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India Inc: Look outward not inward

I grew up in Mumbai and migrated to the US almost 31 years ago. Over these years, in my trips to the motherland, I have observed impressive changes in India Inc., who was becoming more efficient, providing more choices, improving in quality, embracing innovation, focusing on good service etc. When I say India Inc., I also mean several PSUs (Public Sector Units), who make a large part of trusted brands that millions of Indian households have come to rely on. Over the years, I can proudly say that India Inc. has improved dramatically, from what it used to be during my growing up years. And I believe there is no industry today that India Inc. cannot compete globally in, way beyond just IT.

However, to make that a reality, I genuinely believe India Inc., must become much more ‘Customer Centric’. I say that with confidence because I have spent the last 12 months in Mumbai (I am not yet another NRI [Non-Resident Indian] with a flying visit who offers improvement ideas). I have consistently observed businesses of all sizes, focus more ‘inward’ (internal processes, systems, policies, management etc.) than ‘outward’ (customers and prospects), focused more on ‘what’s convenient for them’ and NOT ‘What’s good or convenient for the customers’. There is a general, basic tendency among businesses to adopt processes, content, or technology etc., which are more convenient for them, while ignoring the customer’s convenience or needs. Initially, I thought I may be seeing this in a few businesses I dealt with. But over the past few months, I saw the pattern repeat with several other businesses. Of-course, not all businesses, but most. And it is not just large corporations, but also MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) Some examples – Receiving a bill from a company with the invoice stapled to the envelope ( I guess it must be faster and convenient for them to do it that way, but definitely a lousy experience for the customer to open the envelope with the bill stapled to it; filling out forms designed to be convenient for the service providers and not for the customer; giving out your address to a delivery provider every time, no matter how many times you may have ordered from them; businesses asking for a customer number each time you ordered something (why can’t they pull up that number based on the telephone number); providers adopting new age digital processes when working with senior citizens who are not typically adept at technology (yes, Digital India is great overall but not for certain customer segments, especially senior citizens etc.). Also, I have observed this attitude to be prevalent not just in businesses but society in general. The other thing I have observed in all these businesses is that they are generally very defensive of ‘Why’ a particular thing or process is the way it is. They defend with a passion ‘their’ system, processes, or content rather acknowledging their fault or lack of doing something. Again, it is a very ‘inward’ focused mindset. The more they do that the more the customer is dissatisfied with the product or service. And it is not just staff but also middle management and executives. If all of them put that same passion in “Customer Centricity” it will be high beneficial for their customers and hence their business. Also, I have seen this mentality not just in MSME’s but also household service staff like domestic help, drivers, cooks etc.

I am not saying at all that the businesses do not provide good personal service (most do, nobody can deny that the kind of service you get in India, you cannot get it in the West.) But providing good ‘Personal Service’ is not the same as being ‘Customer Centric’. Being Customer Centric means the relentless focus on the needs of the customers (existing and new) by providing the right products and services, processes, and technologies convenient for them. Generally, Indian consumers are not patient and are picky. The entire ‘Customer Experience’ for the Indian Consumer will be greatly enhanced if India Inc. recalibrates its superior personal service with more customer centricity. The more India Inc. caters to ‘What the customer needs and what is convenient for them’, the greater chance of providing significant value and satisfying that consumer and getting that all important repeat business.

As someone who has worked in and consulted with many world class global companies, one common thing I have observed is that they provided exemplary ‘Customer Experience’. As a son of the soil, I can say with immense pride, how businesses have dramatically improved over the years in India. But if India Inc. becomes more ‘Customer Centric’, they can be more productive and competitive – not just in India, but globally. In this digital world being ‘Customer Centric’ is not a nice PR thing to do, it is a must to remain relevant to consumers.


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