India: New Twists on Social Responsibility, Availability and Co-existance

Up at 7an Tuesday morning. Our delegation’s 1st “work” day lasted 13 hour (note to self on feedback form to ask for an afternoon wine break). Now, back at the hotel late at night, I'm having that nightcap in a quiet corner. Everyone else has headed up.

By mid-morning I was at Delhi’s Management Development Institute that is noted for its MBA, PHD, Business and HR programs at the graduate level producing 900 graduates a year. (The bus ride there and all thsat entails is still being digested....but we have left Kansas Toto.)

Deep in a conversation with M.S. Venkatesh, President HR and Admin for
Educomp during a one-on-one networking break for tea (yes, after a day of locasl coffee and no Starbucks, I've gone native), I was trying to get my mind around his company's business model.

The firm has 10,000 FTEs creating and producing educational content for school franchises that impact the learning of more than 11,000,000 children in rural areas. They not only feed the supply chain they also are the supply chain, literally sourcing and selling the franchisees, each of which essentially opens and runs the local school. The biggest challenge is convincing the parents to send their kids. The firm is growing at an astounding rate now that more of the population has opportunity.

Suffice it to say that unlike the US (although given the fare on TV sometimes) 370 million (or is it 800 million) of its citizens do not get any education at all and a market economy subsidized in large part by the government and corporate social responsibility funds is attempting to solve an incredibly challenging long term problem.

Mr. Venkash has 8 recruiters who have hired personally or assisted in hiring 5000 F/T employees this year. As for SOH, “word of mouth” is getting bigger but traditional sources of hire still predominate. Strategically, they want to move to hiring new grads (Freshers) in sales and no, they have nothing to do with US multinationals…except a partnership with them helps satisfy the mulit-national’s requirement for community support.

Throughout the three stops today- MDI, and two Indian corporations – ITC and Powergrid (both corporations are extraordinary in size size and impact but are likely unknown in the US), we’ve participated in eye-opening discussions that extend our notion of how Indian firms work and hire in both the public and private sector.

At the MDI event, we with a series of brief talks with professors, their students and a panel of Business and HR leaders from E&Y, Hewitt, Educom, Powergrid and several other firms I really wasn’t familiar with. The room was filled and the questions were open and transparent. China Gorman's question about Social Media was answered quite traditionally and I suspect these business leaders were simply prioritizing their challenges. Later, I turned to the students and asked how many were were on Linkedein and Facebook. 100%. The students all have job offers and their pick of companies while they are in school to complete several projects and explore the various cultures.

On the HR side, the terms "confluence" and "synthesis" were adroitly used in a couple stories poosed by one prof and nicely incorporated in the remarks of our delegation leader, China Gorman, SHRM's chief membership and engagment office..

Another event was held at a world class "green" building. The firm responsible, ITC, is a diversified global MNC whose rep pointed out that water availability in India has dropped from 600,000 liters per annum per person in 1947 (Indpendence) to 150,000 this year and is projected to go critical in 2020 (a point where sustainability isn’t possible at 100,000 liters per annum and the country would be characterized as "stressed".)

The final stop at a firm Powergrid, 86% owned by the government was a mindblower and included GMs and HR leaders from India’s power, water and transportation companies that (if I understood the comment correctly) employ a million plus.

Cutting through all the ceremony and pedantic back and forth, several themes emerged for me today:

Social responsibility isn’t an add-on. It is a fundamental part of how India defines business. After India’s independence in 1947 the country essential became protectionist and business failed to flourish until 1991 when India’s economy was transformed and pushed toward a market economy (literary license with history here). Since then and continuing even in today’s climate, India is growing at 7 plus percent. However, employers are sensitive and aware that only 25-35 % of their population is able to work in the “organized” sector. Every company is committed to an incredible array of initiatives to make a difference in education, training and work access for the poor. It literally defines them or at least the several dozen I was exposed so. Many of them also described partnerships in their efforts with Western firms whose names we all know.

"Readily available Labor but not Talent that is prepared to hit the ground running" is my take on the phrases that I heard over and over describing India's talent shortage. The context is that India is blessed with lots of eager and highly engaged (much more so than the US) laborers but even the most educated are in need of training to perform. This suggests a series of shifts firms need to make in their staffing plans to select people capable of learning rather than exhibiting specific competencies as well as enhancing the importance and extending the time for onboarding.

The last theme that bubbled up over and over is best described by sitting at a traffic light in a high-tech hybrid air conditioned bus with a 1950’s motorcycle, a 1980’s bicycle, a 2010 Mercedes, a camel, a cow and an elephant next to waiting for the same light to turn green. Co-existance is an essential ingredient to accepting India and I’ve no doubt this has enormous implications for overcoming erroneous assumptions about who we should be hiring and where we might fund them on a given day. This is very different than say, China where so much is compartmentalize. Here it all exists in the exact smae space.

I’m still sorting out the assault on the sense that a simple ride through Delhi entails. More tomorrow as we plan to head to a market and take a bus trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Yes, Maren, I have the hat with me.

Views: 129

Comment by Hassan Rizwan on December 9, 2009 at 4:36am
That's quite a fascinating tour Gerry. Hope yo uare having a good time. As far as India is concerned, the growth rate is really surprising and an eye opener for many. India has uplifted the standard of everything that they do by including corporate sponsorships and then of course by appointing highly competitive people. I would not just call them learner as they have the ability to learn quickly and become competent. Taj mahal is wow. I hada chance to visit once. Do let us know your experience on that.
Comment by bill josephson on December 9, 2009 at 12:15pm
Must be nice to be in an environment where the economy is growing at 7-8%. Explains the "eager and highly engaged labor" there as here in the US many upperclassmen in college are frightened about repaying steep college loans with sparse jobs prospects resorting to more binge drinking and drugs anesthetizing them from their fears.

Sorry to say we're watching India, China, and Brazil become us as we become them unless anyone can explain after creating net zero jobs from 1999-2009 what the next industry/discipline will be hiring US workers en masse in the United States. Otherwise, it appears we can all be outsourced. And don't expect any help from government as the administration, in the face of an employment meltdown, did absolutely nothing in response to lower the cost of doing business encouraging companies to hire full time employees.

Gerry might be best served grabbing a job in Delhi or Bangalore while he's there if India allows US citizen to immigrate.

Comment by Russell S. Moon III on December 9, 2009 at 1:41pm
"Readily available Labor but not Talent that is prepared to hit the ground running" - if there is fit I would like to help them solve that issue. Sri Lankan wife already has me as tea expert so I can definitely relate to tea, "hoppers" and other assorted intricacies. Thanks for your post and hope the bus rides are not too anxiety ridden.
Comment by Gerry Crispin on December 10, 2009 at 3:55pm
Great comments. first opportunity to breathe even though it is 2:20 am in the morning in Mumbai. Bill, you are closer than you think- just it won't be me. I'm convinced that the next generation of global staffing leaders will not reside in the US. Increasingly our best a brightest students (the ones who actually choose challenging majors will find ready work not a expats of american multinationals but as guest workers helping lead non-us multinationals
Comment by bill josephson on December 10, 2009 at 4:33pm
"the next generation of global staffing leaders will not reside in the US. Increasingly our best a brightest students (the ones who actually choose challenging majors will find ready work not a expats of american multinationals but as guest workers helping lead non-us multinationals."

Gerry, I've been recruiting for 30 years. I've been fearing your above comment since the mid 1990's but especially when corporate I/T offshore outsourcing to Bangalore kicked off in 2002. I see fewer and fewer HR/Recruiters in the US with less demand/fewer private sector corporate jobs. The "Bric" coalition of Brazil, Russia, India, and China are superseding us as we're reverting to what they were and they're developing into what we were.

It won't be me either, Gerry. I'll be fighting to survive here.
Thanks for your blogs.

Comment by Gerry Crispin on December 11, 2009 at 12:39am
It's all about the conversation Frank.
Comment by WorkFarce on December 11, 2009 at 1:59pm
Gerry---pay him no mind...I'll deal with him


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