How to help people to help themselves

At any given point in time, there are people who need to develop themselves. This can happen either individually or in groups. As experienced people who work in the Corporate Sector, or even as retired individuals, there are some avenues in which we can offer all help and advise in making their lives far better. Certain dimensions of these avenues are discussed in some details in this article.


The poor, the unexposed rural folk, the untrained and unskilled and those with potential to grow but lack direction, the educated who aspire to become entrepreneurs are all people who can be guided very well. By doing so, we can really help them to help themselves.

In this article, we will focus on a) Guiding parents and children of weaker sections b) Enabling people to maximize their strengths and eliminate or minimize weaknesses c) Help people to identify markets and businesses d) Infuse hope and optimism in all people and e) Enable people to learn every day from successful experiences.

Guiding parents and children of weaker sections

Across communities, in two States, that is, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, this author has had the experience of guiding some four hundred people in Tamil Nadu and around fifty percent of that number in AP. The local language was a problem in AP. However, it does often happen that the parents and children, who are basically intelligent and have what is normally called as "native intelligence", do not even know that there are so many jobs for the educated folks. It does happen that students from a district headquarter town, called Perambalur, ( sixty kilometers north of Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu) belonging to some communities, listed as "backward' or "most backward" , are mostly raw graduates in Tamil literature, Economics, Chemistry or Physics or sometimes Mathematics. They had to be told about different opportunities in cities like Coimbatore or Chennai. The boys are more adventurous and will immediately come to Chennai. The women would never come out. The parents had to be counseled. In most cases, groups of five or six girls come to Chennai, get the BPO jobs (mostly call center jobs), somehow manage to pick up English through socialization in Chennai, and then go on to take up far better jobs. This is also true of the girls and boys from AP, whose standard of English is very poor. However, they are very much hard-working and can go places, since they have the fire in the belly.

It has been a great learning experience. The parents were initially were much skeptical. However, when the girls got the jobs, they had even migrated to Chennai. Such changes in attitudes are now widely seen.

Maximizing their strengths and eliminating or minimizing weaknesses

Two girls, one of whom was from Villupuram and another from Cuddalore (160 and 200 km from Chennai), were quite good-looking and had won several prizes in debates and in inter-college competitions. Both of them were motivated by their friends and this author to present themselves for a voice test and the other tests for recruitment as comperes in a local TV channel. They were selected but were told to change their hair-styles and their attire. Though initially reluctant, the changes made them so confident. After some experience, one whose mother tongue is Telugu, but had settled in Villupuram for decades, migrated to Hyderabad, to take up a good job with a famous TV channel and the other has reportedly joined Vijay TV, the second most famous TV channel in Tamil. These careers and the attitudinal changes were possible only because the concerned persons were properly counseled on their strengths and weaknesses. They were able to capitalize on their strengths. It is commonly seen that when people are guided properly, the process of their helping themselves becomes that much easier to achieve.

Helping to identify markets and businesses

Certain healthy trends are now seen. A good number of entrepreneurs are identifying, very accurately, some businesses that have the potential for growth, even in the midst of a recession. In Coimbatore city, this author has helped four MBAs to identify such markets. Organic food vegetarian restaurants have a very good scope in the city and in cities like Tiruchirapalli and Madurai. The initial capital was not much. There were two other partners in each of the businesses and one private sector bank has provided the loans, against the collateral security of their own houses or houses owned by their fathers. The going has been good in the past 24 months. However, there is a bit of a slowdown now, and they have re-oriented their strategies to provide the traditional tiffin items. The entrepreneurs are also now engaged in the marketing of organic fertilizers, as all the four of them hail from farmer families.

It is very interesting to note that the same farmer fathers are now recognizing the need for their sons or daughters to move away from being rooted in agriculture. They are even keen on businesses in towns with a population of just three hundred thousand people. The reason is simple. Service businesses, such as small restaurants, that serve food at low prices, have good scope in the face of this slowdown. They work on volumes, as there is a lot of under-development, and such people are now running to merely survive. In most cases, both the man and his wife are accepting all sorts of jobs or are engaged in doing something, like selling vegetables. They just do not have the time to cook at home. Even diploma holders in engineering, who have now been thrown out of their jobs are migrating to the smaller towns where they are working for low wages. like for example, in the subsidiary companies of BHEL at Ranipet. Their logic is that they should not be employed, and are ready to do any job. Hence, there is a big scope for small restaurants, almost everywhere.

Infusing hope and optimism

Even before this current slowdown, four boys were encouraged to migrate to Gujarat. All of them were engineers from very ordinary colleges. Since all of them had maintenance experience on the shop floor, this author had the chance of referring to a large conglomerate, where their skills were in demand. Though the initial probation period was one year, the promise of regular employment was promising. This author had the unique experience of having a one-to-one discussion, spread over six hours with all the four of them.

The buy-in had to come from the parents too. How do we come out of this NEEM scheme, where only training is provided? Only regular employment can help. The parents had to be convinced that they would be able to settle down in that plant. It worked. All the four guys are optimistic that their services will be regularized now. Their salaries are far higher than what they would have got here, anyway. ( It is very clear that the NEEM service trainees will never be regularized). Given today's conditions, the best thing that we can do to youngsters is to infuse hope and optimism in all people, irrespective of who they are, by identifying either jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities.

Learning from successful experiences

This is exactly what the aforesaid four boys were advised to do. They spoke over the phone to those who had joined the company in Gujarat, eight years ago and had settled down now. References do not come so often. In certain cases, the urgency of the situation would demand that people had to be employed. Migration to new areas for work has become very essential to merely survive. In today's conditions, the counseling needs to be focused on success stories. Starting small businesses were the capital requirement is not that much, is one sure way of tiding over the current crisis. There are families where the father has been forced to take the VRS scheme some two years ago. The mother is a school teacher, whose increment is not much. There are two boys studying in the engineering college. While one is now in the final year, the second has three and a half years to go. The family has seen a decreased income.

What is the alternative? The father has taken up a small business in selling Kanchipuram saris in other places, where he has good friends. He is trying his best to be active. The elder son is sold on the idea that he has to postpone his idea of going abroad by at least two years. He is ready to even join the TVS group as an apprentice, some four months from now. What is the motivation? The family has learned their lesson from their neighbor. In this case, the family has scaled down the scope of their taxi business, as there is a slowdown. They are now focused on their new business of a stationery store, where the school and college children, regularly shop. This is a "there-is-no-alternative" and the slowdown effect is not much. The man in question has advised this family to do something to bring in the money, but without much borrowing. People do look around and learn from such successful experiences.


Helping people to help themselves, is context-specific. This author has some personal experience, the scope of which has now enlarged in the changed context of the present slowdown. Yes, the scope is huge and only certain dimensions have been discussed above.

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Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao25 Oct 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 6

Nice article. It is true many people especially from rural areas never know that there are many opportunities in the country for them to grow. If you visit an SC/ST colony in a remote village people there will never know that there are many opportunities for them. We see many government jobs under this category will be lying vacant and these people even don't know how to apply for those posts.

When I went to my native village, a known person from SC community came and asked me for a job for his son who had completed a diploma in engineering. Then I told him that there are many jobs in PWD and R&B for diploma people which are lying vacant. I showed him an advertisement. I called the candidate and made him apply. He got selected for that post. So if we have any mechanism to educate such people it will be a very good help to the poor and needy.

If all of us should try to mentor the people who don't know the opportunities available and help them in understanding those issues, many will get benefitted.

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