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archive: Lessons from Kargil

Lessons from Kargil

Ganesh Natarajan
July 15, 1999

    Title: Lessons from Kargil
    Author: Ganesh Natarajan
    Publication: Mid-Day
    Date: July 15, 1999
    The absorbing tales of Kargil have brought the nation together like
    never before, with Indians from every strata of society bonding
    together to support the brave soldiers fighting on the craggy peaks.
    In our own organisation, we suggested a month into a conflict that
    every employee should consider donating a part of their salary to the
    cause, only to find that across the country, most of our young,
    trainers and administrators had already sent a day's salary and many
    centres had even decided to donate a portion of the student fees.
    There can never be a better opportunity for the powers-that-be in the
    country to tap this unprecedented togetherness and try to bind the
    country together towards many common causes in the future.  There are
    lessons to be learnt from this for the information technology (IT)
    industry, too.  The zeal that makes so many 22 - and 23-year-old
    platoon commanders/second lieutenants, fresh out of the National
    Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy, lead their men on
    suicidal missions up into the mountains show the indomitable spirit
    that still pervades the Indian youth.
    Contrast this with the self-serving greed of many of our H1B types,
    who have loyalty neither to the motherland nor to the company that
    sent them abroad in the first place and one wonders whether a new
    management practice can change the approach and attitude of these
    young mercenaries.  Can many of the innovative business leaders in the
    IT industry get these youngsters to drop their cynicism and
    USA-or-bust approach and instil some passion and dedication in them? 
    And without the crutch of stock options and other American
    The other major learning from the unfolding of events in their war is
    the benefit of planning for any major project.  In the initial stages,
    the Indian army seemed to have been caught napping, but soon, the
    benefits of planned aggression enabled significant victories to be
    achieved at minimum cost of human life.  Did anybody relate this in
    the corporate context to maximising revenues, profitability, capacity
    or resource utilisation and return on net worth?
    And how about effective corporate communications?  Not only have the
    prime minister and finance minister done a diplomatic job par
    excellence (contrast External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh's
    demeanour with Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's miserable
    performance in the BBC Hardtalk show), the Jassals, Bikram Singhs and
    Ganeshes of the army and air force have outdone North Atlantic Treaty
    Organisation's Jamie Shea in providing objecting and clear reports on
    the daily progress of the conflict.  Some of our company spokesmen who
    flounder and exaggerate both achievements and plans to the press and
    financial community can learn many lessons on clarity and
    forthrightness from these heroes.
    Talking about professionalism, I recently witnessed two ends of the
    spectrum in the same week.  Appearing on the Good Morning India Show
    on Star Plus, I was pleasantly surprised at the impeccable
    professionalism of the NDTV team in a city where one learns to accept
    delays and laxity as a way of life.  Not only did the pick-up happen
    on the dot, with impressive walkie-talkie confirmations from vehicle
    to studio, the whole process was so well-planned that one felt that
    this must be the US Good Morning America Show, and not an Indian
    effort.  A great job by the whole NDTV team.  India needs more firms
    like this to achieve true globalisation.  Contrast this with the
    lackadaisical customer approach of one of Mumbai's leading private
    hospitals.  For a simple procedure, which took eight minutes, the
    whole process of "computerised" admissions, billing and discharge took
    a cumulative 70 minutes.  And they blame it on the computer and
    proudly point to a poster which is now over six months old, when says
    "We are installing a new computer system.  Please bear with us if
    there are delays."
    Back to Kargil, and one cannot help admiring the sheer guts of some of
    our intrepid TV journalists like Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai, who
    have literally left no stone unturned - in Kargil or Islamabad, to get
    the latest news to Indian views.  And these are no CNN neutral
    Americans reporting from Baghadad on the Gulf War, these are Indians
    sitting in enemy territory and risking life and limb for a cause.  As
    an American friend who was recently visiting us said, "The American
    themselves will learn lessons from the way your country has handled
    this war.  No American general risks the life of American soldiers if
    he can help it, but in showing such fearlessness and near Kamikaze
    capability in this war, your people have shown Americans a new way of
    proving what patriotism is all about."  Well done, our brethren in the
    armed forces.  And well done, India.  We have shown the world that we
    too are a proud nation and global leadership will not be denied.

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