Thursday, January 20, 2005

From Reebok to Nike a year back. What now?

I bought two pairs of sneakers from a Reebok showroom some 2 years back, and I guess that made me an avid fan of Reebok. The sneakers were nice, glitzy and sporty – the perfect combination for showing off. All was well until a pair was stolen in a classic but unrecorded case of daylight robbery in my home in Bangalore. I suspect if the felon would’ve made more than 100 Rs. on that daring attempt of his. Given a chance, I would’ve paid him twice as much if he had disclosed his talent and intentions a priori. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t seem to work that way. No wonder we are late in recognizing talent. In the mean time, management students such as me are left to do a cost benefit alternative analyses for such things without rime or reason.

If you have a good deal of money as a bachelor – the kind of money they pay in IT industry - 2 models from the same company would sound boring. Since the only way left - as far as shoe purchase was concerned - for me was to go up, up I did go. I purchased Nike. A cute colored, light weighted shoe, with the classic tick that’s supposed to give the whole body a brawn par comparison. Again, all was good with Nike. It’s served me well for over a year, from plains to mountains, from rivers to ice. But the inevitable has happened. And an unspoiled, conservative old Indian brain has started to feel empathy.

I vaguely remember reading reports about child abuse by the likes of Nike, Reebok and Disney. Things came to spotlight after a case study about Human Right violations by Nike and Reebok that we did in our HR class yesterday. A specific line in the case read “Nike had the option of spending 1% of its advertising expenditure to place 15000 of its Asian employees above poverty line, and it chose not to”. That was a strong line. As curiosity has it, I researched more about the topic than ever, and I found startling amounts of information on the web, only if one chooses not to be ignorant. Nike, and to a lesser extent Reebok, has committed human rights violation by paying its contract shoe manufacturing Indonesian and South Asian employees far less than the average salary. The working conditions are allegedly traumatic, with little or zero consideration even for children and women. I found the following article especially strong:

Just do it. Boycott Nike:

According to recent reports, the situation has improved far from the 1980s, but there is still widespread exploitation on the part of such giants, particularly in countries like Indonesia and Pakistan where jobs are at a penny. It’s said that companies such giants give don’t give a damn to basic humanitarian considerations.

The question for us middle class Indian consumers is whether we are ready to boycott products from such companies if such inhuman policies come to light. We Indians did a lot to eradicate child labor from the cracker industries of Sivakasi, South India. Children abstained from Diwali celebrations, and we responded as a community. How do we respond if such policies of what are supposed to be flagship multinational giant companies come to light? As compunction pricks me, I’m quite clueless as to how the exact response should be from us consumers.


At Friday, January 21, 2005 9:53:00 AM, Blogger Rahul said...

Never knew about that.

Have been using NIKE, but now after reading this post, I will have to rethink.

At Friday, January 21, 2005 1:44:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Yeah, the magnitude of this is really surprising.

At Friday, January 21, 2005 3:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boycotting is not a solution. How many time have I boycotted the elections. We may think it is a small step which would grow multifold. But it doesnt work that way. Public memory is short. When they dont have a choice in quality they obviously go for Nikes and Reeboks. But I feel already US business laws and judiciary would have caught up with them and they would have mended or atleast trying to mend their ways. If you look from the 'below minumum wage' angle I can assure you that 50% of the small businesses in India indulge in this. This is one of their money spinning avenues. How may time you feel damn hungry and visit a hotel and get served by young boys or visit a pharmacy and see underpaid guys handing out life saving medicines. Most the of the guys are paid 800 Rs/month and when the labour officer visits them you bribe them and set the records as 1500 Rs/month. Do we stop eating or buying medicines. Western world is atleast better. The information comes out and some kind of arrangement is reached and they try to compensate or rectify it. Indian side of the story is best untold. Why should we target big companies. Just because we get fame or media coverage and we enjoy big boy bashing. It should all start with your neighbourhood hotel, pharmacy,grocery store,travess,tea stalls. For all you may know we will get bashed up by them. Atleast the big boys wont do that.

At Friday, January 21, 2005 5:01:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Hmm Nice line of thought. Would appreciate if you leave ur identity though.

But then, on a small note, if people start resurrecting neighborhoods alone, no one would ever know such a thing is happening. Thats the advantage with large companies. The media effect. Media would get frenzy, and the message would carry to millions and millions of people. Ofcourse, Im not saying that neighborhood shouldnt be targeted. I did write to the 'Indian Child Labor' id abt such practises in Bangalore. I didnt get a response tho. In that sense, incidents against MNCs would atleast carry the message.

At Friday, January 21, 2005 9:14:00 PM, Blogger Arun K. said...

have to agree with the anon brother .boycott's are not the solution.some of these kids are the sole bread winners of their family,we will only be hurting them with the boycott.Unsafe work is better than no work.

At Sunday, January 23, 2005 4:50:00 AM, Blogger Sonia Chawla said...

Its nice to see that someone in b-school rasing social isues. Nike - sweatshop was a very popular incident how a university graduate's insistence of getting his shoes personalised with the word "sweatshop: ( a slang for such manufacturing units of asia) bought teh whole issue in open. will search and put the link if i come to your blog on a more earthy hour.
But never the less another valid point that i want to make ( nothing personal intended here) is that there are reasons why the protests and objections of b-schools grads and others are not taken seriously in such matters. Because more of their objections are highly academic with no action on the ground to change teh plight of those affected..

Time for some introspection...

till then adios...

At Sunday, January 23, 2005 1:25:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

I guess I failed to convey my take properly. Im definitely not in support of a boycott. I mentioned Im pretty clueless abt it, coz the magnitude of the problem is large, and 'human rights abuse' per se happens in every corner in India, and I've got zilch response when I rraised those issues in Bangalore.

But yes, issues raised by Bschoolers are just a part of analysis, and thats one reason it doesnt create a flutter, probably coz our analysis is not meant to create a flutter.

Pls post the link if u do get hold of it.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2005 5:25:00 PM, Anonymous Purush said...

I have tried Reebok, Nike and Adidas since i have to support my ankle for injury rehabilitation. But still i am unable to find one proper pari. Action shoes are also not comfortable. Since i am absolutely in need of a shoe to support my injured ankle, i am not able to appreciate who are behind in making it. Just i need for medical reasons and should i care whether it is national or international or violative of human rights etc.


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