Tuesday 30 March 2010

Things Badly Made Don’t Last

Two weeks in and I’ve already settled into a rhythm of sorts. I’ve got a place to stay with my friends Urvaksh and Khursheed, and a base to work out of at the Ashoka office in Bandra. I take the fantastic new sea link every morning which gets me there in a short half hour; an amazing transformation for a journey that used to take us almost an hour longer when I was a child.

Bandra still has its leafy lanes and quiet charm in some places, but in others its a completely different animal. Fancy shops and bars and a new demographic of active young people. Much of the new development that has missed South Bombay seems to have focused here.

Still, for all the new flashiness and technology, the ‘chalta hai’ attitude to quality still persists. Things are regularly badly made and poorly put together. The old roads were always badly made and so were the electrics, but even the new malls are only half built and already in full use. Wires hang freely, just built car parks look 10 years old, and cheap new steps are already chipped. At my friend’s house, builders who don’t have a clue what they’re doing are busy smashing through walls they shouldn’t be damaging. Unqualified electricians are ripping sockets out of walls, and plumbers take wild guesses at where pipes might before taking the tiling apart.




Some obvious causes

  1. Things are built on inadequate budgets or done as cheaply as possible, so the materials used are poor quality and the labour employed isn’t skilled enough
  2. Things are built by people who will never use it, and therefore don’t personally relate to the pain of failure
  3. There is pressure to get value as quickly as possible, so things go into use before they are properly finished

The upshot of all of this is that although basically functional, much of it doesn’t work properly, and costly maintenance and fire-fighting cycles start right from day one. Over time people have just come to accept it as given, because the problem has become too huge and too endemic to manage, and the underlying causes cannot be easily addressed.

There is probably a lesson in this for people funding and delivering social programmes. Building programmes on inadequate budgets, or designing them without having spent enough time on the ground and in collaboration with the people impacted, or rushing into new initiatives simply because of perceived need, is likely to result in programmes that don’t deliver quality and never really create lasting or sustainable change.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Adventures in India: Home Sweet Home!

The heat and sunshine in Mumbai are almost overpowered by the noise of construction as I sit on my friend Nikhil’s couch, watching cricket and settling in to the next leg of my globosocial adventures, one eye on the clearly untrained workers haphazardly drilling the building wall just outside.

My flight was smooth and impressive for an Indian Airlines, with good food and a reasonably big touch screen entertainment system that was miles better than anything I flew to or around Latin America. Cheap too. Go Jet Airways!
Outside the flat at Kemps Corner, little has changed since I was a child. The flyover is as it always was; the summer haze is smoggy as ever; red buses haven’t changed; car horns continue unabated; and taxis are still the same tiny Fiat Padminis we used to squeeze into as children.


Tomorrow I’ll pick up the phone and start calling friends I haven’t seen in ages, and on Monday the social adventures will start as I get in touch with the people and projects who’ve contacted me over the past few months. If you’re reading this and have any suggestions or connections, let me know.

In the meantime, the IPL juggernaut is swinging into full flow with the Mumbai Indians playing Rajasthan, and Harbajan Singh and some random woman say hello from a massive billboard outside our window!


Monday 1 March 2010

Video Presentation: Globosocial Adventures (SBS Oxford, 2010)

I recently gave a talk on scaling social enterprises to MBA students at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, which is partnered with the Skoll Centre for Social Enterprise. It seemed to go down well, so some of the students asked me to come back to talk to them about my journey around the world and share some of my learnings on social enterprise so far.

Globosocial Adventures - Oxford MBA Talk, Feb 2010 from Rizwan Tayabali on Vimeo.

Here's the contents of the talk in case you want to skip through it...
  • Introductions (3:33)
  • Talk Structure + Group Questions (8:40)
  • About Me (1:50)
  • Social Triggers (3:10)
  • My Path to SE Consulting (5:20)
  • Globosocial Adventures - What & Why (4:46)
  • How It’s Going So Far (1:04)
  • SE Consulting Challenges (13:43)
  • Useful Things I’ve Learnt (17:25)
  • Why SE’s Fail (7.00)
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