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That sweet obsession
|Subir Chowdhury is here with his latest book, "The Ice
Cream Maker". ZIYA US SALAM speaks to the man whose chief
passion is quality |
FOR A RACY READ Author Subir Chowdhury
It is a whisper that might just turn into a scream.
Barely had we put "Who Moved My Cheese" in the inner recesses of our
memory that we were told another best seller in the world of
management, in the sphere of quality promotion, in the realms of
positive thinking, is upon us. And if we don't take heed of it, it
might just melt off the shelves faster than we think! The reference
is to "The Ice Cream Maker", a simple story of an ice cream
manufacturer whose product does not find a shelf in an upmarket
store. This racy read by Subir Chowdhury comes in 115 pages.
Subir Chowdhury. Does the name ring a bell?
Well, sure enough. He talked of `The Six Signs of
the Sigma' not long ago. Now, he wants to instil a belief in
quality, and wants India and Indians to shape up before the world
asks us to ship out. So, how did "The Ice Cream Maker" come about?
Was the balding, smiling man with a typical management orator's tie
and jacket consciously searching for a management bestseller?
"My previous book `The Power of Six Sigma' is the
number one selling book globally, sold more than a million copies
and translated into more than 20 languages. However, what I found is
that Six Sigma still belongs to five-ten per cent of employees
within an organisation. However, quality is everyone's business -
all the people, all the time. The reason Toyota is still the
benchmark for quality is, most employees from top to bottom always
worry about quality, always practice quality. Unfortunately, there
is not a single book that explains quality in a level that is
understandable to everyone - from CEO to an assembly line worker to
a telephone operator. So, I thought I would write a book that
explains it to everyone. Even an eighth grader reads it and
understands what quality is all about. This vacuum gave birth to
`The Ice Cream Maker' (brought here by Random House)."
However, he claims, he did not consciously go in
search of a bestseller, his obsession with quality notwithstanding.
"No, absolutely not! How can I consciously search for a management
bestseller? Any author's prime objective is to make the customer
(`reader' in this case) happy. During manuscript development
process, I tested the book's early manuscript with 100 different
types of readers (unknown to me personally). Once the data suggested
that everyone liked the book and wanted to share the book with other
people, I was happy to let the manuscript go for publication."
However, in times of mediocrity, cannot there be
business without quality? Also, can there be business without a
"No, I do not believe any business can survive
without quality. Even the most innovative companies will suffer
dearly if they do not embrace quality. In services, good human touch
is very critical. More often, managers do mistake not to emphasise
enough about human touch. Organisations that do not embrace internal
customers (employees, staff) can never be successful keeping happy
external customers (persons that buy products or take services)."
Relevance to India
Fine, but how relevant is The Ice Cream Maker in
India where economic restructuring is said to be a sell-out to
"At this current time, `The Ice Cream Maker' is
most relevant to India. India already has `cost' advantage over
Western countries. India must not become like China (because) most
of the Chinese companies do not have global brand names like
Hyundai, LG, Samsung of Korea. India must concentrate on producing
global brands, only then its products will be embraced by global
customers. The reason Infosys or TCS is becoming successful globally
is due to delivering quality products and services with cheaper
`price' than global competition. India must demonstrate similar
trend in manufacturing."
Technology savvy, Subir, a widely travelled man
with his own site, claims, "`The Ice Cream Maker' is the first step
for Indian companies to educate (the) mass work force to become
quality centric, to teach them the power of quality. This book
should be translated into local languages and Hindi, so that most
workers can read and understand."
He talks of return to talent. However, in a country
like India, there are plenty of skilled workers living in acute
poverty. How does one explain that anomaly?
"India is a nation of `talents'. The reason India
has become a global brand is due to its talented and skilled work
force. But, India, as a country, must embrace quality, how to
improve the people quality, infrastructure quality! I really doubt
how many politicians in India understand quality?"
However, "The Ice Cream Maker" takes a studious,
look-in approach at tackling challenges. Does it have a subtle
message for all those local organisations in the Third World who
lose out to global competition?
Says the man whose one mantra is quality, "The Ice
Cream Maker's main intent is to make any organisation successful by
embracing quality, by educating its workforce on it. Irrespective of
a developing country's local organisation or a Fortune 100 company -
virtually all need quality to be competitive for a longer period."
So, put your best foot forward and embrace life.
Best, did one say? Subir has the last word: "The real measure of
performance is not how you do at your best, but how you do at your
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