Understanding the need for better skills for more preparedness to face challenges


As Indians, we have many things to worry about. Inflation is never coming down. Yes, of course we will claim that it is down! But the real value of money is coming down day after day. Qualifications do not get jobs. Skill sets do. We need "more" of everything today. Why the "enough" as a concept is not relevant today is sought to be discussed in some detail in this article.

Introduction

There was a stage when our forefathers were rather satisfied with whatever they had. There emerged the concept of "enough". They were generally satisfied and the Indian philosophers also had a role in making them somewhat reluctant to take big risks. Today, times have changed. We need "more" of everything. This concept is now relevant to just about anyone. Be he or she an entrepreneur, a student, a housewife, or an employed professional. Or even a self-employed professional.

In this article, we will focus on a)Why much more is needed for students b) Why much more is needed for families c) Why much more is needed for the lower middle classes and d) Why much more is needed for self-employed.

Why much more is needed for students

The students can never rest easy at all. For example, the wisest engineers from the best of IITs and NITs and the top ten leading engineering colleges in the country, go abroad to the USA and UK to study further in their core areas. A mechanical engineer, for instance, specializes in alternate energy or robotics. These are the areas that have tremendous scope for not only jobs but for employment potential too. In other words, even the service industries will see hundreds of new entrepreneurs emerging to service the main companies. And alternate energy is indeed the only hope to end the disastrous thermal energy that has already spoiled so many environments.

It is another story that the students do not have any choice. Many stay on in the USA, complete their doctorate and then find jobs there itself. Or in Australia and Singapore. Or even in Canada.

The situation is worse for raw graduates in arts and science. If they do not get their post-graduate and then doctorate qualifications, they are bound to be doomed. The world is not going to accept them for academic positions if they do not have this bare minimum. In the IIMs, for example, not a single Faculty Member is appointed if he does not have at least fifty research publications in leading journals. Every IIM now wants the professors to play a big role in consulting too. So, any student from say, economics or public administration or commerce would do well to note that MA and M.Phil degrees do not carry any weight or importance, anymore. Nothing less than a doctorate would do.

Yes, post-graduates and doctorates in Chemistry are appointed by the pharmaceutical industries. But the entry is just an entry. To grow, one needs deep analytical skills that should result in value-addition in terms of cutting edge research capabilities to the company.

Those who have family responsibilities and join as just clerks need to work their way up. For example, it is even today relevant to take up the CFA qualification. This can be done sitting here right in India. This will change the very nature of one's career for the better. There are options galore for such bankers. CIMA or CMA or even ACS are alternate career paths. One does find the ACS guys also getting into hardcore finance or even strategic finance roles. Such qualifications help an individual to acquire experience crucial to the mergers and acquisitions of companies and so on. This is a very exciting field and it has a terrific scope.

Those who land as doctors need mindset changes. If they can work as sort of apprentice with some experienced doctor and then fan out to smaller towns, there is terrific scope to even make Rs. 40,000/ or more per month, just like that. Getting into Government service is another option.

Students who specialize in fashion design, furniture design, interior design, event management and such other "new wave" professions do have the sky as the limit. However, it must be noted that these professionals have to necessarily live only in the cities as the scope is ever increasing only in the cities.

Those who are not even graduates would do well to at least take up some correspondence course, take up good courses like the ICWA and then go ahead in life. They have no choice at all. Their salaries would simply keep them just alive, at best. To take care of their savings and also keep their future in shape, they need to become graduates. Universities like the IGNOU are the best as the courses are very reasonably priced.

Why much more is needed for families

For hundreds of families, the choice is very limited. Those who in the middle-class bracket have to really slog it out. They can no more be complacent. There are three distinct trends seen in the Indian context. These trends are common to the MNCs and even the family-managed companies. The three trends are a) somehow ease out a person when he reaches the age of 45 b) unless the person is highly talented, the promotions and the increments are sort of frozen and c) the future is going to be very tough, once any professional reaches the age of 45.

The three trends are very clear. The emphasis is always on the young. This is happening to the old groups like the Aditya Birla group. They are simply not taking the old timers and are going in for the very young people. They are not very keen on absorbing senior executives through lateral recruitment. The aim is to groom people from within.

Given these realities, the middle-class people need to continuously enhance their skills. Even if that means pumping in something like four lakh or five lakh towards it. For example, smart HR professionals are now going for international certifications in coaching. The international experts are going a great job. They can effectively earn money even at the age of 70. This is so because their practice helps them to reach out to a wide range of companies where such expertise is very much sought after.

The range of services that are possible after years of service is mind-blogging for professionals. Those who have worked in very senior positions, get to work as Adjunct Faculty with the IIMs. This gives them the continued orientation towards honing their skills. This is just one example. Those with experience in core banking are now effectively employed as IT consultants for clients in countries like Bangladesh and Nepal. However, the big lesson is to continuously aim for the best qualifications. The qualifications in business analytics and business analysis are now so much sought after.

Similarly, the middle-class people ought to cut down on all wants and start saving for the future. Only this will help them see through all the trouble ahead. The real value of money is going down day after day. The Government of India and the respective State Governments will make life miserable for the middle classes. This is already happening. The point of no return is likely to be reached when one reaches the age of 55. It is hence very wise to start saving quickly and also have good targets in mind.

Any family having an income of Rs.45,000 rupees (take home) necessarily has to save at least ten thousand through smart moves. For instance, staying a little away from the city in the unpolluted environments would not only save money but also contribute to good health. As long as the children are in classes up to the seventh standard, one can easily find a number of good schools in the vicinity itself. For example, in Chennai, there are very good schools in each of the suburbs in all directions and these are available, even when the city is 50 kilometers away. In fact, most families go only for shopping in the city center. All other amenities including reasonably priced housing are available. EMU trains take the employed wives quite easily to the city center.

The middle classes always have to go for "more". More savings, sharper focus on the careers of children and so on. The list is endless.

Why much more is needed for the lower middle classes

Lakshmi (name changed) is a servant maid in five houses in Coimbatore city. She works for around six hours per day in these houses, washing clothes through the washing machine, swamping the floor and so on. She works so fast, and her nickname is "Kovai express". Each Coimbatore residents pays not less than Rs.3000 for such services. She doubles up as a cook in one more house where she does only cooking. This gets her another six thousand rupees per month. She still lives in a small house in one of the suburbs and fortunately, her husband does not drink and works as a freelance electrician who brings home some Rs.12,000 per month. She educates her only daughter in a very good English medium school and is confident of putting her into a very good self-financing college in the city. As her luck would have it the owner of the college is the brother of the house lady where she does the cooking. The owner has undertaken to exempt the child from all fees when she completes the plus two examinations. Lakshmi eagerly waits for the day which is two years from now.

This is is the kind of "more' needed by the lower middle classes. The self-help group activities are also increasing. The savings that these classes try to pump in every month is a real case study. They try to manage with the rice or wheat given through the PDS and go to the wholesale market where the vegetables are somewhat reasonable. They are smart in thinking about future responsibilities.

More of such focused thinking is very much required for this class too. In fact, the number of good case studies from Coimbatore city does inspire a lot of confidence. Of course, the lower middle classes need a lot more guidance on the various saving instruments. None of them know about pure protection policies. The selfish life insurance agents sell the very costly money back policies and hence these families end up paying a huge premium, effectively locking up their savings. This author has made at least one hundred people reverse such irrational investments and free themselves of burden. More so, when the breadwinner is less than thirty years old. Such people have just begun investing in very good schemes like the UTI s master share, where returns are in excess of twelve percent. The idea is to also draw them away from investing in the very risky chit funds of dubious promoters.

Yet, the scope of investor education is very big. Only now, the local press has started discussing the various instruments for saving money. Of course, almost one hundred of rural masses are sold on rural life insurance through post offices as such post offices are within reach. Even here, the returns are very poor. The rural masses should understand that insurance is for protection and not savings.

Why much more is needed for self-employed

One really does not know when the next recession will come. The one in 2008 was a huge disaster for any self-employed person. No business was untouched by the recession. If such experiences should not occur, we need to have a big check on what needs to be done by such entrepreneurs.

They will be advised to offer more services and invest in cultivating customers. For example, there are smart entrepreneurs who offer the same ten percent discount on all allopathy medicines, as the Apollo Pharmacy does. The aim is to compete on even terms and retain customers. Those who do not have the patience to wait for fo the service in the rather large Apollo pharmacies quickly get their purchase of medicines done from the smaller pharmacies.

This is the sort of innovation and nimble-footedness that is essential. Even the smaller hotels, for example, are adopting good strategies like announcing the "pure oil" that they use for cooking. Importantly, they proudly announce, "we do not use Ajinomoto". They provide good taste and variety. The students who are fed up with the hostel food often eat in such places. These places are also very good for meeting with students of other places. Such hotels are increasing day after day. It is becoming increasingly clear that only " cash and carry" businesses will succeed in the future. This is for sure. The self-employed entrepreneur also needs to slog it out and save a lot of money.

Conclusion

The need for "more" has been explained in some detail above. We will need to adopt different strategies to survive and lead far better lives tomorrow. The concept of "more" is very relevant now, like never before.


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