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I can’t help but observe that folks love their data in India… lots of lovely numbers, preferably in pretty charts or graphs. Which are generally accepted as ‘truth’ and ‘correct’.
When I contrast the work I do in India vs say Indonesia or Malaysia, there is generally a wealth of data tracked and reported by companies here compared to sometimes quite limited data points in other markets.
But here is the thing, it can be absolutely maddening if you have to DO something with those lovely numbers.
Because, you see, 1 doesn’t necessary mean 1 and 2 doesn’t necessarily mean the 2 you think it does so as a result when you try to put them together you don’t get 3 but instead 4 or 5… and that result definitely does not match that other figure from another report or source that is supposed to be the same thing!! Arrrghh!!
During a recent project, I was reminded of this – full force! With much angst, long hours and considerable effort required for things that should have been simple to provide, understand and then use effectively.
Why? It seemed no one had ever probed deeper into the numbers. They were simply accepted. At the board level.
Yet as soon as I attempted to compare those lovely statistics across different reports and distribution channels, then attempted to validate with my own calculations, sense checking what I found during a diagnostic, nothing added up.
So I had to go back – asking what may have seemed like extremely obvious things but revealed quite different assumptions and completely different methodologies which meant those pretty numbers presented for years were actually not correct… or more precisely were correct only if the different definitions, assumptions and calculation methodology were disclosed.
Without such disclosures, one side looked really healthy whereas the other side looked like complete laggards… which when using the same definitions, assumptions and calculation methodology provided a slightly different picture. Hmm…
In another case, it was a classic ‘elephant’ scenario… each was busy describing the tail, trunk, leg and other body parts in isolation. So while the elephant trunk is a trunk and correct exactly as described on its own, when asked to show the elephant as a whole (i.e. put the pieces together), two trunks were added, making for a rather strange looking elephant.
Except just as this potentially misleading elephant photo proved, when the image is questioned and examined further rather than simply accepted as a freak of nature, another story (or in this case another elephant!) is revealed.
Had I simply accepted that elephants can have two trunks and reported this marvel at the shareholders meeting, we would have missed completely the 2nd elephant and continued to perpetuate the myth of the exceptional two-trunked pachyderm!
In a land where creative accounting is an art form and there is an army of experts to help dodge taxes, it is no wonder that blindly accepting numbers as fact without checking and making the effort to understand in context is a dicey thing.
This is not just in a corporate context but political too. Just take Scroll’s recent ‘fact check’ articles on the Prime Minister’s Independence Day address… or assertions on the effectiveness of demonetisation. If you probe a little deeper, do not accept ‘facts’ and ‘data’ at face value, an alternate perspective emerges.
In fairness, the complexity and range of variables found in India means simple measures may not be sufficient. That is a large part of why trying to neatly fit things together isn’t so easy.
I have a great deal of respect for the calibre and quality of the people at the companies I work with and an appreciation that the reality may be (and often is!) different than someone externally expects.
A standard global report or approach may simply not account for all the factors. Sometimes what it takes is creating a bridge between the two that helps provide the context or story so that everyone can see there really are two elephants.
Living India Tip #4
Moral of the story? The numbers you are given may not be ‘wrong’, however they just may not be ‘right’ as you initially interpret them!
Don’t be afraid to check there isn’t a 2nd elephant hidden behind! And help make it easier for others to quickly spot that 2nd elephant too…
- Ppppffft Provident Fund Follies in India – Part 3
- Just part of living here… Indian tax rectification requests
- Migration migraines… Welcome to India’s GST
Ever have a time in your life where so much is happening, it seems almost unreal? As I wrote my immigration form a few hours ago to re-enter India from Singapore, I declared my travels in the last 6 days – Singapore obviously, but also India for a day, before that the UK and Canada.
And why so much travel? The real reason combines the personal and the professional.
On the personal front…
Lots of different things however the real big news is… drum roll here… my partner and I finally took the plunge to sign a piece of paper in Winnipeg with a wee wedding at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We knew from the moment we met over five years ago that we wanted to spend our lives together, however took our time to get to this stage of bringing our respective families together in celebration.
It still feels strange when folks teasingly call me “Mrs Smith” – a last name I am not adopting but respect completely. I apparently even accidentally hung up on a consulting associate who merrily greeted me that way! (in fairness, the call didn’t connect properly)
Within a week of being wedded in Winnipeg, I was on more planes and found myself in Singapore for some work related meetings. Which is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak as on the professional front as much has happened over the last few months:
- I was delighted to be back in Jakarta working on a project from September 2016 to December then back briefly in March and April 2017. Naturally this meant a few stops in Singapore in my crisscrossing back and forth between India and Indonesia…
- January and May were pre-occupied with India projects that enabled trips to Kolkata and Kochi – it had been years since I was in Kerela so that was a particular treat!
- February brought me to Delhi to co-facilitate a remarkable conference
- More is unfolding in the technology space with the India company association… plus some new developments brewing that seem particularly exciting!
Beyond the personal and professional, everyday life in India inspired a few amused cribs about:
- Ready or not, July 1st introduces India’s Goods & Services Tax with some absurd moments and migration migraines from Service Tax to GST
- After a couple of years of effort, I finally successfully withdrew my last Indian Provident Fund. If ever anyone has tried to do this – foreigner or Indian – you will understand this is NOT necessarily a simple process!
- After even more effort, a weird system error was finally corrected so that the Indian government was finally convinced I actually had paid my taxes in 2009. Really… honestly… I did… it only took 8 years for them to admit it!!
- We also learned to survive the aftermath of November 2016’s demonetization in which cash was temporarily dethroned
So from newly wedded bliss, professional developments, to the everyday follies in India, life continues to be an amazing adventure!
There you have… a bit of insight into what’s really going on…
Yes Everyday Asia… you have been sorely neglected!
Yes there are a bunch of partly written blog posts sitting in your draft folder…
Yes your phone is full to bursting with photos from various adventures…
Yes you were busy busy busy!
So… if you can’t write juicy little separate posts, just do a quick round-up… yes?
Here goes! (more…)
The trip to Jodhpur was delightful and I may eventually get around to sharing another post or two about our time at the palace or film set.
However right now, all attention and focus is on preparing for Door No 2 – Kolkata.
Good news! I did get the short assignment – yeah!
Even better news! It will take me to Kolkata for a few days – even bigger yeah!
Alas my client’s office is not exactly in the heart of the city. So scope to revisit some familiar haunts is minimal – not so yeah…
And, keeping my client needs paramount, I’ve put together a schedule that leaves nearly no room for play.
I’m still hoping a friend or two can come rescue me for a small adventure on my one free evening.
No matter what – can’t wait to hear the music of Bangla in my ears, chow down on delicious Bangla food, dive into a good project and… let’s be honest… escape the Mumbai heat for a couple of days!
Living literally on the other side of the globe from where I grew up tends to disconnect one from those awkward high school re-unions where folks exclaim how well they are holding up after 30 years then secretly sigh about the extra weight, wrinkles but do thank gawd the pimply days are long gone!
So while I haven’t made it to even one high school re-union I did manage to get to an ex-company gathering.
Yup – we’re suckers for punishment. Not only did we work long hours together faithfully for years, we CHOOSE to hang out one evening a year. (more…)
Watch out Kuala Lumpur… I’m on my way to you!
As shared, I’ve been distracted lately… and not just with the play…
Good news! First consulting project of 2014 – yippee!
Even better news! I’m finally going to Malaysia. Though technically a country I had some responsibility for in my earlier work avatar, this is my first time physically in Kuala Lumpur.
Not so good news…. It will be a hectic project. From now until I get on a plane 16th February, there is one day ‘off’ – which I know will be used to catch up on preparations for the balance.
Even worse news… No scope for explorations outside of KL and likely limited within.
So… KL experts, what can’t I miss? The one or two absolutely under any circumstances must be experienced?!