The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
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Indian Tailors and Project Management

Perhaps a few of you will frown upon this entry. It is not academic or pedagogical but I think project management should apply to all aspects of life. I recently returned from a trip to India my home country. And like many Indians and a lot of Silicon Valley VCs, I feel that I should get as much done with cheap labor during these visits. No, I was not getting software written for cheap but simply getting a few blouses stitched. These are special kind of blouses to be worn with the Indian garment Saree. There is a store in Mt. View that actually stitch these blouses but they charge around $50 a piece. Thus it made complete sense for me to get it stitched in India for approx. $1.50 a piece.

I don’t know about tailors in the US but tailors in India are notorious about late delivery. They over commit and take in too many orders (scarcity mentality) and then to please the customer agree to deliver on the date requested. Typically they make up by delivering to your house, sometimes a month late, an abundance of apology(sometimes they create fictional tragedies of which they were victims as an excuse), a lot of smiling and extreme good behavior. They wait for you to try on the newly tailored attire and if not satisfied actually fix the problem then and there (they carry a small sewing machine with them). In the end the client forgets about the extreme late delivery and lets the tailor off the hook.

Unfortunately, I had quite forgotten about all this when I took to them materials for 3 blouses to be stitched. In order for an accelerated delivery I even agreed to pay them $5 a piece almost 3x their regular charge. Came the day of delivery (they had agreed to 6pm as the time), I arrived at 7pm giving them an hours grace. The master tailor completely unperturbed asked me to return around 8.30pm. Quite irritated I demanded a reason and asked if the blouses were at all stitched. He confirmed that they were and that the final touches were being done. When I asked to see the product just such that I had some peace of mind he explained that while he cut the blouses (which is the part that requires mastery) in his shop the actual stitching got done elsewhere. Without much option I returned again at 8.30pm hoping to see the stitched product. But alas the tailor looked a little embarrassed and said that the guy with my blouses while on his way got caught in a traffic jam and would be there momentarily. He then offered me some cookies and coffee . After about an hour I inquired once again about the arrival of this guy and then very reluctantly the tailor called him on his cellular phone. There was a look of shock on his face as he informed me that the guy was on his way to deliver my blouses but just found out that his aunt had fallen very ill and instead had to rush to the hospital. There was not much I could do. I sincerely doubt if the guy who stitched the blouses even had an aunt. The tailor promised to personally deliver the blouses at my house the next morning. He knew I was leaving the city that evening. I had quite frankly given up any hope of getting the blouses before my international flight. I was honestly cursing myself for not getting them stitched in Mt. View.

Well the next morning the tailor never showed up. He finally arrived late afternoon, and after making ample excuses for his delay did deliver the 3 stitched blouses. I must say I was rather pleased with result. The blouses were very well cut and stitched. Finally as I was stuffing them into my packed luggage I was wondering what the total cost of those blouses were, $5 a piece + hours of waiting + anxiety + irritation. Did it amount to more that $50 a piece?

India is a hot bed of investment right now. I think someone should invest in project management resources to help all the tailors. It could be quite a lucrative investment. Mind you these tailors also deliver all things “Made in India” to the stores in the US and I wonder how much could be saved if things arrived on time.

Also, when VCs blindly recommend that outsourcing to India/China/Romania/Poland would solve all budget issues they should think twice. How do you calculate the price of time to market? Although software professionals have better time management ethics than Indian tailors there are other factors that often contribute and actually make the cost of outsourcing higher than getting things done at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against off shoring (which is the PC term) in this global economy. But like cars we really need to look at the TCO (true cost of ownership) .

SHAMPA BANERJEE

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About the Author

Dr. Shampa Banerjee Senior Vice President Technology, Affinity Shampa Banerjee joined the Affinity management team as senior vice president of technology in October of 2005, bringing more than 15 years of experience in managing and developing large-scale Internet-based information systems and e-commerce services. Currently she directs the global companies' worldwide and localized technology efforts including product development and lifecycle management as well as leading all technology strategy and vision. Most recently, Dr. Banerjee served as Chief Technology Officer at Ziff Davis Media, Games Group. During her two years with Ziff Davis, she launched the company's games information portal, 1Up.com and is credited with implementing successful technology and change management strategies, growing its audience more than 50 percent in a mere four months and reducing operating costs by 30 percent. For her work at Ziff Davis, Dr. Banerjee also received Application Development Trends Magazine's distinguished Innovator Award in the Open Source category. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Dr. Banerjee spent six years at AOL/Netscape serving in a number of strategic product and technology roles including senior director of AOL channels product, core manager for AOL travel products and manager, performance & QA for AOL Organizer. She also has also worked in various technology roles at Quote.com/Lycos, Netgrativity and Animatics Corporation. Dr. Banerjee received her BS in Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India, her MS in Physics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and her Ph.D. in Physics at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. shampabanerjee2003@yahoo.com
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