Education

All posts in the Education category

Smart Cities : More Questions Than Answers

Published May 17, 2015 by vishalvkale

SMART CITY
A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. A Smart City, should have Power, Water, Cleanliness, Seamless Information, 24/7 Utility Services, WiFi zones, Recreational Spaces, Waste Management, Connectivity in transport as well as communication, Speedy Service, Transparency and Accountability etc.

While there are good points & it is also a good and needed step, but…. firstly, it doesnt take into account the realities of the Indian Demography, Polity, Bureaucracy, Governance and Systems. it doesnt take into account the Indian Economy, and its doesnt take into account the status of the real estate sector, as also any number of other realities that beset the Indian Economy.


ECONOMIC STRUCTURE

Economic output by the entire corporate contributes just 18% or thereabouts to the Indian Economy. The rest is Agriculture, and unorganised sector. A smart city implies high doses of technological capability, which scores upon scores of our companies do not possess, and the gap is too large for them to plug, given the history and the monetary requirements. Other nations enjoy economies of scale and can produce whatever we can at cheaper rates. If we keep a purchase local condition, we are finished before we start, like the FDI in retail brouhaha.


If we cant compete in a commodity like Stainless Steel, it is foolish to believe we can compete in high-tech sectors. We have skills aplenty; they have the economies of scale, which is what is needed. For that, we have to dismantle a large part of our taxation structure, which is inverted in more than a few categories.



Next, how do you fit in the small variables like the thelaa-gaadis, small eateries, roadside stores etc – all the things that define a lovely Indian City in a Smart City concept? Is it clear? What happens to these small support services? They are a cultural reality; I wouldnt be caught dead in a 5-star; too stuffy and showy for my taste, Give me the fantastic Idli-Vada at Sion Station; given a choice, I would eat Idli Vada over those showy dishes in a Marriott any day! The point is that these minor details need to be idenitified and clarified before we start, or we run the risk of overzealous officials banning or relegating such activities to the backburner, leading to loss of livelihood to thousands, and an erosion of uniqueness and attractiveness as well.



Next, Sustainable Real Estate. End of Story. Take a gander at the real estate market in India. It is controlled and cartelised, beset by crime and corruption. TIll last year, prices were holding in Urban India depsite their being a 50% vacancy rate of unsold inventory. What happens when the Smart City Ball gets rolling? Sustainable? That it isnt. Valuations will go through the roof, and that is a fact. 


It completely ignores the structure of the Economy, which is characterised by small entrepreneurs. I would like to understand how the small entrepreneur with 50000 seed capital can make a mark in your smart cities. These ventures are capital intensive, and import oriented, which is the real reason why everyone from China to USA is agog; they see $$$$Kaching$$$$! Study the incomparable report on the Indian Economy by Prof Vaidyanathan – India, Uninc; it gives figures from Government sources and introduces you to the real India.


There are two data points available : 5th Economic Survey, 2005 and NSSO 2011, Both tell the same story: Smart Cities are nothing but a fantasy. They are premature, they are the future, but very premature. The Idea is right, but a decade or two too early. As per the first, there are 41.83 Million establishments in India; 76% of these worked without any power; employing 100.9 Million; 46% were own account establishments. As per NSSO 2011, 66% were OAE; retail trade slipped from 42% to 30% and ,manufacturing grew from 23% to 31%. Own Account Establishments were 60% of retail, 72% of Manufacturing, and 63% of service. Contribution to the GDP : between 46-58%.


Given the Smart City definition, a good number of them don’t fit – and largely for no fault of theirs. These organizations do not have the money to upgrade – they will upgrade eventually : a process that is currently underway. That is the time these concepts can work. And this will happen in tandem with improvements in education etc basic facilities in India, not before.

PRIORITIES & REQUIREMENTS

What does the nation require? Research shows that nearly 93Million of our farmers are losing 800-odd per crop; data shows the level of poverty in our nation; consumption trends corroborate, with the top 10% growing at a rate of 3% as opposed to 1% consumption growth for the bottom 40%. Farmer suicides are going up; the economic fundamentals are shaky; the global economy is in unprecedented turmoil, and all we can think of is Smart Cities? Our Armed Forces are in dire need of funds; and all we can think of is Smart Cities? We spend the lowest in GDP terms on Education, Defence and Health, and all we can think of are Smart Cities?



We dont need Smart Cities, We need Schools, Colleges, Primary Health Centers, Rockets, Mortars, Fighter Aircraft, Missiles, Satellites, Seed Research, Irrigation, Water Purity for Agriculture, Extension Workers to teach our Small and Marginal Farmers, Redoing our Duty and Taxation Structures, Fair prices for farmers at farm-gate, cement or pukka roads, etc etc. A smart city can come after that.



Besides, a Smart City requires – data connection. We in India have average & unreliable speeds of around 1,5mbps; the developed nations have a speed of upwards of 22mbps. They have high penetration of credit and debit cards and acceptability of online commerce; we dont. India has precisely 73Million broadband connections – this is including individuals with a double connection; I have three. Less than 69Million Indians consume more than 512mbps of data on a monthly basis; and cashless transactions are unknown outside the protected environs of top places.


The logic is sound, I clearly stated that concept is needed – but a decade or two too early. This will work in a relatively corruption-free atmosphere, where the Land issues are under control. That we dont have. Next, this works in economic reality which enable the above, which again we dont have, as I have been at pains to point out.


The shift to the small cities will not happen in the industrial sector; the vast majority – upto 90% – of the actual producers are concentrated in only a select few agglomerations, namely Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, followed by Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad. Other second-level sites are Nashik, Meerut, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Ludhiana, Kanpur, Rajkot,Surat. No one else comes even close to these cities, although Jaipur, Chandigarh, Hissar, Nagpur and a couple others do try hard. These are further populated by small enterprises.



The shift will not happen from these established centers; there is in existence an ecosystem that now is impossible to replace,. with manufacturing facilities being deeply interlinked with their vendors and suppliers who have now set up in the same or nearby areas. In B2B industries, a symbiotic relationship has started with the consumers and the manufacturers sometimes co-located, or located within 8-10Kms of each other.



The proof is in the manifest failure of industrial areas in other wannabe metros, like Indore and Bhopal, which have simple failed to take off. They remain consumption and trading centers, not producers, despite an incredible level of support given to them by successive Governments. The failure of Bhilai to rise as a comparable center to even Nagpur, let alone Surat & Rajkot, is a case in point.


MY FEAR
We are only exacerbating the rural-urban divide. As on date, few Urban Indians show the same level of passion for rural development, which is the only thing we need. Rest will take care of itself! We are asking people to focus their valuable- sorry, waste their valuable time on cities, where the conditions are utopic in comparison to villages and that is a fact! Large numbers of villagers would willingly settle for facilities comparable to our current “stupid cities” and that is also undeniable.


No amount of planning will overcome the serious objections there are, some of which are enlisted below. I dont buy visions; they are a dime a dozen. I buy execution – call it my sales instinct, but I am not impressed by Grand Visions without a proper execution document, which contains detailed studies & steps.  And this is not made after finalising the plan; that is stupid, blunt and straight. Typically, that is to be visualised before finalising the plan and the execution.



Where is that plan? If it exists, why isnt it in the public domain? Where is the detail on what exactly a “Smart City” means in practical terms – real world terms, not meaningless jargon, which even I can write, given I am a part-techie and a part-telecom / business person to boot?????? Give a person time and opportunity, and out comes a logical sounding plan! That is dead easy; doesnt require any great skill whatsoever. What will be the mode of transport in a Smart City? Residence and Commercial Areas? Connectivity in Roads? Size of internal roads? Drainage?



What will be the connectivity in terms of data and communication? What technology will be adopted? How will the technologies communicate with the other “stupid’ cities? What will it cost the residents?What happens to the slums? Or doesnt the concept apply to the slums? If they are in a smart city, they should be smart slums too! Each city has bylanes with crowded marketplaces; these are the epicenter of business in India, commanding a lion’s share of the business volume pan-India. What does this mean for them? What is in it for them?



How will rural India benefit? Please give specifics : not general statements like find jobs, or employment generation. Jobs in which industry, at what level paying what? Where will they stay? Where will the land come from? What will it do to land prices? How will you ensure proper settlement for dues – and if you think this is not important, I can produce 40 years worth of terrifying tales of neglect? How will you ensure Land Mafia is controlled – without real and serious administrative reform which no government – AAP apart- has shown any appetite for?



A Smart City means Power, Water round the clock, Where will that come from? We dont have enough power now, wont have for another 2 decades. Who will sacrifice their power for these Smart Cities? And why should any stupid city sacrifice even one kilowatt for a smart city, pray tell? Where will water come from? Any number of cities are seriously water deficient. Where is the plan for all this?????????



A Smart City implies a certain level of data connection backbone; which we dont have, and wont for a minimum 5-10 years more. It also means seamless information availability. How will you ensure that, given the various data collection points, formats, protocols? When your land records are not computerised? When any number of public facilities are not online fully, and there are no plans for them either? When you still have no common information system in the Government? When there is a redundancy in several documents?  I could go on and on… Where is the real plan?


Why does this generate this level of interest? Why doesnt the question of farmer suicides, famers earnings, rural facilities, etc generate the same level of attention, interest, passion in Urban Indians? Arent they Indians? What is being done for them, pray tell? We are still focussing on cities, not on the villages where the situation is decidedly bad. Why hasnt the same level of euphoria, the same level of passion, the same vision, the same money been generated for setting things right in Rural India? The government is hard selling this concept abroad, showcasing our development, whereas we require basic steps like Education, Health, Governance and Defence!



What it should have done is launched rural programmes with the same fervor, passion, vision and attention – which is not the case. We have finite resources both in terms of money as well as other aspects. How we spend those resources is the key.

In point of fact, Smart Cities is the last thing we need; we dont have the ground realities even in urban India for it, and that is a fact. Not one person anywhere in India has even tried to meet the serious and potent objections being raised by any number of people; and are focussing on the vision. 




Remember : Great plans fail on execution as, among other reasons, it turns out that the ground realities did not support the plan in the first place.



India Versus Japan 1947

Published April 2, 2015 by vishalvkale

One of the most common rejoinders of our failure to develop ourselves, at least among the Urban Educated Indians, is a straight-on comparison with Japan, about how it was destroyed by World War 2, and how it is now a developed country, taking on The West on its own terms, standing tall among the committee of nations as a developed country with a tremendous set of achievements in its past 60 years, a nation with every comfort the West has, and more; whereas we stumbled from mistake to mistake, resulting in a massive gap between the two of us.
From an outside perspective, it seems like Japan and India were at comparable stages; 2 destroyed economies; and that today, Japan is years ahead. While the above statement is completely true in every respect, it also hides the reality that lies underneath. Let us peel away the above statement and take a look at the reality of the situation, which goes a long way in explaining this riddle. While we did make some mistakes, we cannot extrapolate those mistakes to the complete story, not without looking at some underlying facts that tend to throw rather a different light on things.
Just one statistic is enough to drive home the difference between Japan and India – and that we cannot compare the incomparables. The literacy rate in Japan in 1929 was 43.8%, with over 90% enrollments in schools. In India, in 2001, the literacy rate is 62.8%. Japan was at this level of literacy around 1960 or thereabouts. Whatever economic strategy we took, we would never have been able to catch up Japan, given this reality.
The net result of this high level of education in Japan can be seen in the inventions that happened between 1900 – 1945. Inventions and discoveries like The Power Loom, Aberic Acid, B Vitamin, Portable ECG Machine, VectorCardiograph, Epinephrine, Thiamine, Monosodium Glutamate, Japanese Typewriter, Electric Rice Cooker were all discovered or invented by Japanese scientists between 1900 – 1950. These are symptomatic of the overall climate in Japan in those days, as well as act as indicators of the readiness and potential of the Japanese to innovate. For, War can take away everything – but it cannot take away the basic indices of Human Development; in which Japan in 1947 was already approaching developed economy levels. War also cannot take away the culture of innovation and the internal climate from the people.
It is thus a complete fallacy if we compare India and Japan in 1947, or indeed today. The Japanese were as ahead of us in 1947 as they are today. You cannot compare the incomparables. In 1947, India was a new nation, whereas Japan was a colonial power with established nationhood concept going back a century or more. India was a shattered and demoralised new nation, who had achieved near-static GDP growth between 1900 – 1945, whereas Japan had clocked a GDP growth rate that fluctuated between -0.53 to as high as 15.85% in the run-up to 1939. There were only 4 negative years; the others were between 4 – 16 %! Japan was the first non-European country to Industrialise in 1868. Japan had hospitals, schools, basic infrastructure in place; India had nothing. Japan had an educated population with a per capita GDP that India enjoys today. In fact, as far back as 1868, the Japanese per capita GDP was 740 dollars – and the Japanese were independent to boot.  It would not be wrong to state that we are only today at the position where Japan was at in 1947!
It is thus no surprise that Japan is where it is today. And, unless we set basic parameters – Education, Health etc – we will never be able to catch up Japan – regardless of the economic model we follow. The Japanese success is the demostrated success of concentrating on the Human Development Indices. And the most critical difference of all: Japan was a colonial power, India was not. It had access to colonies, which it could harvest so that investments could be made in their own country. This is a vital factor; for 80 years, the Japanese were brought up on a diet of we-are-as-good-as-the-west; this fuels national sentiment and confidence. Take this factor, add high education levels, and established record of innovation – the result is there for all to see.
Japan is ahead today because it was comparably ahead in 1947 – along any parameter you may choose to assess. And I have not even considered the factor of diversity and national size- and the attendant difficulties being faced by a diverse  large nation as compared to a small homogenous nation. I have not even started to look at the absence of the basics of life and governance in newly independent India, or its security challenges, its internal problems or its varied challenges. We could have done better with better economic planning, yes – but that does not change the fact that Japan is ahead, primarily because it always was ahead… as we shall see in detail in this series, as I move into the Mieji Restoration in the next part…
We can be justifiably proud of our achievements, even while acknowledging our mistakes. Our mistakes harmed only us, not anyone else – unlike The West, whose mistakes destroyed civilizations and resulted – and still do result – in untold and incalculable misery across the planet. We have developed ourselves, fought our own battles, made and learnt from our own mistakes, paying for them ourselves. And in the light of the status we were in at Independence, our achievements are tremendous and a matter of intense, and thoroughly justifiable pride and celebration! Be confident of this lovely miracle called India, of this lovely, mesmerising and stunningly beautiful nation we call Bhaarat!

Jai Hind!  

{In the next part of the article, I shall look at the Japanese Mieji Restoration, and try and draw learnings for Modern India}

Casteism – A Fresh and Objective Analysis

Published March 9, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is an analysis of casteism that seeks to challenge both narratives in vogue – one, that it is centuries old, and the other that it is recent. The reality, in my opinion, has to be different; what follows is my opinion based on my extensive reading on a variety of topics. Further, at no point is it my contention that the current system of casteism is defensible – it isn’t; it is an insult to humanity. And at no point is it my intention that people did not suffer; they did…

 THE BEGINNING

The ancient system was the Varnic system, which is completely different from casteism; varnas where the result of deeds, not vice-versa. Then came the commercial and political structures stated below, which existed for 1500 years minimum, leading to internal marriages, and the evolution of distinct identities due to a common gene pool caused by intermarriage. 

At this point and for some time afterwards, there was no hint of casteism. The slow degeneration started in only the 2nd millennium, with the rapid socio-political changes that shook India. This was added to by inbreeding, hereditary vocations, and increasing difficulty in moving outside your vocation. The literary record bears proof that earlier, it was possible for a shift; the same record also faithfully records increasing hardline tendencies over time, over a period of millennia. 

The caste system is, in some ways, also misunderstood and mixed up with the commercial and vocational guilds that were common across ancient India. This was a linked network of commercial interests based on cultural contacts, wherein it made sense to be culturally tied due to economic sense. A study of everything from commerce to financing of wars by merchants brings that out in detail, irrefutably. 

The landless labour did not exist before the British; that is a known fact. Commercial, busines guilds, work environment of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have been extensively documented that bear mute testimony to the truth. The caste system hardened into its current shape in the 19th century. EIC school records of the Indian system of education clearly show a caste-neutral participation among students, with all castes being equally represented.


AN ECONOMIC CRITIQUE

A rudimentary mental math is enough to take raise some serious questions on the casteism myth, and that large populations were oppressed, at least in economic terms :  

Fact 1 : 121 Million Agricultural Land Holdings, NSS 2005 survey. 

Fact 2 : Between 65-75% of India is Backward + OBC + SC etc castes as per various current surveys. 

Fact 3 : Creation of Landless Labour – Dadabhai Naoroji, RC Dutt 1906, Durant 1930, Habib 2012 and others, tracing fall in productivity {earlier among the highest on the planet} indigo, non-payment of dues; rise in taxes to 50-80% of produce; destruction of primary secondary and tertiary markets; Institutionalisation and hardening of Ryotwari and Zamindary from its old form to the British form 

Fact 4 : Creation of jobless class, through closure of industrial units {we had every known manufacture in India, Fact}, leading to vast swathes of jobless skilled labourers 1800 – 1840 Habib et al 

Fact 5 : existence of commercial guilds and hereditary vocations spanning thousands of years, Romila Thapar 2005 {approx} et al; {Habib 2012}


Fact 6 : Destruction of sea trade routes through piracy by the English; loss of land trade routes due to political forces 1600-1700, leading to Merchant shipping, trade and commernce losses, losses to weavers and rural traders {Tope 2012 and others} 

121 Million, family size assumed 4 = nearly 500 Million agriculture-focussed population. Add the transient landless labour. {you can access MNREGA records for this} {Reality check current employment in agriculture @ 55-60% basis various economic data.} Now compare with data of backward castes in India; that makes around 45%. Backward : 41%, SC : approx 20%, others : 8% in one survey, which I regard as conservative. 


Put the two together. Reality stares at you. Most of the backward classes have to be in Agriculture currently {If 70% of the population is SC-ST-OBC, and 60% of population is in agriculture, the inference is straightforward}, although they are now spread across the land of India. The historical data clearly shows vitality of artisans, traders and agricultural classes, and their earnings. While it is true that by the turn of 14th-18thcenturies, they would not have found it easy to move away from agriculture; they were earning and were better off than the current situation. 

The data, when you look at it from an economic critique, doesnt add up and support the hypotheses of centuries of oppression of the vast  majority of the population. It shows a people who were well-off, and not oppressed. Extensive economic and industrial data is available. The people were well off, both relatively speaking as well as on an absolute scale. True – it was exceptionally hard to break into an occupation from outside, and it worked both ways, but that does not mean they were hand-to-mouth. Further, it was increasingly also exceptionally hard to change vocations as socio-political changes rocked India in its long history – which was the biggest problem.

You cant have a fire without there being combustible material; same applies here. The Raj exploited existing faultlines and resulted in their becoming deeply entrenched. Genetic evidence states that inbreeding among castes is not a recent phenomenon, and has a founder event going back centuries – which is the most oft-quoted argument against my presentation above. 

The earlier casteism was softer, and did not acquire its present shape then. It was entrenched in a system of hereditary vocations, with relevant skills for each vocation being passed from generation to generation. This built deep intra-caste relationships and inter-caste dependencies, based not on oppression but on a workable and eminently but brutally efficient methodology, that rivals and beats any and every modern system with a modicum of ease. 

Sadly, over time, it meant that the system became unfair to the lowermost sections of society, who would have found it hard to grow beyond their vocations. It also meant that you had to toe the lines set by societal norms. Did this stifle innovation and entrench roodhivaad or rote? That is a tantalizing thought – it tallies perfectly with our fall in scientific knowledge from the second half of the second millennium. It also gives us a more precise timeline for the problem…

This is what ensured India’s dominance for close on 9000 years – it built a system that was extraordinarily hard for anyone to break into. The proof of this is the presence of guilds that existed for centuries {Thapar, 2004/05 – will need to check precise year of her book}. Another proof comes in the writings of Sujan Rai from 1689 or 1696, who has described a flawless system of cash transfers that puts our modern IT hot-shots and western / eastern management geniuses to shame. {Habib, 2012} \


Blunt, Frank and Straight : The West or The Modern East has yet to design any system or theory or strategy that can rival this in terms of cost efficiency, effectiveness & perfection. It was exceptional, and impossible for an outsider to crack into. Evidence of this can still be seen in Modern India – with each vocation being dominated by a specific set of people.

It was this system that created the conditions for disaster, but that is not fully relevant here. What is relevant is that there was differentiation that was systemically entrenched, while not strictly oppressive. Adding slow fuel to the fire was the increasing gap between the wealthy and the others. The financing of 1857 was bankrolled by Merchants across India {Tope 2012}. This gives us a hint to both the power structure, as well as the gap in earnings. While this was between 1845-1854 {yes, the war was planned for years}, the existence of such a set of dependencies tell us that this was not a recent phenomenon. 

While people were well off {extrapolated from Habib 2012}, it is a foregone conclusion that this earnings gap would have led to a rising feeling of discontent with the existing order. The proof of this is the simple fact that what was looted from India was massive… it would not be an exaggeration to state today that every single brick in the USA and the UK has been funded by India, especially if you calculate NPV of the proceeds of the loot. I did in a rudimentary fashion… at 8% it calculates to 473 Trillion Dollars just from available numbers of a few years. {Numbers sourced from Mukherjee-2011, RC Dutt-1906, Durant-1930} 

{This calculation cannot be definitive, of course – available inflationary trends fluctuate wildly from 2-17% for the period; and it is in addition hard to calculate over such a long period – but we cannot forget that the looted money was used to build the same facilities and amenities that people now enjoy in The West, esp USA – UK.} 


What is relevant is that this tells us the difference between the everyday person and the leaders. That is one. Two, the increasingly entrenched specialisation was good for every layer of society- but the menial labour at the bottom, while not oppressed, would have found it hard to get into specialised vocations, agriculture apart. {In percentage terms, it stands to reason that they cant have been 70% of population; but again – that is no defence. 1 or 1million, differential treatment is differential treatment} 


Agriculture also slowly, over time, developed into a super-specialised vocation, creating its own ecosystem of interdependencies. This created a system that was exceptionally resilient, and hard – with each layer hopelessly intertwined with the others, creating a system of interdependencies that was virtually unassailable – while also having the potential to collapse with the right crack. 

The collapse of the prevalent socio-economic structure {Habib, Dutt, Naoroji, Tope, Mukherjee, Verma, Misra, Mishra} caused the entire system to come apart…  That is why I presented the modern scenario in agriculture to drive home the point that the current hyper-one-sided narrative of centuries of oppression that is so prevalent in The West is nonsense. Add to this the Raj tactics, which led to people trying to curry favour for benefits, leading to a stampede into social disaster – as, for the first time, it was a political intervention that was strengthening the already present fault-lines, and deepening them.  

The proof is again provided by Tope-2012, in endnotes and annotations – school enrollment was caste neutral, meaning there was no rigidity in attending school or inequality in the sense of the late 19th century. These numbers were from the 18th century, and provide an irrefutable rebuttal to the centuries of oppression theory.

To summarise, there were internal issues and faultlines in our societal structure, which did not change fast enough. In the altered political atmosphere of The Raj, these were brought to the fore very quickly, and became entrenched. 

I have tried to present a rational and objective critique based on solid evidence spanning economic, social as well as psychological factors; hope this makes sense. I may of course be wrong; that I readily admit. But this is the point at which my study is as of now. References provided in brackets, but not limited to these; there are other books as well, like Maria Misra’s work, or Pavan Verma or others which also gave me clues…  This is a continuing study for me, for frankly, no modern theory makes sense or explains all questions. Not to my mind. 

Skill Gap – 3 : Doing Something Practical About It

Published February 4, 2015 by vishalvkale

The MBA is considered among those courses that are a ticket to a good life and earnings, it is considered among the most-sought after qualifications a person can have – if done from the right institution. To some, it is one of the most hyped courses, while to others, it is the only target and the only qualification. And yet, this course and its degree holders are the one that are among the most challenged. Similar is the situation with other professional courses at the Graduate and Post Graduate Level, in particular Engineering. 
And yet, surprisingly, it is the students of these courses that are finding getting a job to be a tough ask. Outside the top few colleges, placements are a real challenge. Even in cases where placements are done, the right job or a lucrative job is rare, to say the least. Placements usually require a compromise on the part of the student, who is understandably keen to land any job in this tough market. And even then, a good number have to remain jobless
Further, we are seeing a stunning spectacle of seats going unfilled in MBA colleges, and the closure of institutions. For example, as this article clarifies, 147 schools closed down last year. For a nation which is supposed to be going through a skill shortage, this is both sad as well as surprising. On one side, companies are crying skill shortage, bemoaning the lack of quality trained manpower, and on another – the institutions which can provide the manpower to companies- MBA, Engineering and other colleges are going through strain – either closing, or unable to attract students, or are going jobless, in a classic case of the supreme irony! This would even be a laughable joke, if it werent so tragic at so many levels…
This points to a deep seated problem at two levels – firstly on the part of hiring managers and organisations, as I delved into some detail in previous articles on my blog : Skill Gap and Skill Gap 2. In these articles, I noted the sad and pitiable status of training cutting across functions in companies; as well as the reluctance of companies to get into the situation, roll up their sleeves and craft a solution to the problem. 
Given the reluctance of the organisations to do anything about it, I can only conclude that these organisations lack the skill sets required to craft a solution to this vexing issue, something I shall go into greater detail in my next article on this matter. We then have no choice but to look at the other side of the equation, given that the people actually facing the problem have no intention of either solving it, or lend a helping hand in solving it. 
The second level of the problem is within the MBA courses and colleges itself, who in my experience have both the willingness as well as the ability to craft a solution. As a matter of fact, much of what I state will already have been thought of in colleges across the nation, of that I am certain. The key question here should be, what can these institutions do that is doable as well as logical?
Here again, there are two levels : one relatively easy, requiring little specialised knowledge and readily doable over a short time-frame; and the other exceptionally hard and time-consuming, requiring deep specialised knowledge and conceptual clarity of a high degree. The first is increasing industry-college linkages, and the other refurbishing the design of the MBA {or the core curriculum in degree courses} course itself. This article dwells on the first aspect only, given that the second is rather a tall order, especially for a blog post. 
The moot point in this is that the industry has shown itself to be completely unwilling to engage itself with colleges and institutes outside the top few in a meaningful manner, restricting their interaction to giving pointless and empty feedback regarding what students lack : in effect, brushing their hands off the problem and walking away! This leaves the colleges and the students both up a creek, so to speak : hunting for vague meaningless terms like “soft skills”!
The net result is that the people facing the problem in full : the students, the colleges {in particular the placement and administrative cells} – have little precise knowledge of exactly what the industry requires, for the perfectly simple reason that no one in the industry has ever taken the trouble of telling them in function and role-specific terms as to what is required. The reason for that, as we shall subsequently see in the follow-up to this article, is that companies themselves haven’t even a farthing’s idea as to what exactly this ethereal and by now almost legendary skill gap is in practical terms. 
Thus, the people who should know, dont; and the people who are the interface, the people who can link to the students and sort out this mess – the professors and teachers – cannot help in the absence of information. This leaves the gap open for vocational training services, which come at a cost, and, while effective no doubt, can with a little thought be made far more effective and pertinent. 
The solution is simple : catch onto professionals who would like to make a difference. Please note my usage of words, carefully : I did not state hire professionals as teachers and professors. I stated clearly, catch the professionals who want to make a difference. Trust me, if colleges across the nation make a determined effort, they will find ready talent across functions and levels – Engineers, Doctors, Managers, Marketers, Finance Specialists : the whole lot of professions – who would want to make a difference. All they require is an alternative, one which offers them a career option. 
I also did not state increase salaries to the level of the industry; the reason is straightforward. The industry can always pay more, there is zero chance of all institutions matching industry packages. Some might, but certainly not all. Second, there is the hope factor: so long as you are in the rat race, there is always a hope that you will get the promotion or the new job. Third, matching packages will run the risk of attracting people who are in it for the money, not for the love of the profession. What is required is giving entry to professionals, and a decent package that can ensure a decent life. That is it. 
Next, set up expectations from these professionals, in a defined framework; a framework that asks them to give some value addition from their industry experience. These cross-over professionals should be clear in their mind that their task involves both covering the syllabus as well as grooming students for corporate life. Interaction with such professionals in a classroom over a sustained period of 2-3 years is bound to have a powerful impact. This will of course require tweaking in the class allocations, with additional time being given to such professionals, alongwith some performance measurement criteria in terms of deliverables. Critically, for this to succeed, this has to be taken up with an almost missionary zeal. The make or break will be the professionals you hire, who should share this zeal and passion. 
The start will perforce be slow; but it has to be done. For in my considered opinion, as I shall cover in the next article, the industry cannot be relied upon to sort out this mess; it just does not have the requisite skill sets for this. Neither is the training institutes route a permanent solution; these are excellent; no doubt : but are hamstrung on two parameters : firstly, low acceptance in the industry, and second, high resistance to external intervention by industry as well as colleges, which is completely understandable. This will have to go hand in hand with a solution to another problem that is also a core issue : the availability of the proper study material at the right price and in the right language : which is a massive, massive issue… but that is an entirely different story, to be taken up in the concluding article in this series…

Do We Really Want Change – 3: The Hard Reality

Published October 28, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the 3rd part of the articles : 








In the first part, we looked at our gullibility, and our tendency fawning & hero-worship of personalities, juxtaposed against our real problems. In the second part, we took a look at our history of tolerance and diversity, compared to our modern day habit of rising intolerance & impatience. In the 3rd and concluding part of this mini-series, I shall attempt to put it all together and get a glimpse of the direction we are in



In order that we do the above, it is critical that we remind ourselves of the problems India is currently facing : 



  1. we need lesser corruption at the lower & higher levels; 
  2. we need good growth, ease of doing business; 
  3. we need equal growth for all sections of our society;
  4. we need a functioning and decent state and central government and their related organisations; 
  5. we need a free Lokpal, CBI, Police, Judiciary
  6. we need a strong defence framework, without the current problems that it is beset with
The points above cover nearly all aspects, from security to law enforcement; from education to economics; from health to corruption and from growth to equality for all. It is also deliberately circumspect; leaving out one critical aspect – tolerance, which I have alluded to elsewhere, in considerable detail. It is best if that point is left out of this debate due to its contentious and subjective nature.

Let us start from a simple contemporary example : the recent Swachh Bharat campaign. I am on record praising it for its plus points, as it targets the pusillanimous habits of us Indians – which  I had noted as early as in January 2012 : Our Attitude Regarding Civic Responsibilities. I quote : “On any given day, we can see innumerable examples of Indians putting their country to shame – spitting on the road, breaking red light, parking in no parking zone, not helping people in need in accidents, peeing in public, ignoring corruption incidents, ignoring broken public water taps”



How many of us took the trouble to note that there has been little systemic change in the overall garbage collection pattern? As I will document with Photographs in a subsequent mail, there has been little or no change, with garbage heaps in the middle of the colonies or in towns still being a regular feature as on date 27th October 2014.  I intend to give this campaign a fair chance : let some time pass. Let us see the results; if they are beyond my expectations – My India will benefit! However, as on date, I  can still see mounds of dirt piled everywhere. And there is precious little pressure on the Government to introduce systemic change, which I allude to here : Swachh Bhaarat Campaign




Similar scenes of neglect can be spotted across the length and breadth of India. Clean India requires an efficient and functioning garbage collection and disposal system. It requires a network of public facilities like dustbins, urinals etc. It requires a functioning and diligent municipal and governmental machinery in each and every state, district, tehsil, taluka and pargana of the nation. Do we have that? Far too obviously, we dont. 



Simply cleaning up the streets once is not the answer. What happens to the waste after that? Is there a cohesive action plan to deal with this waste on a regular basis? Is there an action plan to ensure that the people who are responsible for this do their duties? That they dont collect the trash and create a stinking heap somewhere in public? That the  garbage vehicle come regularly, and dumps the trash not in the street, but in a landfill?



As can be seen from the example above, this is no small task; it is a gargantuan enterprise spanning a multitude of Government-People interfaces, straddling a multitude of functional areas. This is a task that requires robust administrative systems, thorough follow-up, execution excellence and ground-up reform. And the sad part is, the hard reality is that among the people at large, there is precisely zero interest or awareness regarding these points. 




Our attitude is – Narendra Modi will do it. The BJP central government will do it. But on precisely how he will do it, no one is interested, putting blind faith in him. I dont contest his skills –  he stands as one of the finest leaders to lead India – that is not the point of the article. The point is our lackadaisical attitude towards the crying need for strong performing institutions and government bodies in our nation, and the abdication of our responsibilities in making this  happen by the self-abrogation of our duties, passing them  to one persona, to one individual – whosoever may that person be. 



We are fine with grandiose words and flamboyant statements; that is to be expected, given that we are an emotional people. But in doing so, an educated and aware people should be equally aggressive in demanding strong performing institutions of a democratic set-up : our total silence on this, and other matters {some of which I refer to below} prove beyond any shade of doubt that we as a people have abdicated our duties and are content & satisfied to pass these on to some other person, without the attendant checks and balances to ensure performance. That is the vital point – the hard reality that the vote alone is not the only check there is on a Government in a democratic set-up. That is what cuts to the core of the issue – the hard reality, which exposes us as a people; the fact that we as a people do not realise the extent of the power we wield in our hands by virtue of us being in a democracy. 

This same attitudinal issue can be readily seen in any number of other matters vital to the nation : The problems besetting the Defence Establishment, Education, Health, Police Reforms, Agriculture, CBI, Infrastructure etc. The problems of the Education sector, to take another live example – are known to the majority of the people : Lack of standardisation with the proliferation of boards, poor teacher attendance in the interiors, outdated curricula, rampant fees monopoly in top schools, disinterested teachers, etc. Similar can be said of any number of problems facing the nation : lack of proper defence equipment, genetic crops and their problems vis-a-vis their benefits. 

Look at any major issue that is plaguing the country : the one overarching factor that leaps out at you is the lack of a concerted debate in the Media and Social Media space, beyond the average article that crops up sporadically. These may appear sporadically, but they are very, very far from being a concerted campaign. These articles are fundamentally different from being a debate; they are simply eye-candy to push sales and revenues, as they do not incite positive action from the readership, who read, forget and move on. Further, due to the manifest lack of emotive connect with the readership or audience, these tend to be isolated, and not huge outcries which can lead to serious pressure on the Government to clean up its act.  Critically, the readership / audience reads or listens repeatedly, time and time again, without doing anything about it. 

A debate involves active and/or passive participation from both sides of the story : The Media as well as the readership or Audience. Good, positive stories from the Media should ideally or optimally lead to positive and constructive action from the people : which can take any form : social media pressure, communication with the Government or the MP/MLA, Bureaucrats etc. This manifest lack of constructive communication with the Government and its representatives and officers is what has lead to the political class ignoring the genuine needs of the electorate. By contrast, more emotive  but lesser vital issues become headlines with regular follow-ups and Media outcries, and further lead to protests and other activism that is neither constructive nor positive.

We are a people that can take to the streets in protest for any number of frivolous or relatively unimportant issues; but decry any effort at registering our dissatisfaction on the serious issues. Over a period of time, this has lead to the political class driving us on those emotive but lesser important issues; such that now, engaging the representatives and officers of the government in two-way discussions or seeking help from them is considered impossible. This has actually created a chasm between the leadership and the people. The people, on their part, have apparently come to accept that this is the way things will continue to run and cannot change.

The hard reality is  that, basis the arguments presented above, it is quite apparent that we as a people, do not care enough about the real issues that need to be tackled. Sure, we care about them – but we dont connect with them on the same emotional plane as the other issues. Had that been the case, lack of police reforms, educational reforms , lack of defence preparedness, black money etc would have generated the same level of outrage as some of the other pointless rages that have enveloped the nation time and time again.  

The hard reality is that we are in a comfort zone; we have adjusted to this level of activity, and the current levels of involvement. We do not really want change – or, at least – we do not want to be the change agents. We want to enjoy the benefits of change; but do not want to take the trouble to actively do anything positive and constructive to bring about that change. That is why, when a charismatic leader comes along – we idolise him or her, depending on him or her to make some changes, but shy away from engaging with  the new leadership in a  constructive fashion. A few engagements do not matter in a nation of 1.27 Billion; and the rest of us are not interested or are a part of the bystander brigade. 

In the next mini-series, I shall attempt to chronicle my thoughts and analyse this seemingly illogical behaviour of this Bystander Brigade, as well as what avenues they can have in a democracy to put the heat on the Government in a peaceful and democratically acceptable fashion. Stay connected with my blog for the next series : India’s Bystander Brigade

Reality Series – 3 : Do We Really Want Change {Part 1}?

Published October 4, 2014 by vishalvkale

Do we, as a nation and as a people, do we really want positive change? Do we Indians really want to tackle the ills that plague our society, our polity; thereby creating an even more vibrant and forward looking society than we currently have? And do we Indians really care enough to walk the extra mile that is required for us to change? Most critically, do we Indians have the intelligence, awareness, the knowledge and the guts required to face upto our problems and our weaknesses?

Why are we so gullible, for starters? I admit that we Indians are a highly emotional culture, and thus adulation is a fact of life for us. Furthermore, given the hierarchical nature of our culture, some amount of hero-worship is both a given as well as good for national health. But cant we draw the line between following and blindly following? How can we allow emotional appeals to cloud our views 100% of the time? More critically, why cant we accept that even the most charismatic leader can make mistakes, or require inputs? Why arent we geared towards taking that in our stride, instead of over-reacting to any criticism? Why the growing intolerance, which is just another sign of our gullibility? 

Let me take the example of our venerable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. First, let me clarify : in my opinion, he stands tall as one of the best Prime Ministers India has had, at least based on current performance. Further, this article is not about Shri Narendra Modi – but about you, the citizen of India. This is about us, the people of India.

Why is it that we cant take criticism of any kind of our Prime Minister, even when it is given in constructive and/or analytical terms? Why is it that such people get verbal abuse, and deeply offensive remarks and leg-pulling? Dont we have a Democracy? In a democracy, doesnt a citizen have the right to analyse the Government, and hold divergent views? Then why the innuendo and the abuse?

Further, the kind of jokes, WhatsApp messages, and social media updates that are in vogue – like the Hanuman Chalisa Parody of Shri Modiji – isnt this a bit too much, a bit over the top? Or the constant derogatory and bad-taste jokes on other parties and politicians? Fine, we dont like their performance as political leaders – but does that mean we can insult them? Is that what our culture, our values teach us – to be so cheap, so insulting in tone? How can something so insulting, so downright ugly in taste and tone, be termed as fun? What values are we propagating? Is this fun? Further, since when has at least my Indian culture been so intolerant, so brusque towards other thoughts and POVs? 

Why cant we as a people, as a nation, analyse the policies, the statements and the performance of our leaders {at least we the educated classes}, instead of just building them up in sheer hype, which may or may not be based on substantiable facts? Isnt that what education is all about – being able to analyse and understand for ourselves? 

This is evident in any number of examples from contemporary life in India; the example above is just one current trend that is in vogue and is easy to relate to, which is why I have used it. Let me quote another example : MODI  = Master Of Developing India. Now, on what basis, may I ask? The moment you pop this question, you get a series of short-term numbers – given that not one of the fundamentals of the Economy is as yet anywhere near what may be called optimal {let alone ideal},  or facts that do not hold up to critical analysis in the cold light of logic, inasmuch as it is too early to state, or due to the presence of other attenuating factors. 

The incessant repetition of such statements has its impact, and gives it rub on the person being hyped up, or rather, to be specific – it rubs off on the way this person is perceived by the people at large. And we do this incessantly, without any conscious thought into the fundamentals of the situation. What is more, we belittle anyone who challenges the trend, and shout him down as a collective, dampening the other person’s enthusiasm. And we do this without thinking that other person’s viewpoint through, or trying to combat that person’s POV with a proper come back. 

This has everything to do with change; it is the single most important parameter for change. The people must be open to the direction of the change; they must be willing to move in the direction of the change. Without this, change cannot happen. Without this, we stand the risk of a half-baked solution to the problems we face. 

India is a Democracy; and our culture is one of open thought, contemplation and analysis, where alien concepts, radically divergent views can co-exist in relative peace and harmony. This is a concept I will examine in detail in my next post; for this post, the learning is : Now that we have a good solid Prime Minister, the need of the hour is not Hero Worship. The need of the hour is letting him know we want change; letting him know clearly and in no uncertain terms that corruption, slow growth, scams are no longer going to be forgiven. 

He is already the PM; now there is absolutely no need of adulation. Blunt : he has been tasked by us to make India a better place. He has a job to  do, just like you and me. Whether or not you and I voted for him – he is now our Prime Minister. He is not  the PM of only those who voted for him – he is our leader. Set tall goals for him to achieve; ask for the systemic change we want. 

Remember that he is at the top of a long chain; and merely chanting the ridiculous “Jay Narendra Gyaan Gun…” or “Master Of Developing India” wont solve our problems. The entire chain in the Government needs to know that India wants change: 
  1. we want lesser corruption at both the lower and higher levels; 
  2. we want good growth, ease of doing business; 
  3. we want equal growth for all sections of our society – not just for the creamy layer; 
  4. we want a functioning and decent state and central government and their related organisations; 
  5. we want a free Lokpal, CBI, Police, Judiciary that can ensure zero scams 


We, the people are his power; if we go to sleep, he will find the process that same process of change a very hard and uphill task – and that is a simple fact. Why are we ignoring these realities?


The Biq Question that comes to my mind is, given that we as a people have stopped asking for these basics, that no one is even mentioning all these points, and are  focusing on idolising one man, and running after him in a show of blind unthinking faith : DO WE REALLY WANT CHANGE? Or do we want a reversion to our status quo, our respective comfort zones, where we can live without the encumbrance of personal risk to our businesses and jobs? 

Do we really want change? This is what I shall look at in the third part of this mini-series

The Skill Gap – 2 : The Way Forward; Focus On What You Can Change

Published July 1, 2014 by vishalvkale

I am penning this article based on my experience as a corporate guy with nearly 16 years work experience cutting across Indian companies, as well as MNCs. What makes me slightly different is that I have been a visiting faculty in 3-4 management institutes, and have managed to develop relationships with quite a few students. These institutes range from top ones to unknown ones, and thus represent the entire cross-spectrum.

I am also an active blogger, and regularly attend blogger meets across platforms like Indiblogger and Blogadda, where I meet and mix with teens, 20-somethings as well as 30-somethings.

Thus, I have seen the so-called “unskilled” people at 4 levels –

* hiring manager;

* team leader / area manager / segment manager / regional manager;

* Professor and/or guide

* Friend, or group member, having been talking to and conversing with them as one of them.



THE BACKDROP

As I observed in my previous post on this – The Great Indian Skill Gap, the so-called Skill Gap is vastly different from the perception. I have read several news articles that wax eloquent on this, as well as a few surveys – all have the same verbiage and meaning; but fall short on specifics, Furthermore, most are a survey of hiring managers, and are frankly based on the gift of gab. This is by no means in the category of an exhaustive research. 


The answers to the questions are based on personal experience, and the background of that experience, the company policies, industry realities, specifics KRA requirements etc is not taken into account. 

The phraseology is wonderfully indistinct, and proves nothing either way. What does “lack of technical competencies” mean in specific terms? It can mean anything under the sun. It needs to be specific, this is just a general statement. This statement can also be construed to mean that companies are setting the bar way too high. This is way too general a statement, and we can draw no conclusion based on this. The technical competencies vary widely with the role, function and the industry. There can be no generalisation; we can conclude nothing based on these reports. 

Frankly, it could also mean that employer expectations are rising too fast, and employer willingness to invest in training is waning too fast. This hypotheses has not been tested; hence, one simply cannot draw the conclusion that there is a skill gap from such data unless the reverse hypotheses is tested, and not on hiring managers, but on a more exhaustive research. Only then can we state anything for certain!


ABOUT SKILL SETS AND COMPETENCIES

It is not about setting the bar high; it is about hiring for skills that are just not required for on-the-job performance! Our intake process does not measure KRA-Specific skills, but rather wavers all over the place, including all and sundry items in addition to job-specific skills in the guise of gauging personality. And the fun of it is that this judgement is passed by people who themselves have precisely zero knowledge of psychology, or personality! The entire process is highly subjective and prone to error which is perhaps why frequently positions go unfilled or hiring gets delayed. 

And the description “technical competencies” cannot be so vague – especially not in a high-level report, on which basis strategic vision documents are created. It has to be specific – and it will vary from industry to industry. For example, for underwriting in insurance, the core skill is knowledge of documents & their veracity; basic finance; insurance theories, concepts and processes; and so on. No college teaches these skills; and oral communication is not a pre-requisite. Neither is an excellent knowledge of English a requirement, given that documents can also be presented in the Vernacular. 

Anything else is frankly immaterial insofaras underwriting is concerned. A similar case can be stated for other functional skills – the moment you go specific, you realise that the organisations are equally responsible for bloating the entire affair out of all proportion. I say this as I have seen all sides of the coin – the college, the young brigade as well as the company side. Whether or not the candidate can speak English is immaterial, as is any other point not mentioned as a core skill. Not all jobs require you to be technically savvy, or speak English at all {let alone fluently}

The focus on hiring managers in survey after survey is fallacious; this requires a deeper research to get a handle on this entire matter, which is far too complex to rely on one set of individuals alone. Few hiring managers are skilled in psychology, and yet “bad attitude”, and “personality mismatch” feature as rejection reasons. How can a person who has zero knowledge of psychology pass judgement on these parameters? Far more critical, how can any decision on future direction be taken on the pronouncements of these people?


TRAINING SCENARIO

How much emphasis is placed on training? How much emphasis is placed on skilling the candidate in specific KRA-designed training programmes by companies? Nil. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Nothing. Cipher. Induction programmes are unimaginative affairs, listing things a simple google search will reveal. You require an induction for that? What for?

How many hours are devoted to periodic training that is KRA specific by companies? Again, very near zero. Training is looked upon as a waste of time by line managers. A training programme nomination is looked upon as a warning, as is treated as a first step to sacking by more than a majority of line managers. Periodic training to refresh skill sets is absent across functions. Simple fact.

How can you blame candidates or universities in such a scenario? The companies are not willing to invest in their own people, whom they call “assets”, and want to earn profits from their performance? Furthermore, no company is wanting to engage with universities and colleges outside the top 10-15, and communicate with and work with these colleges. Arent the companies a part of our society, our culture? Shouldnt they do it – if not for nationalist feeling, then out of a pure play profit motive?

I am not absolving the colleges of the blame – just making a simple point that this is far too complex a matter. 


THE WAY FORWARD – THE CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE  

Let me clarify. I once had occasion, during my tenure as a visiting faculty, to check what my students are using as study material. The non-regular students were using translations into the vernacular; these students were further not in the A-Graders, or even B-Graders. Now companies immediately scream at this juncture : English Problem! No Skills! Prima Facie, this seems logical, and spot-on. Except, on deeper analysis, this is exposed as a fallacious impression. 

First, is the knowledge of English mission critical? In most roles, it isnt. Fact. Then why reject because of this? Next, how do you expect a student from the heartland and hinterland, schooled in poor schools or local languages to upgrade to flowing top-level English in the space of a heartbeat? Impossible – it cant be done! Does this mean that this person has no talent whatsoever? 

The next point follows from this – if the person cannot even understand English, how can anyone expect him to be functionally an expert, or at a par with those who can, given that most top-level books are in English? At this point, companies reject, scream “Skill Gap” and wash their hands off the entire matter. Seems logical – except that it is anything but, as deeper thought reveals.

As Corporate India moves into the smaller towns / smaller colleges in big towns for its hiring, this is going to be a persistent problem. This is not really a problem – it is a signal that Corporate India is not in sync with the ground realities, and needs to modify its processes and procedures, and undergo serious introspection. 

The reality is that only the creamy layer is exposed to good schooling; this is an external reality. Hindi / Marathi / Bengali / Tamil / Telugu etc are the medium of instruction. Corporate India has yet to realise this reality, let alone accept it. Books and quality material, access to resources are absent in this layer. Schools and parents alike cant afford it. This is a hard reality. 

Does this mean that this entire set of people, or a large majority among them, is not worth hiring? Has anyone given them a chance, by proper timely training interventions before deployment on the job / regular interaction with college managements and faculties and such like? No! Then how can you assume that they cant perform, when you are using standards of judgement that they just cannot meet, and are therefore manifestly unfair? 

This isnt socialism – I am talking pure capitalism and perfect business sense. You have a vacancy; you have candidates who have passed an exam pertaining to that required skill set; and you dont hire! You choose – note that – actually choose – to leave the vacancy open in a hyper-competitive market! Amazing! 

Not one corporate in my experience has tried to retrain these people. And, sadly and shockingly, in corporate India itself there are people who have overcome these handicaps, reskilled themselves, and succeeded – thereby proving that this is a gap that can be bridged. And if it can be bridged, it ceases to be a gap, and becomes a ground-level challenge that needs attending to. 

Trust me – there are students who are raring to go, given a chance at reskilling. It is in corporate interest to give them that chance. Either that – or cry skill gap, leave positions vacant and impact your business competence. Corporates are running away from the problem, not trying to solve it. 

They are a part of this nation; they are a part of this society. That they should get in, dirty their hands and get it done is beyond debate. The pay-off? Talent. And there is plenty of latent talent – try interacting with these students. I did. And was stunned, humbled and shameful. 

Remember : Focus on what you can change, the circle of influence. The socio-economic factors, the schooling issues are way too complex and are in the circle of concern. Changing that will require decades- and you want business performance in the near term. 

My point is that this is not so simple, and has many, many facets and roots – Socio-Cultural, Economic, Political, Business etc. This does not lend itself to simple and-or situations. In the meantime, we in Corporate India need people. 

Any youngster will have dreams and aspirations, that is natural. It is the absence of dreams that is a problem, not how tall they are. Similarly, not all can communicate their feelings and thoughts. That is again a human trait. Does this mean that all those who cant communicate are worthless, and have no talent? Obviously no. What is needed in counselling – which is not done, or proper guidance as to what suits which person. This is the most significant gap in educational systems. 

What can WE do should be the question? That is our circle of influence. Remember – we require people as much as they require jobs. Our need is in some ways greater than theirs. We can either sit and cry as to the failures of the system – or roll up our sleeves, plan and execute strategies that will bridge the gap. The latter course is a sure guarantee of success. The former isnt. 

What we can do is step in, fill the perceived gaps in chosen institutes that have the potential of meeting our needs, and work with these institutes round-the-year, through monthly seminars with students, one-on-one counselling sessions,and other such activities. This will cost next to nothing, and give us a strong understanding of the prospective candidates to boot. In the pressure for immediate results, we forget to nurture new talent; we set the bar too high due to our internal deliverables which are demanding, so say the least. The need of the hour is a long-term approach. To be specific, choose and target specific colleges in smaller towns and cities – Indore, Bhopal, Varanasi, Surat, Nasik, Akola, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Bhuj, Agra etc. Work with these places – you will get talent, and at a lower cost. Win-win situation 

This will also go a long way in reducing employee turnover, reduce stress, build engagement. Survey after survey is showing rise of dissatisfaction, unbearable stress, physical diseases, mental diseases in Corporate India. 


In my experience, students do respond to counselling, and proper guidance. Problem is, they dont have anyone to approach for help and guidance. We can play that role. The pay-off? Talent. Assured talent, and tie-ups with institutes that will last years, as also fulfilling your CSR mandates in a sure way.