I haven’t done as much for another human being as I would have hoped for. But I was reminded of what little I have done. Not in a way, where more people should come in to help and volunteer, but quite the opposite. I used to help a deaf-blind girl, interpret her theory lectures when she was pursuing physiotherapy in Blind People’s Association. That is a story for another day. But what, I am trying to talk about here is dependence, vulnerability, and support. It’s something they don’t want to ask for, but they need it.
Although we preach that we’re not judgemental, we do make an intuitive opinion about whom we meet. Malcolm Gladwell has written a book about it. But, as I saw him, if I had even a tiny shred of negativity, it was gone, he was smiling. As if everything is easy, it’s possible. Jinendra Jain.
“Initially for many years, my father was sole breadwinner of the family, as my uncles were younger. So I got very close to my grandparents, who shaped me and basically brought me up. I still call my grandmother Ma and my mother Mummy. That is the level of attachment.”
Joyfully describing one his most cherished moments with his grandfather, he tells me how his was proficient with tables up to 40 when kids couldn’t do 10.
“Usually, children sleep with their parents, I used to sleep with my grandfather. Unlike my other siblings or cousins, I followed my grandfather’s rule of reciting pahade (multiplication tables) before he’d allow me to sleep. I think that’s what built my analytical ability to what I am today”, he says with a little chuckle.
The attachment with our grandparents is on a level, no one can match. Their unconditional love and support even in face of mischief is something we all cherish in our childhood.
“When I was in 12th my grandfather suffered a paralytic attack and entire right half of his body was paralyzed. It was a very difficult time for me. I was an average student, but that year I scored a mere 54 percent.”
At this point, everyone in his family told him, it’s difficult to secure a good college at the score. He wanted to study, and father told him, ‘do what you want, study’. Not that his uncles didn’t support him, but they were of a business mindset that, ‘we have our business, you can get into it’. So, he took a drop and got into one of the top colleges in Rajasthan, MBM engineering college. He got felicitated for outstanding performance, with a gold medal and he never scored any less from then on.
He went on to do some of the most amazing work as an engineer. He took up a role in TATA Steel when most people from his batch were choosing IT. He was passionate about mechanical so all else was out of contention of course, not just that, he stuck to his guns with manufacturing and operations even when he was asked to move up the chain. Puffing up his chest, proud of his choices he tells me how they gave him numerous opportunities. In between this, he went for his MBA at XLRI.
“Pursuing a degree from such a premium institute, others looked for jobs in marketing, finance, in a consulting firm or overseas placements. But I went back to shop floor at TATA Steel, even when they offered me a section of my choosing.”
His grandfather used to tell him to achieve proficiency in one field and before moving on to others. And he did just that. After 9 years at TATA, he moved to L&T.
“The one who offered me a role in L&T was visiting the shop I handled at TATA. He commended me that I could handle a shop of 600 people comfortably at such a young age.”
At L&T, he worked on improving efficiency and processes whereas here he was given 99.35 Crores for setting up an entire facility of a Pulverizer plant from scratch, almost to all to his discretion. He facilitated the setup of entire facility from infra to recruitment in 12 months and fully functional by 2011. When the project ended, he moved on to find a new endeavor to make his own. He set up JNJ Machines Pvt. Ltd. in Hazira. The Grandpa’s boy had come a long way from reciting tables to establishing his own factory – ALIMCO.
ALIMCO is a PSU which manufactures artificial limbs and rehabilitation aids. In 2013-14, they wanted to expand and deployed Deloitte for the same. From research to finance everything was taken care of but they were having trouble with operations. That’s when Jinendra was approached who helped them without any monetary gain.
ALIMCO started in 1970, and till 2013 no major technological up gradation was done. They were given a scope of work and being Project Management Consultants, their work is to ensure expansion happens as plans.
“We had to deliver as per specification, but when saw the wheelchairs, crutches, et. al. we realized, that we could deliver better quality and utility products at the same cost. Just because it’s a government entity and we’re doing it for the downtrodden, doesn’t mean the product has to be low-quality, as is the generic mentality.”
The best of technologies were available to them, but their only base condition was, that they won’t produce at the cost of increased price. They put their heads together as engineers, to think as to how they could reduce the weight of the aids.
“The struggle that we had internally was nothing, even the customers were of the mind,’ ‘why do you have to put in so much effort?,’ All I could think of was, paisa badha nahi raha, acha product dene ki koshish kar raha hun, is it bad?”
Jinendra traces all this back to the time of his grandfather. How could he make these people independent? Most of their lives will be spent on wheelchairs, and with a small operational change, if they can get a sturdier material, wouldn’t that add to the substance of the work they are doing?
“I remembered my grandfather’s words. When my grandpa suffered from paralysis, he told me, ‘depending on someone for even the most basic chores is very troubling’. As a family, any of us would support out of obligation for a few years, although we wouldn’t stop, but then it does become a cumbersome task, for them, for us.”
With this, he wanted to make things easier for whoever uses the product. A small attachment to the wheelchair or a better wheelchair, and they could run a small stall, make a livelihood. Change in cross section reduced weight. Remove joints by manufacturing it as one unit to make it look less shoddy, and all of this without increasing the cost.
Change doesn’t start when you start seeing tangible results on the horizon, it starts right from the moment you strengthen the resolve, that you need to see it happen. What Jinendra is doing is undoubtedly very inspirational, but his efforts are just logical and a welcome change to our preconceived notions that cloud our judgment of what could be done in reference to what is currently being done.
Jinendra recently spoke at TEDxDumas.
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