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The resounding success of India’s Mars mission holds many lessons. Experts discuss the learning from the way the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) put its craft in the Mars orbit.

Make a quality product

R.D. Chandak, managing director
and chief executive officer, KEC International

The successful Mars Orbiter Mission, or the Mangalyaan, by Isro has many lessons for Indian manufacturers, says Chandak.

The mission has shown that Indian companies can make a quality product at a competitive price, he says.

To make India a manufacturing hub, Indian companies will have to make quality products on time, manage the logistics and produce at a very competitive cost, adds Chandak. Building the right team to deliver such projects is important. “Selecting the right team just doesn’t mean selecting the most qualified people; it also means selecting highly committed people," he says.

Teams also need to be empowered so that they can take critical decisions and ensure timely delivery of the project, he adds.

Innovation is another major learning from the Mars mission. “Innovations need not be big advances in technology, but many small ones such as those that help reduce costs are important for corporates," says Chandak.

Every project has a certain amount of risk involved, and identifying the risks and managing them is important, he says.

Time management, which is of paramount importance when executing such a project, is another lesson. “India wanted to send the Mars orbiter before China could. Having achieved the mission in a very strict time frame, it is a big example for Indian corporates in project management," adds Chandak.

It is also important for companies to learn not only from their own mistakes, but also from the mistakes of others, he says.

Encourage team work

Vinamra Shastri, partner, Grant Thornton India

The scope of what a firm’s management can learn from the Mangalyaan project is very vast, says Shastri. However, there are a few takeaways that stand out.

The mission became successful due to the collective effort and intelligence of stakeholders, not their individual genius, he says.

Similarly, companies should consider encouraging teamwork and collaboration rather than pursuing individuals. “Every organization has people with different aptitude and skills. It is the responsibility of the senior leadership to ensure that they identify competencies and encourage teamwork," says Shastri, adding the management should focus not only on the high performers, as different perspectives will only lead to more informed decision-making, resulting in better chances of success. Having a higher purpose for being in business is yet another key element, differentiating companies. Organizational goals should have a “higher purpose"—something which is unique and relevant, with which every stakeholder can relate to and have an emotional connect. A great example, he says, is the Tata group that has achieved more than its business goals. It stands for trust and responsibility. Similarly, the Mangalyaan project was launched not just to put India ahead of others in space research.

Again, while Indian culture is appreciated on a personal or family level, the culture followed by Indian firms is often criticized by many. Mangalyaan could not be managed so efficiently within the specified time frame if the Indian Space Research Organisation did not have the right work culture, says Shastri.

“(Management guru) Peter Drucker has said culture eats strategy for breakfast. Strategies formulated can only be executed when the work culture is conducive," he adds.

Plan for success, not failure

K.G. Vishwanath, independent consultant

The first lesson for Indian companies from the Mangalyaan Mars orbiter is to plan for success, not failure, says K.G. Vishwanath, an independent consultant and former Jet Airways (India) Ltd vice-president (investor relations).

Vishwanath was part of the Jet Airways team that struck a deal to sell a 24% stake in the airline to Etihad Airways PJSC for $379 million.

“Secondly, Isro had planned its production units across the country meticulously and tapped the best talent accompanied by the best planning tools," he says. “They were not ready for taking any chances. They were planning not to fail. This is an inspiring lesson for any company and their boards."

Vishwanath says the third key lesson was about teamwork while handling egos. “Isro put all the team into one with a single objective. When a company stands together as one to achieve an objective, nothing can stop them and Mangalyaan proves that," he says.

He observes that choosing a team was purely based on merits irrespective of gender differences. “They just stood as one to accomplish the objectives," he adds.

“The last lesson is about passion. If you are doing anything, do it with passion. There are several examples of companies that have succeeded in the toughest market conditions by showing inimitable passion," he says.

“Not to forget, Mangalyaan was accomplished with the lowest cost. It proves that while focusing on cheap cost, quality can still be maintained. Indigenous manufacturing means superior quality. That’s what we need now at a time when the nation is building a manufacturing base competing with China," Vishwanath adds.

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