Apple and Gandhi

“If it were not for Gandhi we would have made much more progress.” These were the provocative words my Dad often mentioned in jest, when I was a child growing up in Bombay.

The Man – The conviction
So, let me start by saying that I am quite neutral to Gandhi. As a rebellious teenager growing up in conservative India, I was more concerned with reining in my hormonal horses before they ran astray, shocking my middle class, South-Indian, parents. 

But I digress. Coming back to Gandhi, it is only as I watched Attenborough’s Academy Award winning Gandhi for a second time last week that as a mature middle aged woman (who is at heart a teenaged science fiction geek of course) it struck me that this man was quite simply a phenomenon.

For once the west was right. Check out the courage of conviction – the sheer audacity of this man. He walked the walk and spoke the talk. Sure he was a canny marketer. But he had a great 100% proof product. Himself. It’s not like we Indians, would have ever had the weapon technology to overcome the occupiers by force. So he played on the sense of fair play (pun intended), appealed to basic human conscience and use non-violence ie. passive aggression instead of nuclear warfare.

My favourite scene from the movie

He realised that employment had to be created at home so that there were jobs, industry and commerce to go around. Only he spun it (pun intended again) into the Be Indian, Buy Indian routine. Not only did he encourage Indians to boycott British goods and buy Indian goods instead but he practised what he preached. Ie. He only wore what he spun. What a great leading by example, marketing by practice, using a symbolic device (his spinning wheel) to hit where it hurt. He realised that you had to strike at the economy of the Empire to get a reaction.

Doesn’t Jobs’ profile look like the Mahatma’s?

The reason I talk about this, is when I read about how that most American of symbols and my most personal of possessions ie. my Ipad is actually manufactured in China; and that if Apple were to manufacture its products in its home country of the USA it would still leave the company with a healthy profit margin and  would create hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the US. my mind boggles.

Did someone lose a trick somewhere? So if atleast a few of the American companies who currently outsource production were to move their manufacturing back to the USA, well it would actually resolve some of America’s problems, right? And I get that from a cost optimisation standpoint, you go where the labour is cheap to maximise profits. But it seems this is often a short term win at the cost of longer term repercussions… like the economy.

But, wait a minute, does that not go against the very truth of globalisation? And I am the first citizen of this new multicultural global society after all. So I have to say that this left me feeling very confused, in terms of what I actually agree with. The only thing I am still sure of is that like Gandhi, if I have the courage of conviction to follow my true path, and believe in myself, well then things would be altogether a lot simpler for me; in this life atleast.

What do you think? Do you think Gandhi got it right and that the solutions to the world’s problems perhaps lie in Gandhinomics? (Dad, hope you don’t read this.)

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