to expand their influence beyond a core group because processes, technology or even the culture may not exist for knowledge sharing. The CII supported K-communities in cities in Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune have proved that knowledge seekers will always be knowledge sharers but the challenge they face within organisations is compounded when the knowledge that undoubtedly exists within the firm has to be shared with a larger community of students. CII plans this year to work with the best of the IITs and the IIMs as well as many of its member organisations in all sectors to build content that will help career seekers and use it to build the skills of all interested academic institutions and students.

The ‘depth’ imperative, of expanding best practices in one company in a sector to the entire sectoral eco-system is also one that will enable participating companies to sustain and improve their selling and execution skills and improve both revenue and profit performance. In a world without borders, the sharing of best practices can happen between firms in different countries as well. Mckinsey & Co, the global consulting leader and an active participant in the CII efforts has pioneered the Process 360 initiative which enables companies in any sector to benchmark their process capabilities in all functions with the averages of their peer group and the ‘best in class’. In a business environment where new revenues may be harder to come by at least for this year and beyond, this is a great time for companies to rejig their end-to-end customer serving processes and optimide their cost performance. CII’s agenda this year can make a big difference to firms seeking excellence even in difficult times.

Even as we wait with some optimism and some disbelief for the governments—in India and abroad, to move beyond narrow focus and perform better, the time has come to take our capabilities and our knowledge into our own hands and develop better competitiveness— for individuals, companies and the entire economy. Let’s make it happen!


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