Guest AuthorPavan Soni

Why quality (still) matters!

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist 

What is happening with some of the most recognizable brands in the world, of late? 

Samsung’s blasting phonesToyota’s crashing carsTakata’s non-functional safety gears, and Boeing’s Dreamliner nightmares, amongst several other issues. 
How come some of the most respected and allegedly innovative companies in the world could not arrest their slide into misery, on issues which should have been taken care of long back? 
Perhaps quality should have become hygiene by the advent of the innovation age, or the age of reckless speed. Or, perhaps not.
Just after the WWII, the western world, and forget about the eastern hemisphere, was very comfortable with good-enough products. Quality was no concern to the USA, for there was enough room for expansion and the idea was to bring in newer products into the market and letting people stuff their ever larger homes with the latest and the best (not really).

Then came Japan, and through its instruments of central planning and disciplined execution, manifested in the steady rise of Toyota, Honda and Sony, amongst other firms, demonstrated that quality can indeed be managed. 
No soon, the Americans adopted the Japanese principles, calling those as Six Sigma, and ushered a quality revolution in 80s and mostly 90s. 

Ironically, the very moment quality became achievable, it became ‘taken for-granted’. Engineers, and managers alike took their eyes off quality in pursuit of ever faster and newer products.

Even Japan, which was for a long while touted as the world-leader in quality, started faltering. 

In an insightful article published at MIT Sloan Management Review, researchers identify unrealistic growth aspirations of the management, and a loosening culture as reasons for  unprecedented recalls by Toyota. 

An insider view of Samsung also tells me that in a pursuit of speed, the firm lost the sight of quality. They wanted to beat Apple so much that the most important parameter was ‘time to market’, and where improvisation took the better of improvements. 
Worst still, even after the apology from Samsung’s Chairman, the advertisements of Note 7 are galore across India, and perhaps most of the world. 

Has innovation (read faster and better), take the better of quality (read reliable)?

Back home, Reliance Jio is a case in point. In an attempt of disrupting the Indian mobile telephony market with its signatury predatory pricing tactics, the firm has offered a below the ordinary service. And, worst still, there seem to be no qualms about it. 

Why is the customer expected to pay the price of the poor quality of products that sellers want to ‘push’ into the market in pursuit of quick and big bucks? 

Afterall, customers seldom ask for features that are often thrown to them. These are the sellers who want to get a temporary advantage by making half-cooked dishes. 
Time to go back to the importance of quality, and good old reliability, where even if the customer doesn’t get the latest and the greatest, she at least is sure of not getting burnt, both fiscally and physiologically.

I wish that as a generation we stop becoming restless, and start valuing reliability, else we are to blame for the opportunism of sellers.

Republished with permission and originally published at

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