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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Role of Chance and IT Industry in 21st Century India !

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We are 1.2 billion people and even an conservative estimate of 25% employable population implies the employable population of India is much larger than the total population of USA/ UK/ Germany etc. Industrial revolution started in these countries 200 years before India got independence. Only on growth and development aspect, if we start comparing ourselves with China, Taiwan or Korea, I think we have not achieved anything extraordinary. We are doing OK so far, but the sheer size of our country combined with democracy and freedom has made growth a largely unplanned activity. I think still we are on a right track, BUT the unfortunate part is that track we are following is not created by Design but by Chance !!
The time consuming back end work which is also resource intensive and recursive in general and/or requires specific skill sets which are available in specific regions/ geographies is loosely termed as Donkey work...which according to me is very demeaning and superficial usage !

Activities ranging from pharma research, project management, design and engineering, medical transcription, legal processes, IT and ITES are all being outsourced/ off-shored by the organizations to drive the bottom line of that particular company/organization. This implies that there is a Simple Demand for these services and there is/will be Abundant Supply from all across the globe to cater to this Demand ! Nothing is being forced on anybody in such situations and simple demand- supply mechanism comes into play. So I don't see anything wrong in nurturing an ecosystem which caters to that Demand...because if we don't somebody else will ( E.g China, Philippines, Russia, Africa, Poland, Brazil etc) but we always had and will have the choice Right !!!

Two of the prime reason behind this effective India centric outsourcing/off-shoring model are Exchange rate and the Cost of Living ...We know that for fresh Indian graduate living in India a salary 6 Lakhs INR per annum is above avg/ fair but at the same time....this is also equal to apprx $13k per annum which is below avg/unfair for a graduate living in the USA !

Both these factors are the repercussion of economic policies, lack of education which leads to unawareness about minimum standard of livings, billions of dollars of trade deficit accumulated over years and many more economic and financial aspects !! So, only if the Cost of Living in India rises faster than the Developed world (US/ Europe) and/ OR our currency strengthen w.r.t Euro/ USD AND alternates to India are available, we will loose quiet a lot of jobs and business (please don't forget the indirect impact on ancillary industries such as travel, tourism, real estate, entertainment, auto, banking etc) and jobs as well....

In my limited experiences I have seen pilferage and wastage (in all forms - time/money/resources) are an inherent part of the bureaucratic system of our economy and country in general. So I feel that there is a huge scope to improve the efficiency of the economy which in turn will ensure better utilization of resources/funds ( i.e timely completion of projects such as Bandra Worli Sealink or Commonwealth Games infrastructure etc). By achieving that efficiency we will be still left with lot many time/money/ resources to take due care of environment and other socially relevant schemes.

We might not be the best in discovering/inventing great socio-economic/scientific or even mathematical concepts/ theories (and so we have a far lesser number of papers, patents or noble prize winners from India) but we (the people of India) are good at application and practical usage of theory/ technology etc. I still believe that private sector and IT sector in particular created a completely new business model 20 years ago which did helped in supporting/ employing millions of engineers, which we were anyways bound to produce in those 20. There was no divine plan/ vision of the government to create employment for these millions of people otherwise. So somebody's stroke of genius (Infosys) saved the governments and created employment (including 1000s of Infosys employees who went on to create their own companies + ancillary industries). If you remember back in late 80s and 90s population control was a major agenda of the government which suddenly disappeared from the manifestos because the bane become boon overnight (By chance and not by Design !!)

So, I don't think we become any type of animal in doing something unique/ unparalleled. Hopefully (Still relying on Chance!!) such stroke of geniuses will happen (in fact its bound to happen) in all walks of life, slowly and steadily over a period of time)

I think we can summarize -

-Everybody is not created same (in terms of aspirations, dreams and desires to achieve x,y and z in life). So what somebody enjoys/ prefers doing might be called as Donkey work in very vague and superficial manner by somebody else
-The choice to refuse/ accept always was and will remain with the individual and its pretty irrelevant of the generalizing - are WE donkeys/ monkeys is pretty vague to me at least !!
-Exchange rate and cost of living are something not in the hand of any single individual or the organization...
-Whether we acknowledge it or not...the competition is increasing globally in the field of outsourcing/ off-shoring including our own companies operating from alternate geographies...

AND fortunately/ unfortunately we are creating almost 3 million engineers and doctors every year and WE dont have a plan B and plan C in place as of now...infact the Plan A too just happened by chance and sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Plan A didnt happened by itself/ chance ( and not by Design) !!

Can we run a Monte Carlo simulation on Indian socio-economic decisions/ lives, the options we had and the options we used ? Is this the best we could have achieved in past 60 years with our given natural resources? The unfortunate (destiny again ??) part is we still are not working on plan B and C.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Brief History of Education Systems in India.

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Gone are the days when considering education as business was unethical/incorrect. In the ancient to medieval Indian society, education was a prerogative of the highies and almighties of the society! Education was customized inline with the Varna Vyavastha of then Indian society. The rise and demise of the Bhakti Movement did infused a new line of thinking in the highly aristocratic Indian society. The Bhakti Movement though was short lived and often condemned by the gatekeepers of education of those times. But I think it was very significant movement for several reasons. One the teachings were in the form or short poems and bhajans in the local language. In the language spoken by masses in their day to day lives. The movement was for sure not about formal or scientific education, but perhaps it is/was the world's first (and may be the only) movement which emphasized on Common Sense and Rational thinking. Both these attributes made the Bhakti Movement an eternal movement which still has relevance in the 21st century Modern India.

Between now and the era of Bhakti Movement was the period of rise and fall of the British empire. Under the British regime schools and colleges imparting formal and scientific education were created but with the primary intent of catering to the administrative requirements of British empire. Whatever the intent might have been, in my opinion these schools and colleges made the formal, technical and scientific education available to the masses.The penetration was very low due to several reasons - lack of intent, lack of resources, the common mass was involved either in the independence movement and cared less about getting higher education.

Post independence Pandit Nehru accurately gauged the need of hour and the stress was rightly placed on three critical fronts - Primary education to create a broader base of people who can read and write; Higher education - institutes for higher education, technical education and management education were formed (such as the IITs, IIMs); Practical Education - several institutions imparting job oriented education (such as ITIs) were created in parallel to make the masses employable. For the next 30 years the results of these three pronged approach were complacently satisfactory. Slowly however since the overall education system was still not very dynamic and so lost the relevance and efficacy. On the one hand we faced the problem of brain drain of the highly skilled labors, engineers and doctors while on the other the practical and job oriented education system failed to cater the need of new industries.A deeper analysis revealed that at primary level we were still following the curriculum and text books which were designed in the pre-independence era.

One thing is very clear from the above analysis that the time frame for which a particular system and a curriculum and overall education ecosystem remained relevant shortened. We followed a Varna Vyavastha for thousands of years, followed by a couple of years of religious-socio-education centric Bhakti movement which lasted for couple of hundreds of years, then under the British empire we perhaps developed for the the first formal, more wide reaching and scientific education system and then a Nehruvian education system, which is what we are still following to a very large extent. Guided by some political motives and desire to get media footage the curriculum has been mildly revised in past 30 years at primary level and with the rapid emergence of private colleges backed by the political support and desire to make quick money overnight more than 500 colleges have mushroomed out of nowhere in the past 10 years.