Patience vs resignation: a fine balancing act

There is a natural timeline for several actions around us.

Ratan Tata, once again, stood out from the crowd, for his comments on the Government’s performance thus far. In the midst of dissatisfied voices around the lack of visible outcomes and change under Mr Modi’s leadership, Mr Tata urged people to give the Government ‘support and the opportunity’ to deliver on its promises. He went as far as to advise business leaders to not get ‘disillusioned so fast’ with the new Prime Minister. What is ‘so fast’ and how do we decide that that we have waited ‘long enough’?

As I think more deeply about it, I have two questions: is Mr Tata similar in his attitude towards his own businesses or was his recent stand an opportunity for statesmanship? And secondly, how do we measure ‘long enough’ or ‘fast enough’?

On the Tata Group, there is more than enough evidence that Ratan Tata has always had an independent and somewhat distinctive attitude towards businesses. Many years ago, when steel prices were skyrocketing and profiteering by steel companies was the order of the day, Tata Steel announced that it would hold its prices. Naturally, the decision had Mr Tata’s blessings. The advertising campaigns of several Group companies demonstrated empathy and social consciousness ahead of their peers. In recent times, similar stories have surfaced around the acquisition of Jaguar suggesting a larger understanding of people, society and priorities – sometimes, even at the cost of immediate benefits to his businesses. So it isn’t surprising that having moved on from active running of his conglomerate, he is even more vocal about how industry should respond to its surroundings in general, and to the new government, in specific.

Lets then move on to the next question. How long is ‘long enough’? Indulge my facetiousness for a moment. But is there point in getting impatient before 9 months are over when one is expecting a baby? Or before an hour is over when you put a cake in the oven? Or before two hours go by when you board a flight from Delhi to Bangalore’? There is a natural timeline for several actions around us.

Of course, there is more subjectivity to assessing the Government’s performance than in the examples cited above – but the point remains. What is a reasonable time to allow our new Government before pronouncing judgement given that they inherited a near-dead economy due to several years of neglect and abuse? Equally, how do we ensure that we don’t confuse patience with resignation i.e. the belief that the more things change, the more they stay the same. How do we ensure that the promises made are delivered on?

This question is best answered by us, collectively. Each one of us has years of experience running businesses – and stories of turnarounds abound. Given the difference in scale and complexity between an enterprise and our country, at least twice or thrice the time allowed to an enterprise? Most new leadership is allowed a year to demonstrate results – so how about holding our horses till half of Mr Modi’s tenure is over. And attempt to be vigilant, yet hopeful for at least another 12-18 months before we let our disillusionment overtake our optimism on the economy.

On matters of style, lack of access, transparency and dialogue, bans, witch hunts and related paranoia, I think we may have already waited too long.

That is how I feel, but what do you think? 


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