Feeling down? I wish I could drop Subir Chowdhury into your living
He's a locally based antidote for the malaise settling more quickly
over Michigan than you can say "receivership."
He breathes in oxygen and exhales enthusiasm in such an authentically
American way that, predictably, he was born in a different part of the
But Bangladesh, and then India, couldn't contain him. An American he
worked for told him he could become whatever he wanted to be in the
United States. He listened. He worked -- and knew no fear. He enjoyed
At 25, he was a low-level engineer at General Motors, a recent
transplant to the United States with dreams bigger than the Texas sky
and an ego to match. "I drew a list of the biggest names in management
thought," he remembers, "and told my wife I'd be at the top of all of
Heads consulting firm
Now he's the chairman of Livonia-based ASI Consulting Group, a
consultant to some of the world's largest companies -- including
Hyundai, Chrysler and Caterpillar -- and the author of 12 books. He has
become, as he hoped, "a thought leader."
When he wins an industry award, which happens with reasonable
frequency, he doesn't stash it in his closet: He sends out press
Chowdhury's on a mission to save America from its "national disease"
-- chasing glitter at the expense of consistency. But he wants to pump
us up -- rev up our rpm and stop us from being psyched out by China and
India. "Americans have a China Syndrome," he says, "even though this is
the greatest country in the world." He worries that his adopted country
would sooner shrug and defer to being inevitably overtaken than change
For most of his career, Chowdhury has written complex books
explaining technical quality theory. You can probably skip most of
But now, to get us all on the path to quality, he's written a
charming, hardcover parable called "The Ice Cream Maker" (Random House,
$16.95). It offers a story about an imaginary ice cream company with a
dispirited salesman who can't sell his product to the best stores.
Change in attitude
Voila -- he swallows his pride, listens carefully to his would-be
customer at "Natural Foods," and convinces his fellow employees to
change their attitudes and habits. Together, as a team, they vanquish
mediocrity and sell more ice cream.
OK, it's a simple tale, deceptively so. Chowdhury is especially good
at describing how mediocrity isn't easily identified or changed --
because everybody wants to believe they're already doing a good, or good
Chowdhury's ascent has been fueled, as he tells it, by a willingness
to approach his human gods directly and to never accept no as an answer.
He pursues his goals relentlessly, hoping always to "convince others of
In that spirit, he suggests "The Ice Cream Maker" becoming a kind of
Detroit Bible, at once raising our expectations and our self-confidence.
That's bold self-promotion -- chutzpah -- a quality that our battered
region could use right now.
Laura Berman's column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in Metro.
Reach her at (248) 647-7221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.