India Se (Singapore)
YOUNG INDIANS—HIGH ON INDIA
By Ashali Varma
Twenty years ago it would have been impossible to even dream about the way India has changed for its young people. From call centers to IT to insurance to banking and telecommunications, there is no looking back for millions of educated youth who have job opportunities and good salaries that did not exist for their parents. Now the thirty something’s can travel the world, buy homes and the latest cars and afford a standard of living not very different from the West.
Himmat and Priyanka Singh are one of many young couples who think India has lots of job opportunities. I asked Himmat what he most admired in the working environment in India. First he spoke about the leadership skills in corporate India, especially in the last decade and how young Indians really looked upto visionaries like Narayan Murthy (Infosys), Sunil Mittal (Airtel) and Azim Premji (Wipro). “These people are great role models for generation next,” he said.
Himmat a 38-year-old works for his family company Harig India a Pvt. Ltd. and Mita Harig India Pvt. Ltd. They make hydraulic equipment for agricultural machinery such as tractors. He studied engineering in the University of Texas and came back to join the business. Unlike entrepreneurs I have met in other countries he speaks of how his organization is dependent to a great extent on “our core values, mission and vision for our people and community at large.” He values his work force and thinks they are a great resource for his business.
There’s a strong sense of good corporate governance in the young people here. They are willing to put in long hours and are genuinely excited about what they do. There is little of “been there done that,” bored-of-life attitude one sees in developed countries.
I asked Himmat, “With the rupee getting strong will your exports be affected? He said,
”At present, since, we are in engineering goods we do not find the strong rupee affecting us – but if the trend continues it will have a detrimental effect on the export side of the business. I feel hi-tech products or companies with strong R&D are to some extent protected from a strong rupee as they are pioneering technologies and not in the commodity market whose future depends purely on cost alone.”
He added, “That like China, India too has a huge internal market, which is attractive to foreign companies as the markets in the West are quite saturated. Businesses cannot ignore India, where great opportunities exist despite the infrastructural issues. Expats are moving to India to work in the corporate sector! However, if an NRI (Non Resident Indian) wants to move back he must be able to live with India’s infrastructure and be patient to move at the Indian pace which can be frustrating for someone who has lived in the West.”
Infrastructure or rather the lack of it has been a major topic of concern for India. According to Himmat, “This has a very big impact on productivity and cost of manufacturing. Lack of power and quality of power puts pressure on industry to create internal power generation facilities, which add cost to the product. Similarly, without good roads and port networks the time for the product to reach the customer increases, which effects inventory management control. It can be improved with positive and aggressive policies from the government to encourage investment and timely implementation of plans to improve these bottlenecks. The government should also give heavy incentives and support to the private sector to make the infrastructural changes.”
He added, “It is a fact that the Chinese Government implements infrastructure developments several times faster than our government! However, the Indian business person can easily leave his Chinese counterpart behind if the Indian Government were to give the same importance to infrastructure.”
When asked what opportunities exist here for NRIs, he said, “Job opportunities are great for competent people whether Indian or NRIs who can add value to export business strategies as they understand the customer in the West and their values.”
”Every MNC (Multi National Corporation) considers India very important to its future strategy and are making the necessary investments to be positioned in India – in fact I think the most opportunities for youngsters is probably in India at the moment – be it in engineering, services or IT.
When asked how we can compete with China on labour he said, “People here were always great – as core Indian values stand tall – the problem was never the people – it was the system and the leadership which was flawed, corrupt and uninterested. If our people are trained and HR policies are firm but fair we can improve our productivity. Presently, basic manufacturing in China is more efficient, however in other skills, such as services India has the edge – we can thank the British for something at least!
On quality of life, he said, “we consider our lives here to be far better than our friends abroad – we are at home and are very comfortable with mostly everything here. There is no utopia anywhere on this earth! Most of our friends are moving back or seriously considering moving closer to India, like Singapore. But the center of gravity is shifting to India.”
When asked about liberalization and the pace of reforms, Himmat was candid, “We are happy with the changes – sometimes slow and steady is better than drastic changes – liberalization with a social conscience is important and the disparities cannot be large between the haves and have-nots. Liberalization policies have as much of a positive impact on the rural areas as in the urban areas – basic opportunities must trickle down to the common man in the villages, such as primary education, women empowerment, basic health care, vocational studies – they must play a strong role in the growth story.”
Priyanka, a lovely 34-year-old is Himmat’s wife and juggles running a home with two daughters and a career. This is not unusual in India today. She works for CNN/IBN a recent English News Channel. With cable television proliferating in India, and news channels going into several dozens, Priyanka, a stylist, has her work cut out for her. Her job involves making CNN/IBN anchors look good on television. This means from make-up and hair to clothes and accessories. “This field is growing and has also become very challenging,” said Priyanka, “ there is so much competition from other channels and naturally we want our people to look the best. We owe it to our viewers.”
“So many opportunities to do with television didn’t exist before,” she said, “Now there is a need for anchors, writers, producers—the list is endless.” On how easy is it for women to compete in these areas, she said, “There is no longer any difference in the urban areas between women and men in the business world. There is no holding us back.”
For MNC’s and NRI’s just a visit to India is enough to see that the country is open to business. From news publications to television to retail outfits and hotels, we have only touched the tip of the iceberg.