Shades Of Words


India May 2012 – General Observations

Things have changed over the last decade or so in India. There has been development, albeit a little skewed. The situation for people like me has gotten better. Unfortunately, people like me make a very small part of this very large country.

Anyway, I saw better roads, better airports and better malls. I don’t know how important it is to have better malls for the general well-being of the population, but there seems to be a lot of them. They do prove to be a popular tourist destination in most cases. I would like to say that they contribute to the economy but they more likely seem to contribute to traffic congestion in cities. Arguments could be made that they create jobs for people who work in them, but job creation is such a slippery statistic. What about the jobs that could have been created if the money had gone in development of let’s public transport or city parks? What about the jobs taken from people whose land was taken away to create the mall?  Anyway, that’s a different discussion altogether. Malls currently have become the “hang-out” spots for school kids and the unemployed.  As the divide between the haves and have-nots increases in India, I see these as major contentment disrupters.

The countrywide GMR revamping of the airports has been quite impressive. When we landed in Delhi’s T3 at IG International Airport we were quite impressed with the general look and feel. The immigration process was smooth and we were out of the airport fairly quickly.  I really feel that tourism in India can be an inclusive growth industry that boosts the economy at the grass-roots level and making India accessible to the world abroad is a step in that direction.

The roads are better. Travelling in North India, I spent quite some time on NH1 and I was happy to see our driver average at 100 KM/H for most of the way. Also known as the Grand Trunk Road, NH1 is going through major renovation, so we did unfortunately spent some time on the side of the road rather on it, but even then we made good time. To avoid the traffic and the dust on NH1, our driver, opted us to take us through the state highways.  State highways in India typically don’t have road dividers so overtaking is quite life threatening as one always has the chance of being hit by an oncoming truck. Of course, millions of people drive and survive every day so it’s a question of practice.  Even then, when our driver took the detour, I sent up a little prayer. I was again impressed by the condition of the inner roads and the average 80-90KM/H that  our car maintained on the  roads.

Getting “Sarkari” work done is still a pain in India. Ever since I was a kid, I have had this urge to take a mop and broom and sweep the government offices clean. Allegorically and literally. I don’t know why they are so dirty.  It does not matter if it’s a post office, or a registrar’s office or the RTO, the office space is covered in dust, grime, brown files and filled with cheap but durable steel furniture that has been greased and re-greased over the years.  Kapil and I had to register our Hindu wedding and even though we are way over 18 years old (the legal age for getting married in India), the law requires that our parents be present for the registration! Seriously! The entire registration took 2 to 3 hrs in which we filled multiple forms and it got over “so soon” because we knew someone.  The whole attitude of the officers in the Government of India is as if they are doing us a favor and not their jobs. Why is it that way? Why does such little power go to their heads so soon? Don’t they want to get rid of the clutter on their desk and move work efficiently and smoothly?  Why would you want to do a job badly on purpose? Why would you want to be incompetent?  For years, people have argued that these jobs are not well paid and the motivation to do well is not inbred. I say bullshit. These jobs are more secure and better paid then some. There is no excuse for the inefficient.  I am sure if the government employees were to get double the paychecks the attitude towards work would not change. I do hate making these generalist statements but you step into a govt. office and the sense of lethargy hits you and even if there is one hard-working guy he is not going to get noticed in all the rot.

So some things change, and some remain the same. I was afraid that India was going to disappoint me. That I was going to all go “NRI” on it and hop around drinking mineral water and act shocked on how horrible everything is – as if I am seeing it for the first time. I am glad to discover that I had not forgotten anything. I was neither more or less forgiving of the situation in India. It is what it is.

I can either live with it or run from it or change it.

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Should everyone end up in IT?

Disclaimer : The views presented here are entirely my own and are not representative of the opinions held by my employers or friends or family

The boom in the Indian IT sector for the past decade has led to tremendous amount of hiring across undergraduate campuses for capable resources that are willing to work for well paying jobs. When the IT jobs were created in India – the most coveted lines of engineering in universities were Computer Science, Information Technology and Electronics & Communications engineering. Due to the dearth of good colleges “outputting” even lesser employable students – companies started looking at similar non-engineering courses like Bachelor/Masters of Computer Applications. In a few years, the demand was so high, that companies gave up on the pretext that knowledge of software was important, and a sufficient I.Q and E.Q ( Emotional Quotient) that made you employable was enough to hire you. So students from non-software based streams of engineering were hired from campuses. The corporate then took the ownership of training these hires for periods of 6 months to a year and equipping them on skills that was important to make them employable. Over the years, as demands for resources grew, corporates started collaborating with universities and investing in them to train their students so that the cost of “hire and train” period on company payroll reduced. This collaboration has been a win-win for both the IT companies who get better trained entry level recruits from their prefered campuses and for the universities that are able to benefit from the financial impetus and ability to expose their students to corporate programs.

So today, I was reading the article in The Hindu about the challenges and the changes in IT Recruitment Strategy –

This article, if you browse through, talks about the changing criteria for being “employable” in IT over the years and how companies are now looking at building along with other skills what is called the  “Flexibility Quotient” – so that recruits are inculcated more with the feeling of “team work” and “company loyalty” and less of “me first” approach. That sounds reasonable from the industry perspective. However, it would be worth to take a moment to consider why this could be ( and note that I am not doing this with any statistics but with my general knowledge of the industry).

Students from different streams of engineering ( electrical, civil, mechanical) etc are hired and then trained to work in core specialist roles that have very little to do with their education.  IT jobs pay well and are more lucrative than the jobs that are offered in the industry that undergrads are specializing in – hence are applied for anyway. The money, security and opportunity to travel abroad is the prime motivator for taking up the job – but not the “love” for the kind of work it promises. It’s just a job. So I believe that this gap is inherent to the hiring process and will remain so as it focuses on ambition but not on passion for work.

The other issue the article talks about is broadening the hiring platform and let me quote the article for that

“Mr. Kamath rubbished the fact that BA and B.Com graduates were considered bottom layer. Stressing that they too were needed by the industry, he said the verticals were varied and gave scope for those from different disciplines. Complementing his view, Sheela Ramachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Avinashilingam University, Coimbatore, said since 70 per cent of the work force was from arts, science and commerce, the best practices that were applied to engineers to make them employable should also be extended to the former”

I found this kind of disturbing. And I will shortly explain why without taking it out of context. Let me begin first by saying that I do understand that as demand for “employable” entry level employees increases, the industry is looking at way for reaching out to larger pool of potential resources.  They will do what it takes to hire the best resources and that’s that.

What sounds worrying, that due to lack of similar investments and lucrative jobs from other industries , will  most of employable workforce end up in IT ? Shouldn’t there be comparable parallel industry requirements for commerce, humanities, manufacturing, infrastructure, old-school engineering, education sector so that people who study these fields are consumed in their relevant areas. Its sounds like such a waste of education if no matter what you study you will be made “employable” to fit into an IT job. And is that healthy for an economy ? Isn’t prosperity of a country identified in growth and achievement in all spheres from civic development, technology, agriculture to arts and cultures. Is there is no incentive for the future generations to participate in the overall growth of the economy?

Yes, with influx of dollars our economy has created jobs especially in retail and hospitality – but most of that is incidental and not targeted or planned. Growth in higher education has also been with the purpose of creating a workforce for the burgeoning IT Sector. It’s just not wholesome – we need  leaders, thinkers, implementors in all fields.

The IT companies are doing what they need to do but what about other sectors. And if they are not doing enough, shouldn’t there be some incentives for them to do so? Just some food for thought.