Confusion Compounded

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Confusion Compounded

Monday, 04 January 2021 | Vinayshil Gautam

It is obvious that skill development in servicing instruments has not kept up with the efforts put into pushing the demand for products Culture defines several behavioural traits and explains many social groupings. However, the concept of culture itself is elusive. Many notable thinkers, including the likes of poet TS Eliot, attempted to define it but left the discourse incomplete. Herein comes the role of thought. The components of the definition of an idea or word may be elusive, incomplete or both. However, everyone knows with some approximation what it means when the word is used. The meaning becomes clearer when it is used in a context and there is a shared approximation in its use. However, this approach cannot work in a product maintenance situation

From issues of verbal or ill-equipped fuzziness would arise a multiplicity of approaches to an obvious reality. Whereas this could work in matters of definition of “culture” this kind of mindset cannot work in matters of product specificity. That requires precision and the ability to diagnose with exactitude. However, characteristics which govern perception acquire the trappings of reality. They also become the assumptions of further logical exploration, as in the case of culture. Hence, a premise which by itself is an approximation becomes the foundation of logical derivations. It also, at times, becomes the bedrock of other definitions and work approaches.

An illustration would help explain the point. Any discussion on Indianness inevitably starts veering towards culture. Irrespective of differences of opinion, most people have a gut understanding of the making of an Indian. To put it more directly, an Indian and an Arab, in a conversation with each other, can be easily distinguished.

Further India (which has a defined identity and an amalgam of many subcultures with a substratum of identifiable traits) has no one city as its cultural capital. It just has an identifiable political Capital. India had several cultural conglomerates recognised as cultural centres through centuries. The plurality of definition works in this case but not in a product situation. Trouble arises when the mental conditioning of one situation starts permeating a totally different context. Confusion is compounded when this break does not impact sales of given products because the product that is being acquired is often for upping the “status index” rather than for efficiency of work

In France for example, the situation is different. Paris is not only its political capital but the cultural capital, too. Hence India and France even though identifiable nation States have different frameworks of cultural and techno-political operation. This has its impact on technological product orientation.The matter could be ignored if vagueness in culture did not influence the skill formation behaviour of another sector, that is maintenance of technological products.

Consider the all-pervasive drumming up which is going on in India on digitalisation. From Netflix to iPhones, from visualisation products to Information Technology ones, the market is flooded with numbers, brands and other varieties. The manufactures are laughing all the way to the bank because at any one point of time there can be five to six generations of say, either handsets or television sets available. People buy various products not necessarily out of any deep understanding of their defining features but also because of the status that goes with their acquisition. If you have two handsets of a given brand of different generations, both of them loaded with telephone numbers or ID details, both of them would be open to storing the data in the cloud. If the customer presses the key for “sync” a merging of the numbers or connect-catalogues would take place. If someone, then, called on a number both the phones would start ringing and then you might as well have only one handset.

The outlets, even in metropolitan cities, may not be able to handle this issue. One then proceeds to a given service centre where, possibly, a professionally-trained storekeeper has moved over as the technical head. S/he tries her/his best to work through trial and error. Sometimes this ability of stumbling through works, sometimes it doesn’t. As a result, a serious amount of money invested in two handsets gets tied-up. Yet all this does not seem to affect sales. It is obvious that skill development in servicing these instruments has not kept up with the efforts of pushing the demand for the products. Yet few see this as a problem. Else the manufacturers, the distributors or the users would be attempting to sort out this major shortcoming in servicing. Is it possible that this culture of accepting the inability to define clearly and trying to survive by trial and error has permeated the product world, too? Is it possible that this absence of clarity of definitions and roles has given to the Indian market of technological products a strange veneer? The jury is yet to return with a solution to these complex contradictions and show the way to a composite approach.

(The writer is an internationally acclaimed management consultant. The views expressed are personal.)

 

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