Even governments market
…sometimes, though, they don’t do it very well.
If you want to travel to India, you need a visa. The Indian government would very much like you to travel to their country, to exchange ideas, do business, see the sights and spend some money. But you need a visa first.
I spent a few hours at the Indian consulate in New York Friday. It was filled with so many possibilities, I had trouble remembering them all.
Many of the chairs are broken, leaving sharp steel platforms on which to crouch. And there aren’t enough chairs, broken or not. The signs are confusing, the two clerks are protected by a sheet of glass a full inch thick (which is twice the thickness of a typical bank’s) and the little machine that dispenses deli-style tickets is broken.
Fixing the consulate would be easy. I’d start by putting in phone lines to a call center in India and making it easy for anyone waiting to get questions answered by a helpful person with plenty of time to invest in the conversation. I’d buy some comfortable chairs. I’d invite airlines and hotels to have brochures or even better, a booking agent right there in the waiting area. I’d hire seven more clerks. And I’d definitely lose the glass.
The more important issue is this: this is a business. They take in more than $20,000 a day in fees, but even more important, the way they market themselves has a direct and important impact on travel decisions. No visa, no trip. Big hassle, no trip. Given that every single person traveling to this vast country must deal with the consulate first, think of the leverage… Just a small influence on the quantity or quality of travel to India would be huge.
My takeaway was this: the people in that building were way too nice and way too smart to not know the many ways they could fix this process. The problem is that this bureaucracy, like most bureaucracies, has an attitude of minimizing, not maximizing. They want to minimize expense, not maximize benefit. There isn’t a single person there who has as part of his job, "change systems to increase the satisfaction of people we deal with." Nobody who is charged with, "increase revenue opportunities for us and for the people we work with." Or even, "employ more people in Delhi."
Same thing happens at my village zoning board, at most schools, at many churches and even, believe it or not, at most businesses. It’s not that difficult, but it requires a very different mindset.