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Last updated: 23 Mar, 2015 To World, With Love from India!

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Dr. Yasho V Verma | 23 Mar, 2015
It was only a few months ago that a significant conversation in media landscape was taking place. A topic that had earlier not been considered too interesting had all of a sudden become a topical matter. Skill Development had received a very different treatment than ever before. When 11th Five Year Plan was laid, GOI adopted skill development as a national priority for over the next 10 years. It had then, detailed a road-map for favoring formation of Skill Development Missions, at State and National levels. In 2008, a Coordinated Action on Skill Development with three-tier institutional structure comprising the PM's NCSD, NSDCB and NSDC was created. We were seemingly following the right track in terms of wherewithal and rightful intent. But what was still not easy to come by was the tedious combination of approvals from various relevant ministries, arranging funds and arriving at appropriate content. This all had involved huge time costs.

In around 2008, as the HR Director at LG, I along with my team had decided to recruit people via service agencies from Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) for our customer service departments. This was a technical job with specific skill criterion as required in a consumer durable industry. ITIs fall under Ministry of Labour & Employment but we did not see much happening there in terms of skill development. Realizing the absolute obsolete with ITIs, LG had then offered trainings, scholarships, latest content, new age products and technology. We had approached over 100 ITIs, initially receiving over 25 applications. Finally we received approvals to deploy these training setups in only 8 out of the total submissions. Few states moved faster vis-à-vis others. The ITIs in these states were more flexible accepting upgrades and practical competence. They were prompt in shedding away decade old machines and content that resulted in no real employability. Maharashtra particularly demonstrated no flab; other ITIs had principals and professors acting fastidious and too big to nudge archaic training methods. We, at few places had to appoint our in-house academicians and experts to initiate the process. At the end of this long dramatically exasperating delay, LG had absorbed only 8 percent percent of employees against the set target.

As per World Bank, India's working age population will be far in excess of dependants until 2040 which in itself seems like a potential source of boost to our national economy with a condition that there are continuous upgrades taking place in skill development and job opportunities. It should factor in future and mid-term augmentation as per states' industrialization roadmap, varying in priority as per scale and sectors like manufacturing, service, agriculture et all. Lastly, organizing and expounding the funds for trainings should turn into a less daunting task.

India has always been in the 'making' mould. Along with our cultural diversity as our heritage, what we also have is a very hardworking middle class and that is where the SMEs come from.  Around 45 percent of manufacturing output comes from SMEs and they employ almost 40 percent of India's work force contributing to almost 22 percent last year. SMEs are run primarily by first -gen entrepreneurs, who largely have a limited access to structured training, resource planning, capital and labor management.

While at one end, India needs to develop progressive training modules, the other end will get sorted where selling of products to the world as a result of skilled India should run in automation. The new skill department must address region wise gaps, training provider agencies be encouraged for their outreach in remote locations and hold time bound trainings. There must be emphasis on collaboration and confluence of various ministries. Trainings approved by various government agencies may reconsider L1 trainings as for auditing, these may seem fine but not ideal to determine quality and utilization of resources.  Continuous monitoring is critical to ensure contents are suitably developed, faculty and environment is conducive. Incentives may act as a catapult to establish effectiveness of training agencies, modules and delivery mechanisms.

Up till now the skill development exercise was fundamentally decentralized, lacking a comprehensive overview. 'Training', a concurrent subject needs empowerment at the Centre and largely at state levels with multiple ministries and or their agencies involved. While strategizing, modeling, financing and overall monitoring should ideally take place at the Centre, their implementation including review of content relevance, mid-term corrections and creating employability, a larger task should rests with the States.

While our Prime Minister sounds extremely positive in promoting entrepreneurship through skilled workmanship in our country, world should now see us more than a 'Shining' and 'Incredible' India, ready to 'Make' for the world, ready than ever before. What cannot be ignored is the fact that India's economy is dependent on subsidies. The pros and cons of subsidies have been deliberated at length by eminent world class economists. The crux however is, growth measurements and parameters largely become weak determinants and may mislead manufacturers and marketers to assess and predict actual market size, penetration, demand and price parity. Recent announcements from GOI signal more reforms are already under progress including subsidy cuts, privatization of few sectors, GST, land acquisition and single window compliance for labor reforms. All these are certainly magnets for foreign investors and MNCs making business look easy in India. A little more thought to spend on education and trainings, health and rural infrastructure will act as booster shots to the immunity and resilience of SMEs growth in India.

Port Infrastructure will need to get rid of cartelization; the power from few will have to shift. While centre plays a key role in providing approvals, liaison with local port and custom authorities or seamless coordination between various other modes of transport will reduce operational costs towards transit and warehousing leading to a smart supply chain. Major bottleneck is handling traffics at ports and therefore the numbers cannot be ignored, more the ports more shall be the trade.  

India has witnessed some amazing case histories and had learnt some of the finest lessons in vendor management. There was a glorious ecosystem created when Maruti-Suzuki had developed its OEMs. Nokia was a success until very recently except it is now like a Non-Performing Asset (NPAs) under consideration for revival. LG has grown manifolds from its factory in Greater Noida where it now owns indigenous vendor environments attaining time and supply efficiencies, ease of wastage elimination and quality driven processes. This was backed by huge investments in time, land, people, infrastructure and copious trust from these MNCs who know India has a touch of Midas. Why was POSCO, a world leader in producing steel so determined to set up a subsidiary in India despite all odds. In China, land acquisition is not so much of a worry for International businesses as it is a country of SEZs. A latest initiative of Gujarat government to facilitate land acquisition and provide requisite clearances for two industrial parks for Chinese manufacturers is a positive move for a favorable vendor-led business milieu.

While India's business skyline boasts of several startups, some around 200 last year, quality is a deciding factor. There must be some government run validations or certifications to ensure reliability of products. India's 'jugaad' cannot compete as a juggernaut for the world's consumption criterion. Now that the middle class and hinterlands have woken up to the term 'Startups' and 'Shramev Jayate', let us collectively prove to the world it is happening for real.

(Dr. Yasho V Verma is a Management Thinker & Philosopher, former COO at LG, an academician, a startup mentor, veteran in consumer durables, a PHD in organisational behavior and also a commentator on corporate topics like operational management and independent board of directors. The views expressed are personal.)
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