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"Clarity of thought, conviction of belief and genuineness of purpose are the three very important aspects of any leader."
- RK Misra

Leadership Case Study - RK

It was in August 2002, when we moved in our lovely home at the outskirts of Bangalore. We were part of a gated community called Palm Meadows, one of its kind in India which has been extensively written about in the world media.

Life was perfect and the family was enjoying the green surroundings and spacious living. There was only one problem; the single-lane road from the city center to our gated community was in a really bad shape, narrow and broken.

The Problem

The area around our gated community had become a sought after destination and was buzzing with new real estate development. The number of vehicles on our narrow road was increasing every day but the government had no plans to widen and improve this road. We wanted to do something about it by meeting the government officials.

It took a lot of effort to get an appointment to meet the commissioner of Bangalore Development Authority. When we finally met, we were dismissed in just 2 minutes as road was not important for them (politicians or bureaucrats did not live on this road) and there was no provision in their budget for this road.

“It was really disappointing and I  didn’t know what to do.”

Solution

We tried and met some friendly bureaucrats and asked their help to find a way out. To break the impasse I proposed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to do this road, with a 50:50 cost sharing with the government and road users. The concerned officials agreed and we were all very excited at the prospect of getting a decent road.

Hurdles

We found out that there was no law to allow the government to enter into an agreement with private parties to do a PPP projects. So we were back to square one. It took a lot of effort and some bold thinking to convince the government officials to sign an MOU with us as an interim arrangement and get started, while we proposed to work with the legislature to enact a PPP policy for the state of Karnataka.

Second challenge was money. It turned out that our share (50%) was Rs. 55 Million (US $1.4 Million). This was a huge sum and I was panic stricken. But I had committed to the government and there was no other option. We had to get the road fixed.

I visited all major corporate and MNCs. Bangalore is the IT capital of India, so I went to all IT companies whose employees were the beneficiaries of this road. However it was disappointing as all of them had some reason or the other to decline our request. Some doubted the government’s sincerity and others argued that they were paying their taxes and making roads is the government’s job.

Finally we convinced real estate developers of the area by telling them that a good road will immediately enhance the value of their properties. They too were skeptical about the government’s sincerity and ability to do a PPP project, especially this being the first of its kind project. It was 6 months of hard work and finally we convinced the real estate developers and the work began.

First Mover’s Troubles & Dilemma

While I was running around and trying to get all this organized, my friends and colleagues were cynical as they were convinced that I was wasting my time and energy. They expected nothing from the government, going by their past experiences and general perception of poor governance and accountability of the government authorities.

So it was a dual battle to convince the participants of the project and to keep my spirits high, while I was surrounded by cynics. Only few close friends believed in me. However this strengthened my resolve and I decided to prove myself.

Managing Vested Interests

Government projects and contracts are riddled with nepotism and corruption. There is no transparency and accountability. Since we were putting our money, I proposed transparent tendering and regular monitoring of the quality by an independent agency. This was unheard of and choked the avenues of corruption.

This was an uphill task and I was the target of many vested interests. I personally inspected the work, took notes and photographs to be discussed and presented during review meetings. This scared many officials and they went to their political masters who started a campaign against me and my style of functioning. They proposed to bring a defamation suit and wanted an apology from me for asking their officers to do their job well.

Mayor is unhappy with Misra inspecting the roads-political undertones - March – 2006

It wasn’t easy

Media was scrutinizing the project with great interest and every aspect of the project was being reported. Citizens of Bangalore liked what I was doing and they supported me. Media too liked what I was doing as they found public keenly following-up on the happenings.

It was not easy, but I was convinced that I was doing no wrong and nothing should deter me. I also believed that if I was successful in this first venture, it would make citizens aware of their rights and they would demand better quality and transparency from authorities.

Finally we made it

Finally after 2 years, the road was complete and it was one of the best roads of Bangalore. I was declared a hero. Public applauded the efforts.

The government appointed me as the co-chairman of the Empowered Committee on Infrastructure and entrusted me with the improvement of all city roads. Finally all the quality standards and transparency norms, adopted by us in the first project have become standard practice for the government projects.

Stand-Off between Industry and Karnataka Government - The Hindu

It was a sweet victory

This made people of Bangalore select me as Bangalore City Winner of Lead India, which was eventually endorsed by the whole nation, when I went on to win the national finals of  “Lead India” in Feb-2008.  

Lead India was a Times of India Initiative, which was launched to find new generation leaders of India on the occasion of 60th year of Indian independence.\

Now the mission is to Change India

I have founded a movement named Change India to involve citizens and work with the government for better governance, which is the biggest challenge facing India.

Change India movement spans across India with chapters in all states of the country. The objective is to provide operational guidelines and a credible platform to empower local citizens to work with the government in a participative model for better utilization of public resources with greater transparency and accountability, thus improving governance and strengthening delivery systems.