Proportionate Growth – A Learning from International Business

James Allen is one of the thinkers who influenced me in a big way, and his thoughts are pearls of wisdom — detailed in his book: ‘As a Man Thinketh — which played invaluable contribution to my life’s progression. Amongst them, this one: “Man is a growth by law” has profound meaning. In this aphorism, he says something without telling it though a careful reading of the book evidences its presence felt, and that is the word: proportionate. The growth needs and ought to be a proportionate one, for it is a nature’s rule applicable to every creature without exception in order to experience a wholesome — balanced — living, Hence, man is also bound by this Hobson’s choice if he wants to live a life of wellbeing. The rule is equally applicable to a system if it wants to have a sustainable growth. James Allen’s words crossed my mind as I confronted an operational challenge in my profession.

For the last few months, our company has been experiencing a major stumbling block in the export business: lack of enough shipping space to accommodate containers to various destinations. Almost all the shipping lines had cut down their sailings and/or pooled their sailings together to minimize voyages on various routes and also had replaced bigger ships with smaller ones leading to a situation where getting a container-berth on a ship had become an extremely difficult and long drawn process. This is resulting in a situation where we are not able to ship out the goods within the targeted month and that the shipments have to be rolled over to the next month. The case is further exacerbated by the congestions at various seaports. Though our problem is micro when drawn on a bigger international business canvass, if I am allowed to look at it as a matter of fact from our side, then I can say that our growth as a company is temporarily stymied by a single element of disproportionate growth of the shipping industry.

To make it easily understandable, let me illustrate how this challenge of a macro dimension affects a country. India had done a bilateral trade of US$ 145 billion with the United States of America in 2019, and India’s Commerce Minister recently set an ambitious target of US$500 billion bilateral trade with the States as doable in the next five years – an annualized growth of 28% which, as the minister said, is achievable. Similarly, India has set ambitious trade targets with the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, the EU block, etc. What does India have to do to achieve these ambitious targets, with a larger economic objective of pushing up exports more than the level of imports as India is currently a trade-deficit country?

Well, India has to make many business-friendly decisions with regard to its macroeconomic policies to enable increased investments in infrastructure; liberalization of polices to encourage value addition through manufacturing; being more open to inflows of foreign capital as well as technology; beefing up its service sector to face increasing competition from countries like the Philippines, Vietnam; etc. Imagine that India has done all these, besides, complied with all the bilateral obligations with perfection, but barring force majeure, will it surely lead to India achieving the trade targets? Till I confronted the operational problem, I thought that the answer to this question was yes. But the problem shows me that the answer is a no because there is another element called logistical infrastructure that also needs to grow in tandem — grow proportionately — with the growth of the macroeconomic measures that India undertook.

In order to achieve its stated trade targets, India needs to invest in its ports and affiliated infrastructure so that bigger mother ships can call at Indian seaports as well as frequency of sailings through the Indian trade routes can go up. Furthermore, to avoid any logistic shocks, India should encourage domestic shipping liners to strengthen their international operations, especially in establishing direct sailings from India to the trade-targeted countries. In a nut shell, India needs to have proportionate growth in all the elements, including its logistic infrastructure, that are intrinsic and inevitable to achieve its stated trade goals.

Allen’s words are a living testimony if we look at how nature grows its creatures. Nature does its wholesome act of proportionate growth in perfection. Let us look at the way a tree grows. The time from its sprouting to the phase of aging out, a tree grows in length, breadth and depth to maintain its wellbeing that enables its survival through the life cycle. And this wellbeing is achieved by the proportionate growth of its body parts — branches grow, sometimes stretch themselves out, to get required sunlight, roots go down as tap root or spreads out horizontally in fibrous to have enough hold onto the ground and trunk firming up to make itself a strong body — all happen ‘in the order’ as required by nature to have the beauty and balance to maintain itself as a tree. This proportioning of growth is applicable for even inanimate things of natural origin, and storms are a classic example of this — the seed of a low pressure region surrounded by a system of high pressure growing in leaps and bounds in proportion to the pressure gradient.

Coming back to the aphorism that man is a growth by law, with its larger meaning of proportionate growth, it is imperative that man grows in all his natures in a proportionate way to experience a life of wholesomeness. In his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ Steven Covoy elucidates this point emphatically, and I am paraphrasing his words: Man needs to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in the right proportion in order to have these four natures coexist in a balanced mixture without one overriding the other. This balanced growth is a prerequisite to have a life of wellbeing; otherwise, states like these can arise: man can be brutally analytical and miss the holistic view, meaning he can be grown to a being guided only by reason, leaving emotions unattended; it can be other way round, too, — totally emotional with no room for reasons. It can also be ignoring the bodily requirements like sleep, rest by working for longer hours to satisfy his materialistic ambitions connected with reason and emotion. Man can peak his bodily, mental and emotional well being but can still feel empty if he looses his soul as the Holy Bible says.

Proportionate growth is the nature’s rule, leaving man with no option other than embracing the rule to live a life of wholesomeness. Does he listen to this nature’s rule?

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