外文标题：Made in India versus China
Twenty years ago I had the opportunity to see how the labour market in China was incentivised and this was just at the cusp of it becoming the factory to the world. I visited a toy factory in a small town owned by a Hong Kong company, staffed mostly by women and girls. They were making soft toys for the US market from Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny and the Muppets. The quality was good and my tour of the factory revealed that the workers were mostly teenage girls who were given Yuan 100 a month and they stayed in airy dormitories and worked five days a week with Saturday as a half day. I had expected to see a sweat shop but the room where the girls worked was large with big windows with enough light and air. The town was beautifully laid out and at least in those days it was not polluted.
An interesting interview followed, with my Chinese friend, who had taken me there unsupervised, doing the translating. I asked one of the seamstresses where she had come from. She said her family were farmers in a small village and they could not make ends meet so she had come here to work. She said the money was good — this was in 1994 — and that she went home once a year during the Chinese New Year. On the weekends the company would arrange a variety of activities, including basketball, badminton, management classes and outings.
My next visit was to a village where in large sheds an elderly Chinese man was copying Ming and Ch’ing Dynasty furniture to supply to the West Coast of the US, where he had connections and visited often. Since again the interview had to be translated, I asked him if he found it difficult to do business in the West as he did not know English. “No problem,” he said, in Chinese, “my contacts there do all the talking.”
When I returned to India, I asked my friends who were in garment exports how the labour in our country compared to what I had seen. They told me that the tailors were skilled but had no concept of delivery schedules and skipped work for weddings, births, deaths and religious holidays! Since they went to respective villages, sometimes for weeks, deliveries to Europe and the US were often delayed or new labour had to be quickly trained, which often led to flaws in the product — another problem unacceptable to any importing countries.
China does not have such issues; workers are mostly given only the 10 days of the Chinese New Year off, though of late they do have a high attrition rate. In addition, the government not only developed large export zones, but also created the environment to enable businesses — this helped China to take the lead. Add to this good highways, no shortage of electricity, and an abundant supply of disciplined labour and you have an unbeatable formula.
This brings me to the basic point of how far we have to go to achieve what Prime Minister Modi wants: get back the Made in India label with quality products, skilled labour and efficient factories. I know this can be done as I remember our homes being cooled by Usha fans— Made in India and not once in 40 years was there a complaint.
Today, Usha or Crompton fans – made in China, are giving trouble, endlessly! I am told fans are no longer made here. The same can be said of most products bought in the market today. In fact, almost everything electronic is made in China, imported to India and sold under Indian brand names such as Crompton, Usha, Micromax cellphones etc. The economies of scale in China are such that a single factory making compressors produces more than all the factories in India put together!