Peter Drucker once said “Culture eats strategy for lunch”. According to him, it is imperative for businesses’ to amend, modify, accommodate their approach into the overall sense of the place and its people, sans compromising on the core values. Hence we have had the emergence of catch phrases like “think global, act local”, “Centralized planning and decentralized execution” etc. People that don’t understand the cultural aspect of a particular geography are sure to fail with their strategy while a few of them who end up pushing the envelope far enough in trying to know more, have no strategy left at the end of it all.
I have had this challenge with our business in Gujarat. Historically, it is India’s business capital and has the largest count of billionaires with their permanent address here. It has contributed significantly to India’s GDP over a long time. Here, monetary gain is of prime importance; Most times with and occasionally without value creation. It is the breeding ground for Indian entrepreneurship and has a large diaspora of people migrate successfully into various business in different parts of the world.
Things As They Are
As a salesperson managing a region, Gujarat for me is not just unique and enigmatic, it also presents an opportunity to exhibit my deep rooted fascination and desire to lay the ground rules for operational efficiency in an otherwise appropriate yet a disordered place. An initiative that I pride myself for having successfully implemented for many small and medium business’ across the country. Yet this is one place where I have been mired in the constant dilemma of what works best and what not. For a large customer segment, things like Vision, Mission and Values are covert ideas never to be scripted down in the company annals. Yet when the same SME transforms itself to a large entity over years, sticking to some of its principled, workable yet archaic practice, this becomes the most evident piece of document. Culturally as well this stunning contrast is visible in every sphere of an activity. A modern office desk with Mac’s and smart boards will still have dilapidated walls and fractured chairs. The toilets will have commodes without flushes. Its people have taken quickly to modern technology yet its business has the highest number of old industrial platform in operation. Each day in Saurashtra (western part of Gujarat), the traders are consumed by a 4 hour noon break but still deliver highest productivity among any in India, there by becoming a hub for ancillary automobile entities. It celebrates the maximum number of festivals and rewards its people with day offs, yet it is considered to be a vibrant industrial hub. Socially and legally it is a dry state but has made me witness to the largest number of alcoholics.
There is a brazenness among the customers and partners of Gujarat, sometimes even militaristic which in my opinion is more used as a reactive mechanism in trying to get their way through. Having said that, the customers seem to have their nose and ears all at the right places and have invariably always known the correct number of the last dice hiding in my pocket. I am yet to figure out whether it is the ” Gujarati Gut” at work or whether they have sleuths and moles planted not just in my office but also my brain. During negotiations, they keep you ‘just interested’ with an offer that is within a striking distance, yet far away from where you desired to conclude throwing you into an eternal contraption of “to do or not to do”. Contracted deals always have a tendency to be a “win-win” for both parties but in case of Gujarati customers it is generally a “win-win but not so happy “ for me.
Business Strategy Dilemma
No one strategy has ever worked successfully for me in the region. If I went for optimal reach, I saw my value added business dipping. If I restrained my sale to productive pockets, I lost out to what could have meant a newer business for me. If I did both, I had immeasurable conflicts to deal with which threatened to derail plans and objectives. Hence after thoughtful contemplation and a subjective assessment, I decided to do nothing and let it be. After an initial hiatus, it all started coming back. Some alien force magically conspired to just get things happening. So much so that it has now started to build up like a rolling snowball becoming bigger and bigger as it moves forward. Living up to the billing of it really being one of the most progressive and fastest growing business states of my region.
It is generally said that the Indian market is known for its chaos, randomness, unpredictability, incoherence and Gujarat may be slightly more exaggerated. With an uncanny knack for business and a spirit of entrepreneurship you will find hordes of middlemen, traders and host of other people close looping the entire value chain. This in turn benefits the customers who in the end get the best available product at the best available price. As for me now, it’s the “Let it Be” that reigns supreme. If that were the case I’d rather cool my heels continually with malts and cashews swinging to John Lennon and quietly burying Peter Drucker in the empty channels of my bookshelf.
An After Thought
I was running late in trying to make it to the return flight from Baroda to Mumbai. Worse, I had lost my way and sought help from a good looking, seemingly intelligent man on the road. He helped me out with precise directions and gauging my need to get it right, quickly attempted to pitch in with his great “navigational tool” that would never delay me again. 30 seconds and he was done. He might not have pitched in accurately but did create a lasting impression on my mind. He did take my number in a flash and is now effectively connected to me. I do not know whether I will buy his product ever; but one thing is for sure, he did make me realize; For a Gujarati, “Value can be created through every small activity and opportunity lies in every interaction”.