The malaise of cutting corners ..

Two of our favourite restaurants have forced me to mull over this topic … We went to Haldirams a few days back and I asked for my staple “Raj Kachori” which according to me, no one makes better than Haldirams. Krishnan asked for his “Chole Bhature” as always. While the process of making these items remains the same, the quantities have shrunk. In the Raj Kachori it’s the sweet curd that makes a difference and that’s reduced significantly over the years.. Likewise, the quantity of “Chole” has reduced. We were disappointed. 

The day before yesterday we went to another all time favourite restaurant of ours – Saravana Bhavan with Jayanth. Jayanth ate the regular “thali” and Krishnan and I ate the tiffin stuff .. Krishnan ate his regular “mini idly sambar”. Krishnan likes the sambar to be piping hot and he even told the server that he wants it piping hot – it ended up being lukewarm. Then I asked for the paper roast dosa without dollops of ghee … First the order taker tried telling me that “Hindi people (read North Indians) want more ghee”, to which I said, I am a South Indian and I don’t like dosa smothered in ghee. I grew up eating dosas made with oil, never with ghee and I anyway don’t like too much of oil too. The dosa came with ghee that had to be wiped off with several paper napkins but again, the size had been reduced considerably. Krishnan and I have been eating at Saravana Bhavan since 1990 and we probably know their menu card backwards. Their quality has deteriorated and the quantities have shrunk. Well, about the coffee, less said the better. I am finicky and I used to love the Saravana Bhavan coffee, but I don’t think I will have it again. 

The point is, both these food joints are doing exceedingly well and people will not hesitate to pay a little more for the taste and consistency. Reducing the portion sizes and increasing the prices defies logic !! I call this cutting corners and it’s a malaise. Look around everywhere – the Uphar tragedy could have been averted if only the builders had not cut corners; the buildings that keep collapsing in Mumbai can definitely be avoided, if only the builders don’t cut corners; In the apartment we live in rainwater comes in through the windows, another fine example of cutting corners; Cars can be launched in India without seat belts, yes, and without airbags and other safety features, “Datsun Go” will ensure you go permanently, sad example of cutting corners; the other day I ended up buying Mother Dairy curd without seeing the date – it turned out to be rancid and it was ten days old, my mistake and the department store cutting corners; a young man died in a motorcycle accident and dear friend’s son is battling for his life with head injuries … No helmet, law cutting corners by not insisting on helmets and bad quality helmets, business cutting corners. 

Cutting corners many believe increases profits – you can’t be more WRONG ! It erodes trust, it slowly cuts away customers and suddenly one fine day you realise there is no turnover, so obviously no profits. The classic case of cutting corners happens with benefits in the workplace… Cut down the insurance coverage, cut down the cafeteria subsidy, cut down the transport allowance … Right size the budget by cutting corners and slowly you chip away all the engagement factors and then do “fun” events to improve engagement :). While hiring, we run after softwares and agencies that can miraculously find us the best candidate but we cut corners by squeezing the hiring agency’s fees or not training the interviewer with the result that the “wrong” fit happens. Cutting corners goes to the extreme of not offering tea to visitors and it happened to me. 

Airlines try to cut corners by switching off the airconditioning once the aircraft lands and is taxiing and don’t switch on the airconditioning till the flight nearly takes off – enjoy your flight with us, we help you sweat out your toxins while we cut corners, is the unstated message am getting. I am not going to talk about the seats and how cramped one is, just thinking of it makes me uncomfortable. 

Cutting corners cuts out the customer.

Put this up in your offices, restaurants, shop floor and every place where business happens. Give more than what the customer expects and live up to your promise of quality and quantity. Disappointing a loyal customer is not good business sense …. Don’t cut corners, just don’t. This malaise needs treatment. 

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