To my mind, these are the three steps in a successful project.
In many countries like India, we have excellent planning. Average implementation. And a poor follow-up. The poor follow-up reflects on the poor implementation. The result is below-average performance in many of the projects one looks at.
When I see the roads in Germany and Sri Lanka, the buildings in Hong Kong, the cityscape in Singapore, the town plan in London or on the Greek islands, I wonder why we cannot imitate them in managing our environment in India. This is not because of a lack of knowledge.
It is because of a lack of will—the inborn desire or drive for perfection- to be the best or as best as can be!
When you drive in Germany or in the US, or even Sri Lanka – you just drive. The roads invite you with an absence of potholes or poorly built speed-breakers.
I remember, over 40 years ago, Mauritius was planning to redo the whole road system for the country. They were keen on selecting a contractor from India. The minister and two others came to Mumbai to look around. But when they went around Mumbai in a car, they realised that India did not have the capability to do their project because the roads in the city were so bad!
They finally selected a company from East Europe. India lost a great opportunity because the sample of the product offered was below par!
When you go into a building in Hong Kong, residential or commercial, or a hotel, you admire the quality of construction. It is so neat. The tiles on the floors are fitted so tight that there are no spaces in between where dirt can fill over time—and, over time, these appear as black lines!
It is the same with buildings in Dubai. The result of a combination of Chinese workers with British supervision in Hong Kong; and Indian labour and British supervision in Dubai. Yet, the same is not replicated in India.
Why? Because there is no frequent, detailed supervision—so necessary to maintain high standards!
New colonies are coming up in cities like Mumbai. Is there an approved plan that allows the construction and the style and architecture to see whether it fits with the environment?
There will be a 14-storey building with two- and three-floor slum buildings around like in Mumbai, which seems incongruous.
This would be unthinkable in London. Or even an Asian city like Singapore—where the high rises have a plan in a defined area- and the old city with the low houses is maintained in its original form, but clean and freshly painted.
Why does this dissonance happen? Because there is no plan. Or there is one, but it is bribe-infested, and there is no follow up!
The pavements are meant for pedestrians. They have to be maintained so that even the elderly can walk on them safely. But, does that happen in India?
The pavements have vendors of clothing and other consumer items, selling to hordes of passers-by, from bedspreads spread on the pavement. After a period of testing for a response from the municipal authorities, they graduate to a wooden structure that is easy to dismantle and semi-permanent.
After another testing period, they graduate to a brick-and-mortar structure, which becomes a 'shop.'
With such cabins every 200 yards, pedestrians are then forced to use the road, so a two-lane road (each way) gets demoted to a one-lane road each way—the reason—no follow-up.
The commercial activity was not controlled when it was easily controllable.
Some years ago, three people died when there was a fire in a building in a suburb of Mumbai.
Because the fire brigade, which came promptly, could not access the too narrow compound. But the building plans had been passed by the building contractor and the municipal corporation, who had then issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the occupation of the apartments to potential residents.
There was no oversight to granting licences or any follow-up when the building construction was completed to see that all regulations were met. It was just three lives this time.
Wait until this kind of accident occurs in a 35-storey skyscraper, where similar carelessness has been at work!
The list of situations where lack of proper follow-up can cause loss of lives, and much of the other concurrent damage is so large that it cannot be covered in a short article.
Water supply and road flooding during monsoons, quality of construction (the roof of a hostel area of one of Mumbai’s premier technical schools fell, just 10 years after construction), food hygiene, and are the many areas where damage can so easily be controlled with efficient and honest follow-up.
We eagerly wait for that time to come. It will be the dawn of a new era! Or an old era, in my childhood in Bombay (then) I would see roads being washed every week!
Seems, indeed, like a distant dream now.
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India (FIMC). He was a corporate executive for 14 years and pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across the globe in four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books; a business columnist; visiting professor on marketing in the US, Europe and Asia. His latest books are "5 Gs of family Business" with Dr Mita Dixit and "Marketing in a Digital/ Data World" with Brian Almeida. He now spends most of the time in NGO work.)