Chandra Mohan – The Tractor Man

Chandra Mohan - The Tractor Man - Qimpro

Remembering the Quality Statesman on his 88th birthday

Chandra Mohan, Vice Chairman (Rtd), Punjab Tractors Limited was one of the earliest clients of Qimpro, for “Juran on Quality Improvement”. In 1988.

In 2015, I had authored a Quality Fable: 3Cs – Chairman, Carpenter, and Consultant, inspired by my first meeting with Padma Shri Chandra Mohan.

For the current weekly blog, I wish to reproduce this fable from my compilation in Quality Fables 2.

This is Qimpro’s homage to this Quality Evangelist.

3Cs – Chairman, Carpenter, and Consultant…….

The Vice Chairman of a quasi-government tractor manufacturing company was distraught. I had just announced the start of Qimpro. Facing each other, he and I sat on crates in my office, as the carpenters banged away. That was twenty five years ago.

The visiting leader explained that he had taken on the challenge to compete with international brands of tractors in India, five years back. He believed in his technology and engineering abilities to design a tractor that the farmers wanted, feature by feature; and to manufacture that state-of-the-art tractor free from deficiencies.

He further explained that the production lines were streamlined. They had flexibility plus agility. The tractors conformed to every design specification. His quality management practices were extracted out of Juran’s Quality Control Handbook. Story book perfect.

So what was the problem? Apart from the carpenters banging?

The market share results did not translate to his expectations. He had barely managed a three percent market share, nationally. The leader in this business had a thirty percent share. The next five cumulatively accounted for sixty percent.

Why were the tractors unable to compete? They were, in fact, smarter in design, lower in cost, and had longer warranty periods. Besides, the tractors were assured of a proficient after sales service.

It was late in the evening. The carpenters had closed shop for the day. There was a deep silence in the room. Only our minds were silently ticking.

Ten minutes later (what seemed like ten hours) the consultant in me asked two simple questions: Have you met your customers? Have you met your competitors’ customers?

That was like dropping a bomb in a graveyard. The ghost of assumptions arrived laser sharp.

Our action plan was immediate. The Vice Chairman and I decided to conduct an autopsy. Our mission: Why were farmers not purchasing our tractors?

It took a sample of only nine farmers to complete the research. The following were the type of responses:

  • Your tractors are not fit for social use
  • In particular, we need to use tractors during family wedding processions (barat)
  • We cannot accommodate more than four family members on a tractor
  • The bumpers of your competitors tractors can carry the load of six more passengers. Your bumper collapses with four
  • We tried using the mud guard for seating our children. It collapsed.

The designer in the Vice Chairman took charge. Five years later, this company had galloped to twenty two percent market share, ahead of the previous market leader.

Lessons Learned

  1. Every leader must visit customers to understand Fitness For Use (FFU)
  2. Listen to the Voice Of Customers (VOC)
  3. The customer is always (almost) right
  4. Customer Satisfaction is a ratio of Customer Perception & Customer Expectation
  5. Customer Expectation is the trouble maker
  6. Design capability is an unparallel strength
  7. Do not design based on assumptions, particularly with respect to usage
  8. The vision should generate fire in the belly.

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