The CEO of a well-known personal care products company once famously said: “In the factory, we manufacture products. In the market, we sell hope.”
That hope has become a colossal industry – from fair skin in a week or losing belly fat in ten days to growing brand new hair in a fortnight.
How are these promises different from someone saying, “I will double your money in ninety days.”?
We stigmatize the latter and do not have any problems with the former.
Will someone explain to me how one is treated as a legitimate business while the other is a transgression of the law?
What happens when fanciful promises become a national pastime?
When I was in college, one of our leaders came up with a slogan: “Banish Poverty.”
You may find this hard to believe – the slogan remained mainstream for more than a decade. The nation bought into the idea that one can banish poverty by a simple slogan.
It is another matter that fifty years later, more than half of our people are poor.
Silencing Inconvenient Alternatives
Even before we thought of banishing poverty, another leader (an engineer, no less) looked at the cycle of floods and drought in the country and suggested that we should link the rivers to balance supply and demand. His colleagues turned away. Some suggested he should seek psychiatric help. As I write this, we have unprecedented rain in many parts of the country. Hundreds have died, thousands are homeless, and the crop loss is beyond comprehension.
Once again, there is some talk of linking rivers.
Oh, that is a great idea! Does anyone remember the person who said exactly this sixty years back?
In 1989, when Wal-Mart had not reached $50 billion in revenues, Sam Walton declared: “We will be a $125 billion company by the year 2000.”
As you would expect, his close friends turned away. Some privately suggested he should seek counseling.
Wal-Mart reached $125 billion in 1996, four years ahead of schedule.
Though he never said it, Sam probably thought: “Friends and foes, go lick your wounds.”
Hope and Fantasy
Hope is the essence of life. We hope today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today. Without hope, one may as well give up (Penance is not an option since even penance hopes there is something one can achieve).
My question is: When do hopes end and fantasies begin?
As an example, is building a colony on Mars a hope or a fantasy?
Is doing something about the environment a hope or a fantasy?
Before you suggest, I should seek professional help, let me pose a simple question.
We want to be a $5 trillion economy by 2024.
As a vision, it is grand. It moves people, galvanizes the masses, and everyone starts to tear up.
Thanks to the democratization of knowledge, the solution is just a mouse click away.
Search for Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR).
A ready-to-use calculator is available.
Our 2019 GDP is expected to be $2.96 Trillion (We are already in August and are almost certain to miss the mark).
Target is $5 trillion.
Time-frame is five years.
Enter the figures and see what you get.
The country has to grow at 11.05% year after year after year to reach the magic target in five years.
We are clocking half that rate right now. Some sectors are at their worst ever. Unemployment is high. Factor productivity – excuse me, let us not bring fancy economic terms into the discussion.
The best we have done so far, according to one group of economists, was 10.02% in 2006. Another group says 9.57%.
How do we go from 6.5% to 11.05% when every sign suggests that we are heading toward a slowdown?
Will someone, please explain to me whether this is hope or fantasy?
In case you are wondering why I am obsessed with words, I would suggest that you hear Malcolm Gladwell on Chutzpah vs. Chutzpah in his latest podcast. Here is the link:
Please answer me or add a comment after listening to the podcast.