SUBIR CHOWDHURY - QUALITY GURU
Subir Chowdhury, CEO of Michigan-based ASI Consulting Group, advises some of the world's largest companies, including American Axle, General Motors, Hyundai, Chrysler and Caterpillar, has been called ‘an eternal optimist’, but the photo-biography of Mother Theresa in his Bloomfield Hills home shows the other side of him.
“I get asked about my heroes all the time,” says the best-selling author of twelve books on business management and better productivity through quality. “I think people expect me to rattle off the names of top Fortune 500 executives, but no, it’s her. Because Mother Theresa is a benchmark of human quality—she sought to make the lives of others better, more productive. She understood all the keys to quality management and practiced them in a simple, spiritual way.”
That’s the side of Chowdhury that may not always get the notice of the press, and the self described ‘thought leader’ receives plenty of ink—his books have sold more than a million copies and are translated in more than 20 different languages. But his worldview is more the result of a dreamer than a schemer, and his conviction that he can change the world began when he first came to the United States at the age of twenty-one.
“Coming to the States was not a prerogative for me; in fact, it seemed like almost a mystically huge place when I was a child. But I had been told that this country was the land of opportunity, and from a very early age, I wanted to shake up the world.”
Starting off as an engineer at GM, Chowdhury’s ambitions as a self-starter insured that he’d wind up at the helm of his own corporation. ASI Consulting Group now counts his former employer as one of his clients. With an honorary doctorate in engineering from Michigan Technological University, he’s been honored with the first Philip Crosby medal from the American Society for Quality and a host of similar awards for his leadership in quality management worldwide.
Though he regularly brushes shoulders with a who’s who of corporate elite, his childhood in Bangladesh and his upbringing in a culture of respect for others has translated into a man who might be described as ‘aggressively humble’. A devout Hindu, he is particularly drawn to the Indian tradition of ‘going to the roots to understand the way the universe works.’
“In India, respect for others is in our DNA. When we greet our parents, for example, we always touch their feet in devotion. It’s regard for their wisdom, not of their status.”
As such, despite the numerous awards he’s picked up over the years, nothing meant more to Chowdhury than a letter he received from a correctional facility in Florida. Apparently, his latest book, The Ice Cream Maker (Random House, 2005) had touched the young people incarcerated there deeply. “As I get older” Chowdhury admits, “the knowledge that I am affecting common folks with my writings means more and more to me. That is my ultimate satisfaction.”
To meet Subir Chowdhury in person is to experience the raw passion and enthusiasm of his views as Journalist Laura Berman shared in the following Detroit News article;
Feeling down? I wish I could drop Subir Chowdhury into your living room.
He's a locally based antidote for the malaise settling more quickly over Michigan than you can say "receivership."
He breathes in oxygen and exhales enthusiasm in such an authentically American way that, predictably, he was born in a different part of the world.
But Bangladesh, and then India, couldn't contain him. An American he worked for told him he could become whatever he wanted to be in the United States. He listened. He worked -- and knew no fear. He enjoyed immediate success.
At 25, he was a low-level engineer at General Motors, a recent transplant to the United States with dreams bigger than the Texas sky and an ego to match. "I drew a list of the biggest names in management thought," he remembers, "and told my wife I'd be at the top of all of them."
HEADS A CONSULTING FIRM
Now he's the Chairman of Michigan-based ASI Consulting Group, a consultant to some of the world's largest companies -- including Hyundai, Chrysler and Caterpillar -- and the author of 12 books. He has become, as he hoped, "a thought leader."
When he wins an industry award, which happens with reasonable frequency, he doesn't stash it in his closet: He sends out press releases.
Chowdhury's on a mission to save America from its "national disease" -- chasing glitter at the expense of consistency. But he wants to pump us up -- rev up our rpm and stop us from being psyched out by China and India. "Americans have a China Syndrome," he says, "even though this is the greatest country in the world." He worries that his adopted country would sooner shrug and defer to being inevitably overtaken than change course.
For most of his career, Chowdhury has written complex books explaining technical quality theory. You can probably skip most of those.
But now, to get us all on the path to quality, he's written a charming, hardcover parable called "The Ice Cream Maker" (Random House, $16.95). It offers a story about an imaginary ice cream company with a dispirited salesman who can't sell his product to the best stores.
CHANGE IN ATTITUDE
Voila -- he swallows his pride, listens carefully to his would-be customer at "Natural Foods," and convinces his fellow employees to change their attitudes and habits. Together, as a team, they vanquish mediocrity and sell more ice cream.
OK, it's a simple tale, deceptively so. Chowdhury is especially good at describing how mediocrity isn't easily identified or changed -- because everybody wants to believe they're already doing a good, or good enough, job.
Chowdhury's ascent has been fueled, as he tells it, by a willingness to approach his human gods directly and to never accept no as an answer. He pursues his goals relentlessly, hoping always to "convince others of my passion."
In that spirit, he suggests "The Ice Cream Maker" becoming a kind of Detroit Bible, at once raising our expectations and our self-confidence. That's bold self-promotion -- chutzpah -- a quality that our battered region could use right now.
To visit his website CLICK HERE.