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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Million vs. billion paradox

Shombhit Sengupta
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Shombhit Sengupta
Historically, Western management know-how evolving from Caucasian innovative capacity, marketing attitude and social norms has influenced the business practices of emerging economy countries. This know-how does not take into account, conform to, or seamlessly mesh with, the societal aspects of the billions in developing economies.

The scale of a million people and their way of functioning is very different from the billion population scale. An airport or railway station of a sophisticated developed country which is populated by millions not billions is large, almost like a nearly vacant exhibition gallery. In contrast, in such functional zones in billion-peopled India or China, the crowds will not allow you to see any free space. A million people country has sharp focus and discipline akin to the military. Their ‘million-mindset’ is unidirectional in approach. A billion people country has the ‘billion-mindset’ that takes care of many small aspects, and so becomes multidirectional.

Living and working in both million and billion people countries I have realized that a million-mindset person looks at those in a billion people country through his own million-mindset perspective. When the billion realization hits him, its nuances go beyond his capability to comprehend. Not having understood the logic makes him feel inadequate at not being in total control of the situation. Generally, he would find it difficult to integrate with the billion people culture.

In contrast, being able to adjust is a major characteristic of billion-mindset people, like the Chinese and Indians who live in USA. Just imagine, if the same number of Americans were to stay in China or India, would they be able to flow with the social and business norms there? In a reverse BPO (business process outsourcing) location, would Americans have the capacity to learn to communicate in perfect Indian or Chinese languages without an American accent?

If you are the manufacturer of the world’s fastest train, the TGV in France, or the rapid German ICE train, your commercial coup can come from commuters in a billion people’s country. But you need to customize the million-mindset innovation for usage in a billion people country. This means incorporating the billion-mindset numerical as well as their psychological, sociological, geographical and economic requirements. Have you designed for overload? Is the seating flexible to accommodate more? Can the entry point count people? Does a red light come on when the passenger limit has been crossed, as in an elevator? If your sophisticated technology has these parameters it can be applied for the billions.

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