Helping Transform India’s Future – Part 12

To bring about change in the country, we need to bring about a change in people’s thinking. Awareness will lead to Action. There are many things that we don’t know about our past. India’s poverty need not have been so. The quality of life in our cities could have been much better. Our children should not have to struggle to get a good quality education. None of these things are pre-ordained. It is the choice of economic policies that have put us in the situation we find ourselves in.

Our first task in transforming India has to be in making people aware of what’s wrong and what’s possible. The message needs to be about why we find ourselves in the situation we do, and also paint a picture of how India can be a rich, developed nation in a generation.

It is Middle India that has to be the target of the awareness and action campaigns. With a middle-class that is becoming more educated, growing in numbers, and increasingly reachable via the Internet and mobile, we have the starting elements to aggregate people together to start the process of change.

Continued tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Helping Transform India’s Future – Part 12

  1. Rajesh,

    I applaud your drive on this topic which is heavily avoided by most of us, but I’m a bit skeptical about the notion that “Awareness will lead to Action”.

    Even intuitively, we know that most middle class folks crib about infrastructure (e.g. the ultra-common complaint about the pace of development of the Metro here in Bangalore ), but there are no people who actually know the real status of what is happening or even follow it, they just like cribbing, period.

    And this, *despite* the information available via newspapers and via websites such as and citizen action forums such as , people “hardly have time” for such matters (I myself have been guilty of this). So I really question whether awareness alone will make a difference.

    Relatedly, there was an interesting discussion of Ramit Sethi and BJ Fogg [1]:

    BJ Fogg: Our context controls us in a huge way, let me give you an example. Somebody, a friend of mine, has a daughter in a university that’s expensive, and she wasn’t really studying like she should have to take advantage of all the money they were spending. And so he was wondering: should I send her these threats, should I point out that if she studies hard she will have a higher income, all this informational things to get her to change her behavior.

    Ramit Sethi: Hmm!

    BJ Fogg: Well some of those might work, but the surest, fastest way to get her to start studying, is to put her in a dorm where other people study, and so in that new context, the dad doesn’t have to do anything additional to get her to study – it’s that context. Now we tend to… we are very much influenced by the people around us, the context around us, and I do think context is much more powerful than information in changing our behaviors.

    So for self, if you want to change your behavior, it’s not just betting the right information to you, if you want to change somebody else’s, look at the context and how the context is either preventing or facilitating behaviors.

    Ramit Sethi: Love it! So that brings us the surprise number two, which is that information alone is not the most effective persuasive mechanism, and this is like… this flies in the face of everything that we hear in the media and in America, which is: let’s just give them more information, or let’s educate them. If we educated them they would come over to my side, but that’s not really true.

    BJ Fogg: And you hear that all the time, and you hear it from academics who should know better, and I’m getting kind of grumpy about this… because so much is at stake, and I was at a TED-Med not too long ago and it was a lot of health professionals, and I had discussions with some of them who were creating interventions and they were relying largely on information and in one conversation I said: wait a minute you know that information about smoking or weight loss is not going to… and they’re like: yeah we know but we don’t know what else to do.

    And I mean, that wasn’t the exact wording, but essentially that’s what they said, so even the pros still think, somehow, that information will magically transform behavioral change.

    Ramit Sethi: Why do we think that?

    BJ Fogg: [LAUGHS] Ah, wow! Probably because we like to think we are rational, and we like to think, you know, kind of going back to: humans are noble, we are thoughtful, we are different thano ther animals, we can… So here is the chain you have to… information will then lead to attitude change and attitude change will then lead to behavior change.

    Ramit Sethi: Oh!

    BJ Fogg: And that’s the mdoel, but there are two huge links, and neither of them really works very well. So whenever you hear that, either information will then change attitudes, question that, that’s not really a reliable way to change behaviors.

    Ramit Sethi: You know, what is so interesting is that, I think we went maybe 9-12 months at a certain point without collaborating or keeping up with each other’s works, and then we met again and it seems like we had actually, independently, come up to the same conclusions of focusing on behavior rather than attitude.

    BJ Fogg: Yes, yes.

    Ramit Sethi: For me, I was influenced by a lot of the behavior-attitude relationship studies, like there’s a great study where they had people looking at some kind of a TV shwo and in one condition they had them put something in their mouth and produced a frown, like with a pencil. And then in another condition they had them hold their pencil between their teeth and it made them smile, it made them activate their facial smiling muscles, and the people who smiled actually found that TV show funnier, and it was a great example of behavior causing attitude change.

    So for me, in personal finance the reason that the first chapter of my book is not about like, let’s create a theory about money, or let’s talk about it, it’s like: here is how you negotiate with your credit card bank, it’s very much behavior.

    BJ Fogg: Yeah.

    Ramit Sethi: Because once people get that first win, then the attitude starts to shift, but you have to get that behavior to change first.


  2. After a late night pilates session me and my chums were discussing things. I take a desert spoon full of Organic Blackstrap Molasses with hot water each day after exercice. I wonder why no-one else has tried this?