Some time ago in Mumbai, Birla was posed the question, "If you have an index of quality, where will you place India?" To this, he said, "Quality has many components to it. There is no one amorphous thing like quality and there can be no one index." When the questioner persevered and asked about work ethic across the country, Birla said the work culture in Mumbai is perhaps, the best. As the audience applauded, he added, "I'm sure all Mumbaikars will agree with that. All of us are committed to the work we do, we put in our best, we work long hours and people commute for very long hours. And we don't need to be told that we need to do our best."
Drawing a comparison to make a point, Birla said, "On the other hand, in a city like Kolkata — and I'm a Kolkatan at heart, I'm born in Kolkata and my family lives in Kolkata — I think that the quality of work ethic is extremely poor. That is because that is how it has been traditionally and we haven't had any new businesses come up and a host of other things like that." Birla ended his reply with a bashful, "Sorry, not a very sexy answer".