India reaches the moon’s south pole. For your little company, is a compliance program harder to reach than the moon?

Joe Murphy

By Joe Murphy

India has sent a rocket to the moon and successfully reached the moon’s south pole before any other country could do so.  What on earth (or elsewhere in the solar system) does that have to do with compliance? 

An article in the Sept. 2-3, 2023, Wall Street Journal, B3, “The Moonshot Heard Round the World” by Ben Cohen, tells the heartening story of how India, a country with one of the world’s lowest per-capita GDPs, could reach the moon on a tiny budget.  As the author so incisively describes this accomplishment, they reached the moon for less than it costs Hollywood to make movies about the moon. 

Scientists in India did what they had to do on a shoestring budget, and learned from every opportunity available.  They made due even when they had to transport rocket parts by bicycle.  Their approach was characterized by the Hindi word “jugaad,” which Mr. Cohen describes as cheap and unconventional ingenuity.

Congratulations to India for this scrappy approach.  It brings to mind wisdom I had learned years ago. While those who are content to do nothing find excuses, those who want to do something find a way. 

So this leads me to a point about compliance programs.  Those who don’t want to bother creating a compliance find excuses. Those who want to do it find a way.  They can even find better ways than those who simply throw money at things. 

Often when I want to express a point where the English language has a void I find Yiddish terms to be very useful.  But here I have a new Hindi term that fits:  Jugaad.  If you are limited on resources, look to India and their model of jugaad.  Find the way that gets you where you want to be, by learning quickly from mistakes and being dedicated to getting the right result. If you can move your rocket parts by bicycle that is better than complaining about not having the parts you need.

Can small companies have effective compliance programs?  Only if, like India, they are determined to reach the result.  Or, like so many others, they can waste time inventing excuses and do nothing.  But it is always a choice. 

If, like me, you respect this concept of jugaad, then I offer this guide on how to do an effective compliance program without wasting money:  Murphy, A Compliance & Ethics Program on a Dollar a Day: How Small Companies Can Have Effective Programs (SCCE; 2010) Its free, and you can even carry it home on your bicycle. 

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