Thursday 29 March 2007

Can We Take a Few Lessons From The Koreans?


Forget about the “World Cup Debacle”! It was only a game of cricket played by 11 players. Let’s talk about the performance of our country. There is some good news for us Indians here. According to the latest survey by Transparency International (TI), India is no longer seen to be a “highly corrupt” country. India ranks 70 out of 163 nations this year against 88 out of 159 nations last year (The lower down the list, the more the country is seen as being corrupt). India scored 3.3 out of 10, with 10 being the least corrupt. Last year our score was 2.8/10. Countries with 3 and less than 3 are considered to be “Highly Corrupt”. We have climbed 0.5 points away from corruption. That’s the good news. Though many of us are subjectively aware that there is extensive corruption in our country, I am sure that many of us will be disappointed with the revelation of such a low numerical score. I was myself very disappointed. But the good thing what one sees, is that the score is moving towards the better scale, and this is a positive pointer. We have to accelerate from here to bring it closer to 10 as fast as possible.Corruption is not only a worm in our country but in every country. The Koreans have in the last few years addressed this issue with full zeal and might. It will surprise everyone that their efforts are paying and setting benchmarks for other countries to follow including India. It is estimated that they have saved a whopping $4.5 billion from going into the bellies of bribe seekers in the last one year. That’s a huge-huge amount.

How have they achieved this?

KOREAN INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION (KICAC)

It was a beginning in 1999, an Act on Preventing Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions was enacted. That was the first small step. Later in 2001 another small step was taken when the Anti-Corruption Act and the Money Laundering Prevention Act were enacted. A bigger step was taken in 2002, when the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) was established. This body consists of nine commissioners including the minister-level Chairman, three of whom are recommended by the National Assembly, three by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and three by the President. Each member serves a three-year term and can be reappointed for an additional term. It must be borne in mind that the Commissioners cannot be dismissed or removed, which assures that KICAC members have the independence to perform their duties appropriately. KICAC is a comprehensive anti-corruption body which systematically connects activities such as handling corruption reports, improving institutions, formulating and assessing policies, and carrying out education and promotion. Now this was the Government’s sheer will to eradicate corruption. Parallely, there was a movement by the citizens of Korea that gelled well with the Government’s policies. In fact the citizens movement started much earlier in the early 90s and it is this movement by the citizens that the policies for eradication of corruption were formulated by the Government.

KOREAN ONLINE E-PROCUREMENT SYSTEM (KONEPS).

October 2003 saw the introduction of KONEPS or the Korean Online E-Procurement System in Korea. KONEPS is a cyber market where public organizations and supplying companies conduct transactions. It serves as a single procurement window for private enterprises to conduct transactions with public organizations. All bidding information can be accessed at KONEPS. All procurement procedures including bidding, contract, delivery inspection, payment of proceeds and others are processed electronically via KONEPS, and related documents are exchanged online. The best thing is that and you only have to register once through that portal to participate in all biddings of any organisation. Truly a one stop counter for complete business in Korea.

KONEPS has delivered. It has brought transparency, public confidence, and efficiency in procurement and administration. All paper based forms, frequent visits of business people to government offices, sealing/ stamping of contracts, and repeated registration are the things of the past.

KONEPS has become the world's largest cyber market reaching an annual trade volume of $43 billion in 2005. Due to innovations such as the real time information provision and expanded discloser of contract details, procurement administration has become transparent. In addition, not only our closest neighbors such as Malaysia, Japan and China but also foreign countries including the US and Canada have benchmarked the electronic procurement innovation.

CAN INDIA EMULATE THE KOREAN PROCESS?

According to the Times of India, the Indian Government is seeking help from Korea on formulating our strategy to fight corruption in India. My view is that it requires a full throttle will by the Government of India. Does our Government have the will????

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday 12 March 2007

E-Governance can be one of the movers


I was surfing the web looking out for groups concerned about the development of our country and came across this group India-egov@yahoogroups.com . It has eminent and thinking personalities as members. The vision of this group is to discuss issues related to the Government's vision to make "All Government services accessible to the common man in his locality through a One-stop-shop (integrated service delivery) ensuring convenience, efficiency, transparency & reliability ".

This interesting and a good Indian think tank group was founded in Jan 2003, and after 4 years, there are only 1274 members. Yes, they filter group membership, but the filteration must be done for those people not interested to speak on the subject. The point I am trying to make is that, with almost 100 million netizens in India, the figure seems to be very meagre. We do not have the time to discuss such important topics. We must voice our thoughts and contribute in the development of our country. "Our Little drops of contribution can make a mighty India". I would request my friends to be members of such groups and contribute. Similarly, I haven’t seen any comments here. I have been getting emails though telling me that they liked it, good job.... etc etc. But I need encouragement friends through your comments and suggestions on this blog.

Coming back to the topic of E-governance... E-governance, I think can go a long way in accelerating our actions and taking appropriate decisions. With transparency associated with it, this is a big tool to reduce corruption. The implementation is the problem. True, changes are difficult to be accepted by Govt. bodies. But changes are also easier if we have a good and willing leadership. E-Governance has changed Hyderabad, railways and air-travel. Those business houses that have implemented have prospered. This was only possible because the leadership associated knew the importance and benefits and most importantly there was a strong action oriented will power. I think this is one of the greatest tools that can lever India to the top position in the world. For this, we must as fast as possible ensure positioning of the required infrastructure, train both the leadership and manpower in earnest, and set a target for implementation in every organisation.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday 9 March 2007

Customer Service and Customer Care- We need our Business Houses to Ponder


Before I write on Customer Care & Services offered by the Indian Business fraternity, let me give you examples of customer service offered by few firms abroad.

I had purchased my domain name and web hosting, online, from “Godaddy.com” which is located in Scottsdale, in US. I had also purchased additional utilities which would help me in creating a decent website. As I was a beginner to web designing & hosting, there were many questions to be resolved. I must first of all admit that, the tutorial/ help posted on their website is very detailed and easy to understand. Thick head that I am, I still had a few silly questions, for which I sent them mails to resolve. You will be surprised that I got an auto-response mail, with the incident no. and a statement of assurance that they would come back to me, with the solution of the problem within 24 hours. The most surprising and satisfying experience was that they never waited for 24 hours to end. They always responded with a satisfactory solution within 1 to 12 hours.

I would like to mention another interesting incident experienced by one of my friends about four or five years back. He had an assembled PC with an Intel Motherboard and there was some problem in the system. The exact problem could not be understood by the Service Engineers and it looked as though he had to live with the hitch. One day, while surfing the net and browsing the Intel site, he posed this issue through their website. To his surprise, he received an email with a set of questionnaires, followed by another mail requesting him to carry out certain test procedures and forwarding the results back to them. Within a fortnight of posting the results, he received a mail from the company regretting that there was a design problem and asked him to return the motherboard. He was also promised a brand new replacement mother board, which he received in a month or so. He was thrilled and went on to narrate this incident and praise Intel, when ever he got the chance.

The point I am trying to make by stating the above two incidents, can be well understood if we substitute the names of US firms above with our Indian firms…I need not to elaborate more on this, as everyone knows, how our Indian reaction would have been. In fact even if a customer care guy in India calls up to take a follow up info….we are surprised.

We have experienced hours of waiting in anguish, with the telephone hand-sets stuck to our ears, bearing that recorded female voice, in anticipation for that sweet voice of the Customer Care/Service representative. E-Mails sent through customer care are never responded. Haven’t we taken off from our work and made several trips, to get a guaranteed appliance repaired. We can count a multitude of such torturing instances by the so called Customer Care & Services. Can we count a single Indian company with a genuine Customer Care & Service support?

I was reading this article on ethics of Customer Service on the net by Ms. Susan Ward on http://sbinfocanada.about.com/od/customerservice/a/custservrules.htm. According to her “Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. And about sending them away happy – happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves and in their turn become repeat customers.” It is not that these issues are not understood by the business houses, they are, but the system simply does not work. It is only there on paper, the experience by the customer is agonising and frustrating.

The Indian industry has managed to make a mark in the world. This is the beginning. But will it sustain? If it has to sustain, and if it has to be a world leader, “The Customer Care & Service” issue needs to be addressed on a war footing. Charity begins from home.

Can our Indian Business improve? Can we have some solutions?

Labels: ,

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Media and its Responsibilities


The media in general has been a great mover in exposing corruption and hooliganism in our system. However it has also been an encouraging factor for the men treading the darker path. We have seen life stories of the dons being displayed on news channels and interviews being given by them. We are making them heroes. Yes, the TRP ratings is the issue. But the media must realise that they are doing a dis-service to their country by airing such content. You are making them idols. How do you otherwise explain that goons are elected as representatives. It is very important for the media to be responsible and aim their coverage in the best interest of the society and the country.

Tehelka had started with the sting operations in India. I salute Mr. Tarun Tejpal and his team
for the guts they showed through out the expose and the turbulent period later. This sting operation has been carried forward by certain channels. Contribution of the media in the conviction of the accused in the Jessica Lal case is examplary. There are many more instances where the contribution of the media has led to action by the Government and the authorities. However the media could have done much better. We need to have many more people like Tarun Tejpal, Barkha Dutt, Shankar Sharma, Ms Sagarika Ghouse...; We need to stop glorifying the Dons; We need to stop having long drawn programs on the movie stars; We need to talk about the real heroes who make this nation; We need more expose of corruption...Not only expose, but a media which sticks like a leach on the expose, till the culprits are convicted.

Dear friends, let us choose the best of journalists (Five) on this sixtieth year of our independence. I would request you all to comment on this article and suggest your nominations for the best journalist (Maximum 5) marking them out of 10. Please give reasons to substantiate the markings. On 15th July let us consolidate the names and publish the names. We will have another round of voting and then let us announce the winner of our polls on the Independence day. Your comments on the process of selection and nominations are also welcome.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday 6 March 2007

Poverty and Education - India


We got our Independence from the British in 1947. We are in the Sixtieth year of Independence. From then we have managed to gallop with a pace; I would call a "Lame Horse Pace". While the Indian industry has moved at some pace, this could have been much faster. We should have, by now had 100% literacy, but we still lag behind. We only have 59% who can read and write. The rich are getting richer but there is no respite for the poor.

The political system of our country has deteriorated, with cheap vote bank dependent ideologies sprayed all around. Most of the politicians look for opportunities to pull the rug from those in authority. While the ideology of the leaders during the early period was to abolish caste and maintain a harmony between different religions, the vote bank politics has created a divide between sections of the society. After sixty years of independence we should have forgotten what a low caste is; however the identification of individuals by caste is only increasing. And communal divide is getting stronger. In every application that we fill in, we still have that caste and religion titles to be filled up. This is worsening day by day and a time seems very near, of another division of this great country unless something positive is done in this direction. While we should have taken incomes as criteria for giving concessions, we have been encouraging this divide of caste and religion. Unfortunately every government has been shortsighted. The extent of corruption is visible every where right from the politicians to the babus. But yes there are regions where development is seen…Do we attribute it to the Governments? Or the credit worthy are the industry leaders and the common man who works for the industry.

41% uneducated…25% Indians live below the poverty line. And there are these politicians who live and travel in luxury, gift cars and gizmos to rich, spend millions in marriages of their kins, and have the best of security. That is what India is. It’s a shame we carry.

How do we educate the uneducated? How do we eradicate this poverty? How do we change this India?

Labels: , ,

Should'nt Our Parliamentarians be fined?


I was reading this article on the net and later heard this discussion on a news channel. Anything about cleansing the dirty part of our system interests me. And I am sure it must be interesting to many of us aam Indians. Nowadays it is "aam"..."aam aadmi budget", "aam aadmi rail" etc...It is the new political "aam"(mango) to generate votes. Well..Jokes apart, this is a good question.


Industrialist and Rajya Sabha MP, Mr. Rahul Bajaj, in a letter to the Rajya Sabha chairman, has suggested imposition of hefty sum of fine to individuals or parties instigating disruption of Parliament. For any small issue, we find that the Parliament is adjourned. How much do these Parliamentarians work? Just imagine when we were back to work to our offices on Monday after Holi, our great Parliamentarians took a day off. The also took a half day off on Friday prior to Holi. These are the great leaders on whose shoulders rest the future of our country. Are these so called representatives of our country, really concerned about the progress of our country. I wish that this debate is taken to its logical end, and the Parliamentarians are fined severly for every disruption. Can we have some thoughts from our internet friends! And can we institute mechanisms to pressure the Government to listen and act positively on Mr. Rahul Bajaj's suggestion.


Labels: , , , ,