Mangalyaan: Painting the town red
Organizations are overtly reliant on external vendors. They do not fully leverage the skills and capabilities of the talent within, thus impacting their ability to be agile
On September 24, an orbiter satellite from India was launched into Mars’ orbit unscathed to the awe and amazement of the whole world. “Nobody gets it right in the first try,” said the Times magazine, “The U.S. din’t, Russia din’t, the Europeans din’t. But on Sep. 24, India did.” Since that day, the Mars Orbiter Mission from India, or “Mangalyaan” as it is fondly called, painted the town red. Mangalyaan features in Times’ list of top 25 inventions of 2014 at #2. At a total cost of $74 million, a key reason why Mangalyaan is India’s favourite child of 2014 is its cost efficiency. It is cheaper than the cost of the Hollywood movie ‘Gravity’ and more economical than any other Mars mission – by a mile-and-a-half.
A symbolic message
Mangalyaan’s success ensured that India joined an elite league of nations— the US, the European Space Agency, and Russia— successfully completing a Mars mission. Even China and Japan had attempted earlier and failed. The impact of Mangalyaan’s success transcends far beyond the world of science. Mangalyaan has far reaching impacts in how it will change global perceptions about business in India, its human capital and the flow of funds into the country. It also sends a strong message to the entire global IT, manufacturing and R&D community and investors could seriously look at India as a viable global research and development hub. China unveiled its Mars Rover project on the 10th of November in an attempt to catch up on the massive economic branding opportunity that Mangalyaan presents.
HBR authors Douglas A. Ready, Linda Hill and Jay A. Conger in their study, “The Talent market in BRIC” recommend a great framework for attracting and retaining talent in an emerging economy such as India. International talent seeks opportunities through the lens of purpose, culture, opportunity and brand. An event such as the successful Mangalyaan mission has already provided Indian organizations with a strong brand and the ones who are able to demonstrate intent to provide a great career platform will outrun the others in the race for talent. Talent acquisition teams should be quick to analyse the talent opportunity that the Mangalyaan mission’s symbolic message has presented to them. The high-tech, manufacturing and R&D sectors should be among the direct benefactors of this brand opportunity. This is the time for Indian organizations to attract skilled workers from across the globe especially in the fields of scientific research, product development and technical roles. One case example stated in “The Talent Market in BRIC” study is of TCS, and its strategy to attract great talent from its global locations through referrals. These referrals come in wide and large because the company invests in bringing in its early recruits from global locations to India to experience the company and the opportunities it presents. These early recruits then go back to their home countries and become strong brand ambassadors.
The power of indigenous
It is estimated that Mangalyaan’s cost is actually one tenth the cost of US space agency’s mission Maven. It has set a new cost benchmark through the use of indigenous materials, local expertise and alternative build approaches. While breaking conventional norms and standards, the project’s extraordinary success reiterates the new world order of making things work through innovation and genius. The Mangalyaan mission relied heavily on several small and medium enterprises that built components for ISRO and its units. For example, a manufacturing company of book binding machines in Kerala, Wellbound, built the PS4 fluid systems for the small motor aboard Mangalyaan for placing the craft into orbit. Did someone say that indigenous and local cannot have global standards?
It is a big lesson for organizations that are over-reliant on external vendors. Organizations rarely leverage the complete array of skills and capabilities of its own employees. Some companies, however, have done exceptionally well in gathering and putting to productive use the strengths of its employees for positive business impact. Start-ups and e-commerce firms, owing to their agility and flexibility, are able to make quick changes to their people and resource utilization plans, giving employees the opportunity to explore and experience a wider array of jobs. At the same time, lack of agility should not become an excuse for a company’s inability to exploit the full potential of its own employees, thereby justifying a reliance on external vendors. Google is a great example of a company that has not let its sheer size become a deterrent for opportunity. Google’s message boards are accessible to all employees where anyone can offer to teach a colleague a skill s/he could teach. They can range from baking to programming. These message boards can be credited with the multitude of innovation and enhancements to Google in the last several years.
Inspiration from a great vision
The tiny non-descript island nation of Fiji played host to 18 of India’s top scientists and engineers for tracking India’s Mars mission. The island nation provided the crucial logistical support, much needed for the success of the mission. Mangalyaan’s success also paved the way for better political relations between India and Fiji. The basis for this collaboration was purely scientific, paving the way for both nations to leverage ideas and future research and development opportunities. The Mangalyaan story is one of extraordinary passion and commitment. It is also a story of a vision, which was so strong so as to inspire and bind communities and constituencies from other parts of the globe. The true test of Mangalyaan’s extraordinary vision was when several other nations in the South Pacific Ocean allowed the India Mars mission to set up strategic monitoring stations.
What attracts and retains both talent and customers is a leader’s vision. Organizations that showcase a leader’s vision effectively will continue to maintain an edge over competition.
Press is good, even bad press
The New York times released a cartoon in the first week of October about a Dhoti-clad turbaned man with a cow knocking on the doors of “The Elite Space Club.” While it soon released an apology for hurting Indian sentiments, it also faced censure over racism. Without doubt, it ignited a wave of nationalistic sentiments all across the globe, both among resident and non-resident Indians. The controversy helped showcase many of ISRO’s other projects to the rest of the world. For example, through all the press that ISRO received from the controversy, it was able to demonstrate to the world that its remote sensing and communication programs, IRS and INSAT, were critical in successfully predicting the extent and magnitude of Cyclone Phailin and helping the administration minimize damages. Any kind of press isn’t bad after all.