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Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Tendering syndrome

My recent visit to New York had me unnerved once again and reinforced in me the belief that there are no rich and poor nations but productive and unproductive nations. Is it not unacceptable that even after having served over three decades and a half in the service of the Sarkar, I am yet unsure about what comes first – delivery or process.

The footpaths, the roads, the lamp posts, the buildings, the bridges, almost every infrastructural item that one witnesses in the developed economies is built to last, if not centuries but definitely a couple of decades and here at home the unending cycle of repairs and rebuilding baffles me. All perhaps because we find it almost impossible to go around the established decision making and tendering processes that are neither efficient nor a deterrent for a guy with a crooked intent.

The extremely high delivery by almost everyone in the developed economies is forged out of trust, integrity, commitment and above all simplicity of processes that we have over-complicated in the garb of transparency. It is indeed sad that for far too long this nonsense has carried on uninterrupted!

Will we forever remain a developing nation one really wonders? When shall deliverance be regarded as supreme and those with an honest intent find the courage regardless of the roadblocks that include a host of people ready to point fingers and jump at the slightest perceived mistake.

Handling an airline is definitely not by any stretch of imagination an easy task and this business is therefore regarded as the mother of all businesses. And the beleaguered Air India with a bundle of legacy issues and an empty cash chest made the job even worse. Quick decision making without fear is a philosophy that should be at the core of all businesses that aspire to do well, yet what I found here when I landed with a thud almost a year back was an exact antithesis of this school of thought. The instant feeling was that this airline is waiting silently to pass away into oblivion, unsung without concern. And the underlying reason was what one expected - overemphasis on processes, reacting to symptoms and jumping to conclusions with absolutely no concern whatsoever for delivery, not because the people were not committed or inefficient but due to the all-pervading fear of being pinned down if any decision went even marginally wrong in hindsight. What an insane manner of handling commercial organizations!

The tendering process that we inherited from the british raj is the culprit. Why should I wonder, the process for purchasing potatoes be the same as for buying paintings or contracting for a hotel room or procuring a latest software or adding aircrafts to the fleet? The first thought therefore that comes to mind whenever something innovative is to be resorted to is how this shall be done through the conventional tendering process without the doer landing in a soup himself and avoidance therefore tends to provide solace. Perhaps this is the single reason behind the overarching presence of sub-standard infrastructure, goods and services that we almost always encounter in this nation. The decision making and contracting processes can be and should be overhauled and made simple if we aspire for progress and the silver lining is that there is no doubt about this aspiration in the India of today.

In simplification of processes, not merely flogging it lies the key to success. And let us begin with the tendering process for it has indeed become the bane of delivery in our nation.



  1. Sir, I studied that we are Developing Nation and after forty years I Teach that we are a Developing Nation to my students. The vision is Incredible India as a Developed Nation.:)

  2. Dear Mr. Lohani, how true your thoughts are. We have been suffering the tendering desease since many years. I see our motivation and dedication dwindling away with passage of time. Meanwhile the tendering process has created its own monsters of subsstandard products, services and is also supporting consultants who do nothing else but take part in tenders under the garb iof consortiums. Thus eliminating serious organisations. Sad and frightening.

  3. How very true, the other day we were discussing on same topic. We need to change the procurement process as per requirements. It is not possible to tender everything and than cry we did not get what we wanted or it is substandard. How can we compare prices when we want to purchase paintings and one is a well known artist and another a novice. We certainly need to look into it and change the system.

  4. Amazing sir !! Very thought provoking and insightful.Indeed it's the need of the hour to overhaul our service delivery mechanism.

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  6. Absolutely right Sir!!

    You are 100% correct in your observation. There are productive nations and others suffering from this disease called tendering system. First we make the tender based public procurement system complicated and then try & act without sense to see delivery is failing in every aspect of life. Most of the government officers focus on tendering processes / conditions but not on the product or service delivery. Also, In the garb of vigilance, they also try to make life of suppliers /service providers hell. This entire system should be abolished if we ever or really want to emulate developed economies, else nothing is going to change in India at least for our times.

  7. Sir.....this is indeed the case.....Tendering has got linked to Vigilance in our esteemed airline.An honest officer has to first think of going by the BOOK.....rather than concentrate on getting the best deal in services and products....The bogey of L 1 RULES SUPREME.....the lowest quote will get the contract...as per rules.....how can then one think of and obtain more durable....better and a quality product or service?????
    The officer who sticks his/her neck out is also awaiting it to be chopped off by those persons who have all the time to find fault...but not enough to work sincerely....and God help if this person is in the dreaded Vigilance.
    In companies like Google and other top notch international companies the legal and vigilance representatives are on board the tender committee.However in our archaic rule book they board AFTER ALL IS DONE.......TO CATCH THE SO CALLED CULPRIT !!
    It is the need of the hour that these ancient practices be changed and the rule book re written....or else the dismal decline of good straight forward and dynamic thinking will be the final result .Why should the legal and Vigilance departments not check all aspects thoroughly when the tendering process is on ????...so much time ,effort and pain will be saved and the outcome will be a quality product or service !
    Even in my career spanning 32 years I have so many times tried to challenge the system....but to no avail......one has to stick to the rules which serve none.....
    to get a quality product or service there needs to be flexibility so that we can win the best for our company......an honest officer should be given the freedom to use his/her wisdom and judgement for the highest good of the company without worrying over the consequences of the suffering he/she will invite due to his/her initiative and far farsightedness........

  8. Dear Mr Lohani, Sir not only have you instilled faith in tyne employees of our beleaguered Airline but you have managed the unimaginable of getting this Airline out of RED and giving it wings to fly. Just a year ago before you (BJP) took charge the thought was to down size and send this conpany into oblivion but all that changed and rapidly.. we lost 200 odd pilots and Air India was a sinking ship but now it stands strongly resurrected defying the private players with an attempt to even get those 200 pilots back and god only knows how many engineers and licenced holders which are a challenge to get in today's fierce and competetive market. You have made a change and stand committed to the cause. That day is not far away when even this once beleaguered Airline will get back to the top under your leadership.. Faith we have and only hope you have the relentless energy, passion and perseverance needed to stay with us.. Thank you Piloting this Airline
    Rishabh Kapur

  9. I don't know which process remains the best but one thing is their that. SAP procurement for such a heavy price is really scary and that too with so less modules. Somewhere it is needed atleast in a government organization where vested interest overtake public interest

  10. I guess it is not as complicated as it seems. Just make sure to select the honest AND energetic to head procurement departments. But that would happen only if we have all HODs honest and brave enough to support them. Everytime a cheat tries to take advantage of loopholes, the rules become complexer to plug it. How many times has management taken action themselves against deliquent employee? Set an example and vigilance would be more than happy to sit quiet. Also vigilance advice is no binding. It is management which has to take the final call.

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