Ghissus, anyone?

September 25, 2010 § 4 Comments

“Is sab se kuch nahi hone wala”
“Sab kuch likhta hai yaar”
“Sala ghissu kahin ka”

Heard these lines before? If you have studied anywhere in India, I am pretty sure you are familiar with the words ghissu and jugaad. The way of the foolish and that of the wise respectively. Or is it?

Let me present some facts, then some observations, and leave it open to think about whether the observations explain the facts.

For the facts part, there is data on four countries – USA, Italy, India and Germany. The data will concern their population, GDP (in PPP terms), and thus the per-capita GDP (in PPP terms). Why these four? Because I have had the chance to meet people from them and see how they work.

The data are taken from the 2009 World Bank report. The population data can be found here and the per capita GDP data can be found here. Or you could just look up the relevant page on Wikipedia.

First, the population:

The numbers are in thousands.

Next, the GDP (in PPP terms) in International Dollars (Millions):

And now our final data picture for the day. With data in second chart divided by data in the first one to give the per capita GDP (in PPP terms):

I urge you to spend a few moments thinking about these data before reading further.

And now, some of my experiences from the European Business School. Since travel is not my number one priority, I have been attending most of the classes and working with people from various countries. Have had the chance to look at Americans, Italians, Germans (and others) in both the party circuit as well as in the classes.

And that’s where the surprises come in.

Now I have the habit of writing down a lot of stuff during the classes and more than one people have expressed disapproval. And to be honest, there was a time (i.e. before I had a job), when I too had a strong aversion to this habit of thoroughness, the disdain extending to people who had this habit. Ghissus, huh. The smart ones are those who know the right jugaad, and can deliver results without much apparent effort.

So here, I was just a bit apprehensive in continuing the habit, only to find that others did their homework, did extra work to learn, noted things neatly and diligently, and.. uh, even used pens of different colours ! Back there at IIM, this would simply be impossible due to the sheer range of jokes you would be made the butt of. Also, here, meetings are long and everything is discussed, and this is when this business school is known for being a place for ‘rich and spoiled’ students ! (They choose to pay for education, when it is freely provided by the German system.)

In simple words, the work-ethic of international students I have met is superb, and most are very clear on what they want to do with their careers. Yes, compared to students from IIMs, many do not seem that fast, but one main learning from my working days at Verizon was that work-ethic and diligence are more important in the long-term than quick mental processing.

Maybe this explains the data above? The issue is very complex. There have been and will be debates in India on the way things are done. I can just make out one simple conclusion.

Hard work matters.

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§ 4 Responses to Ghissus, anyone?

  • Sumeet says:

    Kinda happy to hear about the ‘firangs are very diligent’ part. That really does not explain your charts though!! population explosion in the 60s and 70s did not take place due to people not working hard enough! Quite the opposite actually 😉 But glad to hear u like it there.. and aren’t ridiculed for your peculiar albeit politically correct behavior..

  • Ya, but I had a feeling that we look more for quick-fixes. And the GDP data is for 2009. Why did so many Indians not generate so much economic value? I know the question is complex, and maybe a better approach to the problem is to think, reflect and discover, than rest with a hypothesis. I made just one step, and urge readers to think more.

    And I don’t know what you mean by ‘peculiar’, but if you are talking about diligence, you just proved my point 🙂

  • Angad Kikla says:

    Interesting observation Mathur !!! You should pick up this book “Games Indians Play” … it extends this logic further and finally concludes that “Indians are individually smart and collectively dumb”
    Loved your article !

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