Monthly Archives: February 2010

Defective Toyotas – An oxymoron? May be not

Fourth largest car recall in the history of auto industry by the world’s largest auto maker… The one who is suppose to be considered a pioneer in quality. Defective cars from Toyota? I could not believe it… All the top selling models of Toyota – Camry, Corolla, Prius, Highlander, Tacoma, all of them have been recalled due to sudden acceleration issues. My first reaction when I heard about Toyota’s recall was that it is certainly going to get added to the list of Oxymorons… That is because, over the years I have heard only good things about Toyota… Infact during my MBA days we have done case studies about Toyota’s quality and its success stories. When I came to the US, I found that the default used car choice for most of my Indian friends was a Toyota or a Honda… Most of them would have at least 80000 miles or more on them… When I ask my friends why they would buy a Toyota which has almost 100000 miles on it, they state the following: a) even at 100000 miles the car runs like new b) it provides great mileage (Miles per gallon) and c) its great value for money – you have a good resale value.

The kind of news that’s coming out about the recent Toyota recall is just eye opening… I have slowly started developing a feeling that Toyota is just another company and I can’t respect it like I use to anymore. The resale value of Toyotas has dropped so much…

Here is some news that came out recently which I read on the internet:

a) State Farm the largest auto insurer in the US came out with a statement a couple of days back saying that they have been reporting Toyota sudden acceleration issue since 2003 to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But after all as an insurance company their job is to report trends from the accident reports that they get but it is up to the NHTSA to act on it.
b) Today I read an article on Bloomberg that former regulators hired by Toyota helped end at least four US investigation of unintended acceleration which could have resulted in a possible recall or a court and government hearing…

In hind sight it is clear that pushing the issues under the carpet from 2003 was not a good idea. Infact, even in foresight a company which is so well known for quality should know that if there are quality issues its better to address them as an when they occur… The kind of damage that is caused to their image now is going to be a mounting task to overcome. Isn’t it obvious that it is only a matter of time that they are going to get caught off-guard some day?? Particularly, issues like this which result in grave accidents needs attention immediately instead of just neglecting it as one of cases. Sometimes basic lessons that we learn when were kids like “A stitch in time saves nine…” need be taken seriously even when we grow up.

Looking at the brighter side…

After a long streak of working from home, today I decided to go to office… As usual i started searching for my ID card just seconds before i was going to get down to catch the bus… (Thanks to my daughter who likes playing with my badge). But it was my mistake I shud have checked that earlier… Anyways I had to come to office without my badge/ID card.. In our office building there are two level access – one for getting through the lobby and the other for entering our floor (36th floor)… On a normal day I will get a temporary pass for going thru the lobby and when I reach my floor I would ask help from one of team members to open the door for me… Due to snow and transport issues no one came into office today and everyone worked from home…

So I explained the siuation to the security gaurd in the main lobby and asked him if he can help me get into my floor.. He readilly agreed and came up with me to open the door.. On the elevator I told him that I was really sorry for the trouble…

He said, “No.. No.. Don’t feel sorry at all.. Am happy that you asked me for help. It is so much better than standing in the lobby all day and just keep looking people come and go…”

At first I just giggled and thanked him.. But once I came in, I just thought about what he said… He really did teach me a couple of lessons..

A) Despite the fact that he had to come all the way up to open the door just for me, he still looked at the brighter side…
That he is getting a break… It is so easy to complaint when things don’t happen per our plan… But it takes great character to look at the brighter side and not feel bogged down..

B) Sometimes, I use to feel that I am in a kind of stressful job and all that… But think about the kind of mental stress that security gaurds will be going thru every day… All that they have to do the whole day is just stand there and look at people.. May be a half a dozen times in there career they may have to react to an emergency and react to that situation deligently as if they have been doing it daily… There are many stressful jobs like this and everyone is putting up with it… I have no reasons what so ever to complaint about stress…

There is Tamil song written by the great poet Kannadhasan which says “unakkum kezhe ullavar kodi, yenni parthu nimadhi thedu…” It means there a crore people below you (deprived of things).. Think about them and feel better…:-)

Karma… Simplified!!

My dad is a firm believer in Karma.. (So am i..) He use to tell me that life is like a balance sheet – The good things that we do go as assets and bad things that we do go as liabilities. At the end of our life if we have done more good and less bad then we will have some assets left.. So to enjoy the assets we may have a happier life in the next birth. But if we have more liabilities and lesser assets, we suffer in lieu of shortage of assets.

The concept of reaping the benefits or sufferings in the next birth does not quite sound appealing to many people. If the good or bad doings have any impact during the same life, there is a lot of incentive for people to do good things.

I recently started watching a TV show called – “My Name is Earl”. This show is actually based on Karma (Americanized version of Karma). It is a story of a person who always does some small crimes, mistakes, and bad things that hurt various people. One day he wins a million dollar lottery ticket and is on his way to encash it. But on the way he meets with an accident and loses the winning ticket and also gets really hurt. While he is in the hospital, he watches a TV show that talks about Karma. He then thinks to himself that the reason why he got hurt and lost the million dollar lottery ticket is because he has done a lot of bad things in life that has hurt so many people in different ways…

So he starts making a list of people whom he may have cheated, did something bad or hurt them in anyway. In every episode they show how he approaches them, confesses the mistake he did to them and apologies. He also does something to make up for what he earlier did to them. In the process of striking one person from the list he identifies one or two more and adds to the list… It is almost like a never ending list but he clears each one of them…

I really liked the concept of this show… It is a comedy show and the kind of mistakes he has done and what he does to make up for those mistakes is Americanized, and is also portrayed in a funny way… But the underlying concept is really noble and has touched me in many ways. It is a great virtue to accept ones mistake and apologies for something. The word “Sorry” is a very small word… But it requires a big heart to say the word “Sorry” and really mean it. It reminds me of the Hindi movie “Lage Raho Munnabhai”, Munnabhai asks Mahathma Gandhi if he can do anything for him… Mahathma says that he wants him to do something for him which is really difficult… Munnabhai says that he is a big shot in Mumbai and can do anything. Mahathma says that he will ask him when right time comes… Finally a situation comes when Munnabhai slaps his best friend in a rage… Mahathma asks him to go and ask “Sorry” to his friend… That was the most difficult thing that Munnabhai has ever done… It brings out the point that real bravery is in accepting ones mistake as apologizing for that… Man!! That scene was really touchy…

This show “My name is Earl” handles the same subject more realistically – When Earl goes and tells someone that he did something bad to them, they don’t take it easy always (unlike what we saw in the case of Munnabhai). He does face rejection from them initially. He still persist and finally does find something that person would really need at that point of time and does that somehow to make up for his wrong doing.

I actually think this is really the simplified version of Karma… Linking our doings to rebirth may seem a little complicated… We are humans after all and can do mistakes knowingly or unknowingly which may have hurt others… But in an effort to balance our Karma, I don’t think doing some unrelated good things is a good idea… It is like “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”… I feel that if we have done something bad to someone, we should at least attempt to go and apologies to them and try to do something to make up for what we have done. It may not be possible always and with everyone… But in most cases it may not be as difficult as we think. It is certainly worth an attempt… That is probably a better way to bring our Karma balance sheet back in line… After all, a guilt free mind is a happy mind.

Am in the process of coming up with my list… So watch out… I may be knocking at your door to apologize for something. 🙂