The Goenkarponn Work Ethic

When Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western Civilisation, the canny old man had famously replied “It would be a good idea.” Similar would be the response, if one asked anyone about Goan work ethic.

I write this as Goa’s large work force is still sedated heavily in the hangover after Ganesh Chaturthi.

My favourite cafe has yet to open its doors or maintain regular hours. And it has already been 10 days since we bid the elephant god good bye.

When I chose to pass on my custom to a rival cafe, its Goan owner said that they pride the fact that they can serve customers even on the festival day. The secret being that all his staff is non Goan. The same workers serve two restaurants – one in the morning and the other at night. He also lamented that Goan workers have no work ethic and all they do is live an endless loop of celebrations – festivals all around the year peppered with an occasional day of work. Worse, they are always overdrawn and at any point of time have more money that they owe their employer and not the other way round.

Another friend was ruing the fact that he is facing union issues at a factory, resulting in further losses. To break the impasse, he offered the workers a sweet deal – run the factory and just pay me the rent of the place to meet expenses like power, water and maintenance bill. The rest you can appropriate as your earnings. He also assured them that the orders will continue from existing customers, just the way they have been. But not surprisingly, the workers did not take the deal. Of course, they would have to ‘work’ then, to put food on their table.

In the past, I have been a votary of the concept of sussegado – the defence being staying content with what one has. I accept my folly and today feel that howsoever crude it may sound, there is just no scope for staying content in an entrepreneurial mindset – being content would be borderline complacency. And complacency would inevitably invite doom.

Although social media has its plusses – more so for media organisations; there is no denying that it rampantly eats into company time. Across all organisations, workers are busy living in the digital space – liking, sharing and commenting on social media. And I often wonder what would be the fate of high precision work if the workers are tempted to move their attention to the Whatsapp ping that s/he’s been lured into by a post on one of the many groups that s/he is a part of?!

That apart, the really a dangerous trend is the concern shared by many entrepreneurs whom I interact with – that our educational institutions are not creating industry relevant students. Despite the leapfrogging of technology and the free availability of knowledge – again, thanks to the world wide web – the mismatch between industry needs and education in Goa leaves a gaping hole. The dumbing down of the much celebrated demographic dividend is a serious cause for concern. That, coupled with the famous sussegado attitude is a cocktail of disaster.

“The ability to recognize that the winds have shifted and to take appropriate action before you wreck your boat is crucial to the future of an enterprise,” said Andrew S. Grove in his book Only the Paranoid Survive.

Yes, entrepreneurs cannot afford the luxury of patience. More and more Goan employers are recruiting people from out of state to ensure productivity. It would not be superfluous to say that the unemployment syndrome in the state is as much a creation of the (potential) workers themselves. How else would you explain the substitution of Goan workers by their up country counterparts? The message is loud and clear: Shape up. Or ship out


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