Anything that moves

Why Indian corporations and celebrities never buck the government line

When Indian celebrities or institutions step out of line, it not only provokes anger on social media, but usually legal measures as well.

On February 6, over 100 US companies, mainly from the tech world, joined a legal brief challenging the travel ban instituted by the new Trump administration. Three weeks previously, Meryl Streep, receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, used the occasion to criticise the xenophobia of the new Trump administration. Her speech had Indian commentators lamenting the lack of local celebs taking similarly brave stands.

In an amusing recent conversation with the AIB gang, who know a thing or two about facing public and political anger, Shah Rukh Khan insisted at length that he would say nothing to offend anybody, before providing his take on the Meryl Streep matter. Why insist that everything admirable somewhere else needs to be replicated here, he asked. Applaud Streep, applaud Madonna, but don’t expect something similar from Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla. Khan’s perspective was obviously coloured by the belligerent response to his anodyne, throwaway comments during the intolerance debate of late 2015, and the boycott calls that followed Aamir Khan’s slightly stronger statement on the issue.

When Indian celebrities or institutions step out of line, it not only provokes anger on social media, but usually legal measures as well. Three examples from Bombay come to mind, all of them occurring in the past six months.

Forced to apologise

In August last year, a Jain monk named Tarun Sagar was invited to deliver a sermon in the Haryana assembly. The composer Vishal Dadlani, a member of the Aam Aadmi Party, criticised the invitation of a religious leader into a nominally secular assembly. He was immediately charged under various criminal heads, including Section 153A of the penal code (Promoting enmity between classes), 295A (Maliciously insulting the religion or religious beliefs of any class) and strangely, 509 (Uttering any word or making any gesture to insult the modesty of a woman). Dadlani got no support from his party colleagues, and had to issue a series of grovelling apologies before travelling to meet Sagar and grovelling further in person. He was made to hold his ears and say, “Main kaan pakadke maafi maangta hoon” in the manner of a six year-old punished by the village school teacher.

The next month, it was the turn of the popular comedian and television host Kapil Sharma to face the wrath of the public and the law. Asked for money by a municipal official, he complained on Twitter of having to pay bribes despite the crores he shelled out in income tax. Sharma tagged the prime minister in the tweets and asked if these were the promised achhe din. Maharashtra’s chief minister initially sympathised, promising an investigation. But the municipal corporation soon fought back. Sharma had made unlicensed extensions to his bungalow, they said. Not only that, he had unauthorised constructions in his office. Moreover, a tower in the suburb of Oshiwara in which he owned a flat was possibly illegal and liable to be demolished. The Maharashtra Navanirman Sena inserted itself into the controversy by alleging Sharma illegitimately employed foreigners on his show.

Not only had the comedian contravened the Mumbai Regional Town Planning Act, the mangrove cell of the Forest Department claimed that bungalows in Versova suburb, including Sharma’s, had destroyed mangrove cover for years. Officials could make these allegations confident that no government agency would investigate how an unauthorised 18-storey building had been allowed to come up in plain view or how mangroves had been damaged for over a decade without the mangrove department taking any action. The government knows how to protect its own.

Membership applications

The vengefulness of bureaucrats reached a peak in the case of the Bombay Gymkhana. A few babus demanded permanent membership of the posh club, but were rejected by the managing committee. Furious, they struck back. First, they decided that the Gymkhana’s parking lot had to be removed because it blocked the way of pedestrians. I happen to have walked that street hundreds of times. It is among the widest pavements in the entire city. Despite the many cars parked there, I have never faced any vehicular obstruction in my path. Given the parlous state of footpaths in the city, and the many unlawful hindrances pedestrians contend with everywhere,the Bombay Gym parking space would not come to mind as a priority for the municipal corporation. Let nobody say our administrators don’t lack chutzpah.

Next came threats to take over part of the Gymkhana’s grounds, including the heritage bungalow used by its head, to widen a road that needed no widening. The last straw was the last-minute denial of liquor permission for the Gymkhana’s New Year’s Eve bash. At that point, like vulnerable shopkeepers surrendering to a protection racket, the Bombay Gymkhana’s wealthy and influential members threw up their hands and agreed to admit senior IAS and IPS officers as permanent members. I expect the parking lot renewal will come through expeditiously now, and the road widening proposal will gather dust in a file cabinet.

In each of these fights, the public at large was firmly on the side of the authorities against the rich celebrities and fashionable club. Every act taken by the municipal corporation or police was spun as a blow struck in favour of the common good against the elite, though it was actually part of a witch hunt. Vishal Dadlani has learnt his lesson. Kapil Sharma has learnt his lesson. The Bombay Gymkhana has learnt its lesson. The lesson is that those who rock the boat get little sympathy and have no recourse. Indian corporations learnt that a long time ago. Don’t expect them to emulate Apple, Google and Facebook.

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What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

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Getting the best from collaborations

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Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.