Life with No Ownership

[Sorry for the month-long break friends. Hope you will enjoy this post]

I woke up in the morning as usual. Opened the door to collect the Milk Carton that was delivered. I walked to the kitchen and emptied the milk in a container and placed the container in the fridge. I walked back again to the door and put the empty carton in a bin that was supplied by EcoPack. In the next hour, a man from EcoPack collected some 600 cartons from our apartment complex. These cartons were taken back by EcoPack for reprocessing to make low-cost partition walls. The cartons “belonged” to EcoPack and not me.

I had my breakfast and I showered to get ready for the office. I opened my wardrobe and selected a smart pair of jeans and a trendy white shirt. My clothes came from Xchange – a company that provided clothing on rent. Many of my friends wondered how I was always in fashion and my clothes changed as per the season. Subscribing to Xchange made this possible. My clothes belonged to Xchange. I did not have any ownership. I believed in sharing the resources we have and not “stock” them with me.

I came down to the foyer. My driver drove in Skoda Superb and opened the door for me. Last year I sold out my Toyota and discontinued the service of my driver. I opted for a leased Skoda Superb 2019 edition. The car came with a driver and the company took care of all the upkeep and maintenance. This arrangement was hassle-free. I could change my car every three years in the new lease agreement. So what I didn’t have ownership?

I reached the office. The security officer checked me as a routine. Our office complex had hired a company that specialized in providing security services. This was a contractual arrangement and no security staff was employed by us.

I headed to my cabin. Many like my office layout, the furniture, the lights, and overall ambiance. The secret is that the office functions on the idea of no ownership. My office furniture is rented from the “Ladder”, lights are supplied by Philips Capital and I pay only for the lighting service and not for the bulbs.  All the potted plants are supplied by “Natura” Nursery. Natura maintains the plants and rotate them every month. Last month, I asked for plants that purify the indoor air quality and so it was done.

I called a few of my colleagues for a discussion in my cabin. I had given them some stiff tasks and a proposal was to be submitted for international competitive bidding. The job was well done and on time. I wasn’t surprised as these colleagues were hired on a contract and there were severe penalties (that included “instant” sacking on finding any serious slippages). I however wondered whether this arrangement brewed any ownership of these colleagues to the company.

After the discussions, I asked for some strong coffee. A boy in a smart dress walked in my cabin with a tray. He said “Good Morning Sir. How are you today?”. His pocket on the shirt sported a symbol of Figgie. We have contracted Figgie for all our pantry related matters. Figgie brings their tea/coffee machines including tea and the roasted coffee beans, bitter and sweet cookies, the cutlery and “supply” a person who manages the pantry.  There was a really a headache of managing the pantry earlier and tolerate peons who had a habit of chewing pan and gossip.

It was nearly 5 pm and I closed my laptop that was on lease. All our computers are on a three-year lease from Innova. Innova not only maintains or computers but provides an excellent backup facility on a cloud server and takes care of the cybersecurity. More importantly, they take back the leased computers after three years and refurbish them for use in schools. So, we have a good story to tell. Thats a kind of an example of shared economy, I mused.

I reached home by 7 pm and changed into a Tee shirt and shorts. I put my formal office clothes in the washing machine supplied by Bubble.  Bubble leases washing machines and you pay as you use. The machine is smart to log the usage details and has an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based program that optimizes water and detergent use.  So, you don’t have to lock your money just to own the washing machine. Of course, Bubble takes care of all the repair and replacement needs.

But leased washing machine is just one example. The air conditioners in my house, the refrigerator and water purifier are all on lease. And my apartment itself is under the lease agreement. I owe nothing!

I told about the experience of living with no ownership to my Professor Friend.  He did not seem to be happy about this new way of living life. I said moving from product ownership to services is one of the strategies of Circular Economy.

Professor looked outside the window and lit his cigar. He took a deep puff and said

“Dr Modak, I see a potential risk in this approach of living. Perhaps you are losing so much on the interpersonal relationships and emotional experience of “owning something” and “be accountable yourself”.  Don’t you miss conversations with your driver who was with you for 15 years? You had a connect not only with him but with his family. That enlarged your social circle to other strata with compassion and a sense of responsibility.

“And remember the day when you bought your first car. The garlands you put on and the sweets you distributed? You drove the car to your house as a proud owner. And the good care you took of maintaining your car, every year as if the car was part of your family. And what about those encounters with Alibhai’s garage? You learned a lot of automobile engineering there and the negotiation skills!” I thought the Professor was right.

“You always shopped shirts from Chirag Din in Colaba. Chirag Din (CD) is not a partner with Xchange and so I don’t see you wearing the CD shirts anymore. That was your identity or brand Dr Modak.  And the best part of shopping for clothes from CD was to go to Jimmy boy after the shopping for a Patrani Macchi lunch (a Parsi steamed fish preparation coated in a coconut chutney mixture, wrapped in banana leaf). Don’t you think you are missing that fun part of shopping experience?”

“Well, when we worked in our young days, we kind of belonged to the company. We had a sense of ownership for the organization. Even now I feel so attached to a company like Dorr Oliver that is now no more, where I started my career. We still talk about the people we worked with and the experience we shared. Don’t you think when you hire people on contract with the threat of getting sacked any time – will these people look for the interest of the organization? They will simply look after themselves!”.  I thought the Professor was right once again.

Professor extinguished his cigar.

“Dr Modak, the worst example is here” He pointed to a couple of dissertations lying on his desk.

These are the dissertations that are professional and outstanding. But the students who produced them hired TWC – a Thesis Writing Company, set up by few IITians. TWC supplies well-done dissertations for a fee as per the requirements of the student. The dissertations that are written are of the best quality and delivered in time.  After all, who is interested in the ownership of research. The only interest is to “use” – by paying a “service”  fee – and get your degree. I expect TWC’s business to grow”

I thought this time the Professor was stating the possibilities rather overly.

I left for home driving my leased car and continue living life with no ownership.


Cover image sourced from https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2013/11/25/increase-company-performance-by-instilling-sense-of-ownership/


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22 comments

  1. Excellent writing Dr.Modak as usual.Thanks for sharing and keep me posted your enlightening thoughts.Good Day.

  2. You have opened a very timely debate as to where to draw the line between dried &.dusted
    calculations and emotional well being. We need to balance out on this, as we need to do in every walk of life. Slightly imperfect circularity with human touch may be more prudent. Great style of writing as always.

  3. Aha, Prasad. Welcome back.

    Lovely scenario and I was sure you will bring up TWC sometime. And, it did.!!

    Best wishes for your hired services. But, BMC must make it possible, na?

    Cheers,.

    Anil

  4. I think I belong to thought process of professor
    Just the other day driver asked for 5k to training his daughter for swimming my wife closely associated with daughters studies like extended family
    Dead at night I was rushed to hospital by the same driver justfrom call by my wife
    I think you do require sense of belonging

  5. If we disconnect ourselves with “everyone” and “everything”’ we are not a living system. We can extend this to our personal lives as well. Rent a partner, kid, friends…..and ….we are the best robots… I see the story as an extreme end of circular economy. When nothing is mine, how long will it take for me to believe even “earth and environment “ is not mine. Extreme disconnect will eventually destroy everything…..Even Isaac Asimov didn’t see this economy in any of his Sci-Fi…Professor was right…

  6. Brilliant. Typical Prasad’s tongue-in-cheek humor. I’ll go a step further. At the end of the day, I’ll leave my body and take up my position in the environment. No ownership of the body and its actions.
    Perhaps that’s what is happening already in the world today.

  7. Well. I agree with most of it, and these thought boggle me as well. But the situation today is not ‘shopping at Chirag Din’ either. The situation today is H&M like mass production based fast fashion (& uber etc.) where attachment and human interactions are already being compromised. Probably, the status quo itself needs to questioned!

  8. It’s lovely imagining events from the time you get up in the morning and later all through the day, one by one. Practically nothing is owned by us. Yes almost..

    Mahatma Gandhi also advised industrialists to run the companies as trustees. Spiritual People also believed in not getting attached. Doctors are not supposed to get involved in patients. ( This is almost in place now. Family doctor is an extinct). Stretching the imagination further, everything is available in service form. All passions and professions are turning in to services. There are serviced mothers and donor fathers. No one owns anything. The world would be the sum total of multiple services generating another world of garbage where no one will come forth to claim ownership.
    Someone would then remember what your professor said. The world would slowly start finding meaning and values in ownerships or partial ownerships. Social structure will get rebuilt, There will be new sets of goods and bads.
    It was a fun going through your write up. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to loiter around your article and get strayed.

  9. Interesting thoughts. Ownerships drive passion; emotions and that delivers results and success. Without Ownerships life is only generating garbage with no responsibility – but pay, use and throw.
    On the other side is it generating reuse, reduce and recycle – if yes then maybe we moving into resource use efficiency and a reduced consumption lifestyle
    Thought provoking
    Regards Sodhi

  10. Dear prasadmama, very well expressed. Just to extend the concept to it’s extreme, don’t we anyways lease these bodies and minds in a way, in our eternal search of freedom!

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