Sucheta Dalal :Voices: Lazy Indians or people battered by bad leadership?
Sucheta Dalal

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Voices: Lazy Indians or people battered by bad leadership?  

November 17, 2004

Two interesting and diametrically opposite views on Indians and what makes them what they are. Are we a lazy lot who don’t want to work hard enough, or are we a people battling major odds. Read the views of Sameer Kelekar and Ravinder Singh. This dialoge is a reaction to the posting about railways.


We are like that only…


Acceptance of certain facts about Indians will help to set expectations rights.


By Sameer Kelekar

1) Most Indians are not very hard working. Yes, many will work hard till they are 30 and after that they will like to take it easy. Not so with Americans or Japanese. I have seen many Americans working very hard even when they are 60. Unless people work very hard, there is no way a country can progress.

2) Indians are highly individualistic, and materialistic minded. For them self comes first, then family, then caste, then community. Nation comes the very last.

3) Indians cannot work in teams very well.

4) Indians are generally safe players; they are hardly risk takers. Progress cannot come unless risks are taken.

5) Indians care more about what society will think of them rather than what they think of themselves. Hence, for them success is paramount. Failure cannot be even talked about. Hence, the reason to go for a minimal risk taking.

6) Add to it other factors such as lack of availability of finance for business, corruption etc and the picture is complete.

Of course, there has been progress on some fronts. Today Microsoft announced an $ 8 million deal with Infosys. Infosys and other Indian software companies are majorly taking advantage of the cost arbitrage between the west and here. This seems to work well; it is a low investment, low risk business. Works well with the conservative Indian mindset. Additionally, it works well because it does not need much creative talent. (After all, it has to be low cost labour.) What it requires is to learn current technology; Indians are naturally good at that.  In other words, this seems to be the strength of Indians.

All other idealistic and more creative people --- for them, it is very tough in India.

Counterpoint: It is a Question Of Bad Leadership


By Ravinder Singh


You have many misconceptions.

As I have said in my recent posting, humans all over world are born out of common stock; it is local conditions that moulded our skills and living conditions. We as humans adapt to conditions at new place very easily. NRIs working in a factory or shop perform at par with their American colleagues. In fact the very people who don’t get a decent job in India work 2-3 jobs and work much harder.


India is poor because of poor calibre of our leaders. A good general but with little resources can defeat the mightiest enemy or rival in the world. (General Giap or Moshe Dyan) And a bad general could cause the defeat of invincible army. India has so far elected bad leaders.


You have wrongly compared us with Americans. USA has a wonderful constitution; intellectual property, physical properties and freedom are fiercely protected.


Average claim awarded for patent infringement in USA is $ 92 million but in Japan, only 0.5 million. So Americans have great incentive to invent and patent. Government is there to protect each citizen in all respects, health, finances, education and businesses. Every citizen has social security. In India government is non-existent, it shows up to collect taxes. Though laws are there but only to help criminals. 


a) 1 billion Indians are charged 36% to 120% interest to start or continue in business.


b) In Bihar for example wages are as low as Rs 10/- per day and most of the time employers don’t even pay this meagre amount. Productivity linked to wages is very high in India. The same set of people work 8-10 hours daily in Punjab in all conditions where they earn Rs 60-100 per day.


c) Unlike in USA, tribal and villagers who own the land have no right over the minerals and forest wealth.


d) Indians are much more cooperative and collaborative. Very few care for India but we do care about our families, relations and community much more than Americans. Mother of my friend in USA was hospitalised for 3 days in 1986, every friend and relative in Los Angeles visited her every day. There was no one caring for an old American lady on the next bed.


e) Indians are no less risk takers either but if one is charged 60% interest for Rs 1 lakh loan and is also required to mortgage property worth Rs 5 lakh, there will be few takers.


f) Around the time McDonald started, an entrepreneur also started “Bhatura Shop” which is most delicious in the world. The former has 15,000 or more outlets worldwide but the later has just about increased production by say 3-4 times these 30-40 years. There must be hundreds of such potential McDonald like opportunities here in India but few allowed to blossom & none rivalling McDonald.


g) Its true that development of semiconductors and such technologies need huge capital outlay but India didn’t even promote food businesses where India as spice capital of the world had distinct edge for ages.


h) Perhaps you are not aware, most of our business families have declared bankruptcy in the past and run away with public money, instead of jail term for frauds, they re-established with much bigger businesses.


e) All developed countries have progressed due to the achievements of its inventors and researchers, we in India look to thugs and swindlers for development and progress. Every day GOI seek their advice and opinion.


For all this poor governance and leadership, our politicians are directly responsible.


-- Sucheta Dalal