Friday, January 20, 2012

Kolaveri C (or is it A/B/See?)

When I started working in the mid seventies (for, may I  add, one of today's leading  IT blue chip  companies; then,  less blue and more chip (of the old block)....),  it was customary for a company to extend its grudging admiration, to you and your aptitude (for work), to sponsor you for some kind of week long program somewhere, the more residential the better,  and I was surprised to be selected to attend an executive development program, at a leading local industrial engineering training institute. 

Contrary to what you may think, you don't have to be an engineer to attend these.  Its more about learning to seek an enhanced solution to a perceived problem, through some good analyses, brainstorming with colleagues, using all your on-the-job experiences and observations.

One of the concepts that has stayed with me since then , is something they used to call ABC Analysis earlier.  It might possibly be called by some posher name today, given the tendency of managerial folks to wallow in convoluted  jargon, to the eternal confusion of the hoi-polloi.

It was all about assigning priorities and values to things you stocked, based on the possible loss to you, if suddenly, those things were not there.  The actual cost price of the thing, was not the only thing that decided whether you would stock the item. For example, in a big hospital, a life saving drug may cost a huge amount, but you don't begrudge locking up your money in that because not stocking the drug would cost in terms of reputation  and success, and loss of more future patients.  Or some key chemical , in a factory, which costs a lot, even for a small quantity, but absence of which will hold up production. Such items were called "A" class items, and you remained very alert to these items in your inventory control.  "B" class items, were slightly less important, maybe alternatives existed, but nevertheless you defined the importance. "C" class items, were those that remained. Likes various nuts and bolts, stationery items, commonly available chemicals, spares,  and so on.  It wasn't worth it to spend inordinate amounts of time and money dealing with policies for these.

Living the industrial and corporate life, according to ABC classification  was the key to success and profitability.

Unknowingly, in the early  60's and 70's , people applied this philosophy to their lives.  Education was considered greatly essential, show was not; and so parents  invested greatly in education of their children.  That was "A" class.  Inordinate spending on "show" stuff  was properly frowned upon, even in weddings and so on.  These things were B-class.   Maybe even tending to "C".

Today,  as a society and a nation, we  have completely corrupted this concept. Priorities have gone for a toss. We ignore the real important things , and spend inordinate amounts of time and money discussing trivialities.

This entire week, the biggest crisis is what should be taken as the Army Chief's birth date .  Ministries, Courts, and political commentators endlessly speculate, who is right. It's all about 1 year.  Instead of this year, maybe he will retire next year. So we go to court, file PIL's, bring up army civilian confrontation, speculate on armed forces morale , why the PM is silent and so on.

Please.  Birth certificates are required on those born after 1989, when it became mandatory to register births. Until then it was  all about random affidavits, some one's thinking and remembrance and possibly school certificates. The army chief is in the latter category.  Where the age mentioned was likely to be approximate  anyway.  Why not find a via media, allow the army chief to complete six months into the disputed year and then retire ? It will encourage people to clarify their data much prior to last minute retirement days, and the army chief  can get on with what he is meant to do.   Does the nation not have any other issues to spend time and money on ?    Why this sudden "A" class  treatment ?

Then there is this thing about elephants. The UP Chief Minister built several parks with huge statues of herself, party heads, and hundreds of replicas of their party symbol, the elephants. While this was commented on by the authorities, but not acted upon,  as a willful "C"  class thing, despite costing inordinate number of crores,  come election time, and the thing is suddenly transformed into an "A" class consideration.  The election commission , suddenly justified and ordered the state purchase of pink plastic worth crores and possible employment of sudden hundreds,  to cover all these elephants, presumably as they would bias the public. The elephants were the same, the public was the same,  what changed ?  And has the public been fooled as yet by the coverings ?  (I wondered, why pink; but gosh, that's such a C class question....)

Has the EC  done a countrywide  study of how party symbols are being abused /not abused by various parties ?  Why has no one suggested the radical step of allocating a random election symbol to a party  only after elections are announced ?  If symbols are only to guide the illiterate in the voting process,   the party can always announce the new symbol each time they fight elections.

We catch/file court cases on  traffic constables  because they are seen accepting 100  Rs  bribes.  "A"  class bribes  in crores ,taken by  elected representatives, allow them years of freedom before a case is filed.  "A" class  attention to "C" class folks, and vice versa.  

Mumbai's roads really need  "A" class  planning  and attention.  The development of a city like Mumbai depends on excellent working infrastructure.  But we  give it "C" class treatment persisting with corrupt road contractors and unsupervised repairs. We demote the roads in importance.  Because "A" class priorities are extended to  giving unauthorized land grabbing the shuteye, in the interest of vote bank generation.

Over the years, those in power have been applying the ABC classification thing  more on a knee-jerk basis that actual analysis.

Priorities are set depending on election time and voters.   Rest of the time, we the ordinary citizens,  plod on with our "C" class lives, watching the inflation soar,  things disappear from the market because they are suddenly declared  "A" class  , thanks to another misdirected government policy.  While investing in food storage facilities should have been  an "A"  class investment, we let the grains rot in the rain, as the "A"  class folks somewhere take "C"  class decisions.

ABC classification was based on cost and importance. That assumed money was important and scarce, and not there for throwing around.

Today, money per se, itself, is the only "A" class thing. Money buys money.

Things like education, values, loyalty, gratitude, altruism, earlier all super "A " class items,  are now, simply, things  money can buy.

For everything else, you can always sing "Why this Kolaveri Kolaveri  C ".......






  1. you should really be writing for newspapers...your posts provoke so much thought!!

    I so so so agree to you on this....the birthdate thing...really its so case of my parents, there is no marriage dad went to get something for Amma, and then the registar asked him 'what is the proof that she is your wife? there is no document to prove it' Appa told him 'Wow sir, thank you for telling me after 35 years of staying together and bringing up two children both who are married, that I have been living *in sin* till date? make me look so cool' The guy shut up after that...

    seriously why this issue about the birthdate..we dont have anything better to worry about or what *Rolls eyes*

    R's Mom

    1. LOL at your Dad's reply.....

      The amazing thing is, for lack of a specific certificate, you see people making all kinds of affidavits and swearing on them. No one checks if thats the truth. And here they are fighting for 1 year....when there are so many other things to worry about.

      Thank you for your comment !

  2. Loved the post, Ma'am. And R's Mom is right....become a columnist. Take a bow for such an apt post!

  3. Excellent post and, while our countries differ in many ways, some of what you address is par for the course in the US, as well.

    Our roads, certainly, for the most part, especially in urban areas, are much better than in Mumbai. Of course, motorists and non motorists foot the bill for road improvements, with subsidies from the Federal government. Our interstate system, network of limited-access roads including freeways, highways, and expressways forms part of the National Highway System of the United States of America. I complain a lot about gas taxes, etc, but, when I drive on those good roads, I think it's a worthwhile investment, especially in a high traffic state like California.

    1. I sometimes think that there must be ABC anaylsis applied to the type and magnitude of the crime. A jaywalker and a murderer/embezzler , cannot be treated the same. There possibly need to be "levels" of crimes. But who am I to say anything....

      But thank you for writing in here !

  4. SO true!!

    Why is the focus on all the molehills while we are ignoring the real mountains....? :-(

    1. Those who focus are sometimes part of the mountain.....maybe...:-)

  5. Last heard, the elephants were on a hunger strike. Protesting against such cruelty. Imposed on them by the election commission !

    us, symbolism, tokenism. And our lives. But things will change. We dont have choice but to remain optimistic. Maybe thats option C !

    1. Sad part is this makes you lose faith and you become cynical. When i heard about the plastic coverings, i thought some one should file an RTI to find out who was given the purchase order, and were they related to "some" folks. :-) .... I bet someone made a real "Killing" as they say..

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  7. A sheer waste of public money - the statues, the covering, later the uncovering.... kolaveri A, B and C