'STAR' may usher in 'true' quality in corporate India: Management guru Subir Chowdhury

In times when most of the multinational companies are looking at ways to retrigger growth and failing frequently, here comes a strong piece of advice from the US-based management guru Subir Chowdhury.

In times when most of the multinational companies are looking at ways to retrigger growth and failing frequently, here comes a strong piece of advice from the US-based management guru Subir Chowdhury. In his new book titled The Difference, Chowdhury pens the reasons why businesses need to become good and caring. Business Today's Anilesh S. Mahajan met him for an insight into the new mantra. Edited excerpts.

Taking cues from your latest book The Difference and going by the recent statements of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking homegrown players to ensure quality to compete with global majors, this trait seems to be the key factor that can push Modi's "Make In India" campaign. So what should Indian companies do to improve their efficiency and quality?

India needs to ensure 'quality' in both products and services. And to do so, it must focus on changing common people's mindset towards quality. Every citizen must be aware of the importance of quality. Most Indian organisations in private and public sectors feel that quality merely means 'quality control' or 'quality check'. For instance, lots of Indian companies have ISO certifications in place, but they only offer poor-quality products and services. The reason behind this is: The majority of their employees do not have the 'caring mindset' that drives quality.

I define 'true' quality as the combination of people power and process power. Quality must be practised by the people every day at home or workplace or within the community. Once people have the caring mindset, they can develop good processes or fix broken processes. Coming to the Prime Minister's "Make In India" campaign, I believe 'true' quality must be leveraged as the foundation of everything that India does. To boost mass quality awareness, my alma mater IIT-Kharagpur has recently established the Subir Chowdhury School of Quality and Reliability (SCQR), the country's first full-fledged school on quality. Both people and process quality will be taught there.

When the world is stagnant or at least is in distress, what is your advice to the big MNCs, especially when they are looking at new territories or new avenue to retrigger growth? Is Asia, and India in particular, part of the game plan?

MNCs must concentrate on 'local' innovations and providing values. Most companies suffer as they just focus on making money or delivering profits rather than delivering values to users. MNCs must be innovative and should always think about the values their products or services can generate for their customers. If they continuously provide values to customers, profit will follow and growth will come.

Another critical point is: Most MNCs fail to deliver 'consistent quality'. Think about the recent product failure by Samsung. Indian MNCs must learn from global giants like Samsung. Also, the quality of services provided by the Indian IT companies have deteriorated drastically over the past five-six years. Indian IT companies hold leadership positions globally, and they must concentrate on employing the best talents to satisfy customer needs at all times.

Most of the suggestions, collectively called 'STAR' in your book, say that the first and the obvious answer is--they must be followed and they may work in certain ecosystems in a capitalist world. Do you think the concept of caring or the STAR suggestions may not deliver the desired results when it comes to the daily routine of a company? Is there scope for another solution or broadening the thought you have mentioned?

STAR stands for Straightforward, Thoughtful, Accountable, Resolve. It represents human attributes without any geographic boundaries. These attributes can work at any company, be it in Kolkata, Copenhagen or Chicago. I have seen lots of Indian men and women who have these four qualities. The challenge here is it's the leader's job (in both private and public sectors) to practise those attributes first; otherwise, they may not able to impose them on their people. The beauty of STAR is that any human being at any position can practise and demonstrate these four key attributes. These four qualities are the foundation of the 'caring mindset'. Make In India will be successful ONLY when most Indian citizens will individually practise these four human qualities.

Along with STAR, do you think some other concepts also need to come in to make modern corporate houses more caring and different from what they are nowadays. If so, can you share a few of those concepts?

I think STAR is the foundation for caring mindset. In each of the elements of STAR, different human qualities such as honesty, integrity, listening, empathy and many more are integrated.