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Observations on the Indian skill shortage

Posted by Vipul on 08 October 2008

The UK India Business Council (UKIBC) aims to promote business and professional ties between UK and India. Its members include a wide range of business people from the two countries. The advisory board includes our very own dean Robin Buchanan and other, dare I say less famous, personas like Richard Branson and Arun Sarin. The council held a session at the London Business School last week where the topic of discussion was the skills shortage in India. We heard from a highly successful firm of architects, a HR consulting firm, a social recruitment firm and of course a tech-consultancy. This is a short summary of the salient points discussed.

There is a shortage of skilled labour in India. Sure, colleges churn out hundreds-of-thousands of graduates every year. But how many of them are architects as opposed to engineers? How many are historians as opposed to MBAs? Even among the engineers and the MBAs, not many are seen as being good communicators or creative thinkers. (Btw, I’m an Indian Engineer reading for an MBA – so excuse me for using cliques). And to compound the problem, there is a high rate of attrition. One of the speakers found that in India people are often teased by peers for staying with one company for more than 3 years. In my personal experience, 6-10 months seems to be the amount of time most Indian IT workers at lower levels like to spend with one company.

Companies are realizing the ramifications of this situation and are implementing programmes to tackle it. TCS and IBM, for example, invest a lot in employee training & development and have formal career advancement programmes for employees with different career aims. But a lot more needs to be done at University level. Students, who went to intern in India under the UKIBC banner, report that the Indian education system seems to “knock creativity out of people”. Companies need to partner closer with universities and make clear what they want in employees. Once the university system adapts, high schools will also adapt their methods to produce the right university students. Demand will ultimately shape the quality of supply!

The council is setting up a “Next Generation” programme aimed at getting British university students involved more closely. For us MBA students, this is something to watch out for! Check out the council’s website: http://www.ukibc.com/ and join the India Business Forum at the School if you are interested in this sphere.

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