‘Mision compleda’? Me too!

14th October 2010
‘Mision compleda’? Me too!
Chilean president Sebastian Piñera chats with Luis Urzua, the last miner out of the rescue hole at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile on October 13, 2010. Photo: HUGO INFANTE/GOVERNMENT OF CHILE

All 33 miners trapped in a Chilean copper mine for 70 days,  have been brought safely to the surface, climaxing an extraordinary feat of engineering, coupled with unprecedented international cooperation… the drilling rig and the food transfer technology came from the US, the rescue cable from German, the vital fibre optic video link from Japan, the aptly named Phoenix rescue pod was crafted by Chilean Naval engineers... As the last miner was strapped into the pod, rescue workers unfurled a banner that said ‘Mision compleda Chile’, Mission Completed, Chile
I sat up most of the night, watching the final heart-tugging hours on CNN – the only channel that cleared all other programming to carry this magnificent human drama for well over 24 hours. Unlike the rest of the world, for whom this was human drama on a scale that warranted sustained coverage, Indian television channels had other priorities -- and all they seemed to feature were repetitive footage of two burgeoning domestic scandals – the ‘nataka’ or drama in the Karnataka state Assembly and the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s continuing revelations of India Premier League-related scams. Once in a while, one got updates about Indian achievement at the Commonwealth Games – again, a heavily unbalanced and self-centred coverage that excluded many records broken by other participating nations.
This set me thinking that in a perverse sense, our ‘ desi’ channels were actually highlighting some “Mission Impossible” challenges of our own, that were converted to “mission accomplished” , albeit with brutal efficiency. Consider:
Mission Accomplished # 1: No matter how spectacular the opening and closing ceremonies, the Commonwealth Games Committee has achieved the near impossible: diverting the world’s adverse attention to India’s visible failures and lack of timely execution of major logistical and infrastructural projects , rather than on the games themselves and the players.
Mission Accomplished # 2: The BCCI whose baby, the IPL was, is now throwing the baby out with the scam-tainted bathwater, merrily destroying teams and brands that took 3 years to create.
Mission Accomplished # 3: In ten years, Karnataka’s political classes have accomplished the impossible, demolished all semblance of governance, surrendered all pretence of administering the state, while they perform a vicious, self-centred death dance in the pursuit of privilege, power and pelf. In the process they have destroyed a unique global brand called “Bangalore” which was slowly becoming a synonym for world class competence in Information Technology- driven solutions and services. The first week of October will probably go down as the precise period when key players of the global tech industry, silently but irrevocably struck the word “Bangalore” off a short list of centres earmarked for investment, partnership and development. Brand Bangalore is not about to die a quick death – but a slow lingering decline may have just set in.
To those of you in Hyderabad who are inclined to wear a complacent grin at this point, which says, ‘Bangalore’s decline, is our opportunity’, I can only suggest that people living in a fragile glass house, don’t have the luxury of throwing any stones – at Bangalore or any place else. ‘Cyberabad’ had its day – and lost it. When, you ask? Difficult to pinpoint an exact date, so let’s just say, it began when the state government of the day, reneged on the promise of its predecessor, to provide the global IT businesses a HiTech City, insulated from the energy shortages of the rest of the state and assured of a skilled human resource that would allowed to work without being disrupted by bandhs, hartals and other civil disruptions. Last year, IT companies in Hyderabad were rudely told to like it or lump it, as 6-8 hour power cuts were visited on them, even as the ‘ aggro’ over Telengana saw many man-days lost , as employees were unable to reach their work spots.
A recent extended stay in Mumbai after many years, has also convinced me that the “city that never sleeps”, is now in a state of slow, terminal decline -- business-wise: again a result of conspicuous non-governance.
As the elected representatives in these three states ( I mention only the most dramatic examples) proceed with their demolition derby of brands and reputations that took decades to create, the rest of us can only gaze aghast at opportunities lost, reputations irretrievably damaged.
We were taught in school that water finds its own level… and in this case where will the investment and the talent being driven out of these prime technology addresses, trickle to? Let me stick my neck out here and guess , that the beneficiary will be one southern state: Tamil Nadu. Its governance is not markedly better, but those who opted for a base in that state , from Nokia to Dell to Saint Gobain, have generally been allowed to go about their business undisturbed, if not proactively supported. That is all corporations need, to thrive and create an ecosystem of success for citizens-- not active help, but absence of hindrance.
If Indian states are looking to say ‘mision compleda’ – and not in the perverse way of Karnataka -- they could well adopt this industry wish as their mantra and promise the technology corporates: “We may not be able to help you , at least we won’t hinder you. ( and we can always take the credit if you succeed!)”.
Anand Parthasarathy Oct 15 2010