TN Hari, the HR head of the country’s leading online grocery firm Bigbasket, has come up with his third book — Cutting the Gordian Knot. The book takes into account the gap between the degree-holders and the jobs available in the country. In an interaction with Moneycontrol, Hari talks about the importance of vocational degrees that are vital to create employment in India. Edited excerpts:
Q: What led to the conceptualization of this book?
A: At Bigbasket, we were exposed to an India we were not deeply familiar with, namely the blue-collar workforce and small farmers. We were able to get a much better and holistic understanding of their problems and refine our views on India’s quest for job creation and prosperity. In the process, we also met with an amazing bunch of inspirational folks who were systematically addressing the different pieces of this complex problem. We thought it would be a great idea, as well as time, to bring our nation’s quest for job creation and prosperity, along with the underlying pieces of the puzzle, to the mainstream agenda by writing this book.
Q: What, according to your book, is the difference between India and Bharat?
A: At a very high level, we would classify anyone with a privileged upbringing who have benefited from access to good education, nutritious food, modern values, work ethic, and technology as being a part of India.
Bharat comprises those who are underprivileged and do not have sufficient opportunities for advancement. They are mostly individuals from economically backward families with no means to provide their children access to any if the things we listed earlier. This could include both the rural, as well as the urban, poor.
Q: Why is it vital for corporates to have policies favouring women employees?
A: Companies that do not have policies which are supportive of women and address their specific needs cannot attract women. A big chunk of the available talent pool is, therefore, out of bounds for such companies and places them at a massive disadvantage. Besides enlarging the available talent pool, a diverse workforce adds to the quality and variety of ideas and perspectives. There is enough evidence to suggest that, in the long term, an inclusive workplace bolsters employee engagement and profitability.
Q: In your book, you have mentioned that India lacks education or training or semi-skilled jobs. Can you elaborate what is missing and why that is important?
A: Historically, India and Indians have placed a lot of emphasis on getting a degree irrespective of whether it enhanced their employability or not. The craze for a degree has been quite unbelievable. But, most jobs that are available do not need any of the knowledge that these unemployable degrees impart.
What India needs is an education framework that focuses on employability, and focuses on employable skills.
Q: What is your expectation from the government ahead of the upcoming elections?
A: Create short programs (and certifications) which are directly linked to jobs that are available. Some of the steps that the government has taken recently are in the right direction. The health ministry’s decision to allow dentists to practice general medicine will help mitigate the massive shortfall of doctors in government hospitals.
We need to introduce many more short and relevant programs that address our needs and remove barriers that have created this artificial scarcity of talent. India’s approach to education needs to address India’s specific needs. This does not mean we do not need institutes of higher learning.
The government should also create universities that focus on skilling where students can spend 75 percent of the time interning at companies and learning on the job and spend 25 percent of their time in the university.
The government can roll out the red carpet for SMEs and create a level-playing field for them. Today, those are given step-motherly treatment and the red carpet is reserved for the capital intensive industries that create very few jobs.