Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ganesha Outsourced!

Take a look at this beautiful Ganesha idol I bought at the Aurora temple a few weeks ago:

As I was admiring its beauty, I don't know why, but I happened to flip the idol to see the part of Ganesha that we should normally not want to see:

I was stunned to see something that I never thought I would be condemned to see someday.

Now tell me, are we Indians so incapable of producing Ganesha idols for the world market that we have to get them made in those child-labor shops in China? Are we so inefficient that we can't stay profitable in a business like this unless we use cheap labor outside the country? Are we so devoid of a sense of social responsibility that we choose to ignore an opportunity to give jobs to Indians in our pursuit of maximum profit?

A friendly argument followed with the store manager (a volunteer with no stake or decision-making power whatsoever in the store) who very zealously tried to explain to me that Indian businessmen just don't want to commit to the consistent quality and quantity the export orders demand. She was speaking from her experience in pharmaceutical sales in the US. She said it was almost impossible to do business with Indian suppliers.

Trying to make me feel better, she said: "Oh, by the way, these idols are actually made by businesses connected to ISKCON though they are made in China!" Sure, that really made me feel better!! ;)

I bought the idol anyway. And today is his day. Though made in China, this is how he eventually turned out:


ರೂpaश्री said...

its very sad thing to note.. but then may be that is one of the reasons that the idols were available this year even in small cities like tallahassee

I had seen tamarind paste, coconutmilk etc that were made in china/thailand and being sold in Indian stores here for the reason that they are cheaper.
My indian store owner told me some of his costumers would earlier go to chinese stores to buy these coconutmilk etc as it was cheaper there. Our clever indian store fellow now gets the chinese products too, so that his costumers dont go else where.

L'Etranger said...

I just realized that I never responded to your comment! What you say is true, but it is natural and sensible for a vendor to procure goods at the best price and sell at the highest profit. That is just what your Indian store owner is doing. But my point is, when it comes to things that are particularly Indian, you would think they would come from nowhere but India. Tamarind paste and coconut milk are no more Indian than they are Thai. In fact, coconut milk is more Thai than Indian. But Ganesha idols? Sure, Chinese are good at making cheap plastic toys, but Ganesha idol is surely no plastic toy! Sentiments? Sure!

Then there is the social responsibility angle to it. Indian businesses trying to make a living by manufacturing uniquely-Indian items should show a sense of responsibility and get them made IN India BY Indians. They may not be perfect, but they will be Indian. Chinese advantage in terms of cost is definitely not so huge that Indians should take jobs away from Indians and give it to our #1 competitor. This particular industry may be very small, but it still involves some money and a few jobs.

How will you feel if, God forbid, you see MTR Bisibelebhat mix "made in China" when you go to your Indian store next? ;)

Roopa said...

When I was in Brussels, I would really feel proud that this famous Pakistani Store was but full of INDIAN stuff...right from lijjat paapad to MTR ready to eat packages and masalas.

On a serious note, I think the globalization and caste based politics prevalent in India are diluting Indian national sentiments.

Beijing Olympics sent out loud and clear messages to the entire world that they are one powerful determined nation! Indeed some quick lessons for India to learn from its neighbor.

Anonymous said...

followed this blog link from 'Avadhi'. You in Chicago?
Nice posts. just browsed a bit is all.
take care
malathi S

L'Etranger said...

@Malathi: Thanks for visiting & commenting! Yes, I live in Chicago.