22 August 2005

The "brain power" gap

A recent TV commercial from NIIT caught my attention: A young man with a GNIIT qualification is suddenly kidnapped by a team of suited executives in broad daylight. The tag line said something about not enough GNIITians are around to fill the growing IT job vacancies… presumably in the country.

If this was true, it was a remarkable situation. There’s a huge gap in IT and we aren’t doing anything about it. Leaving aside the NIIT brand being advertised, what this means is that, today, there is a boom in the country for IT jobs, with not enough qualified IT professionals to fill the positions. Now, if this isn’t an indication of the change that has engulfed our country, then I don’t know what is.

It’s not that the Indian economy hasn’t changed since Independence. Although India chose to follow a socialist style of government, with its protectionist economy, building industries and infrastructure through government-controlled enterprises and the public sector, it did invest in modernization. Albeit, very slowly.

In this process, the private sector was neglected, prohibited from investing in major industries like power, oil, mining, steel, transportation – thereby ensuring that the private sector contributed only a small portion to the Indian economy. Added to this were strict controls on industrial licensing and a badly managed labour market.

And, of course, there was always a high priority on agriculture. India has always relied on agriculture and the livelihood of millions depended on it. The agricultural community made up a huge chunk (more than 60 percent, even now, I believe) of the labour force, and there was no way the government could overlook this. With half the population living below the poverty line, poverty and rural development were important issues.

Collective well-being was on the government’s mind. Hence, a natural inclination towards socialism. Computers came in slowly, and only since the introduction of personal computers twenty years ago, did Indians see any major change in business.

All that has changed now. India has figured out a strategy for jumping many of the hurdles of industrialization – straight into the information era. And, the private sector has suddenly found breathing space and opportunity for growth… literally in leaps and bounds. India has once again relied on the son of the soil – this time, an educated one – to create wealth for the country. As you can guess, I’m talking about the IT revolution.

What’s interesting is that India has suddenly become attractive to a lot of developed nations. Companies like Intel, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Oracle, etc. want to do business not just with India, but also in India. Thereby, creating an important position for India in the global market and contributing significantly to the brand India. Not to mention, creating a huge demand for an IT-trained force to address this opportunity.

This is indeed a matter of national pride. However, all is not hunky dory. With growth comes opportunity… and obstacles as well. How does one produce such a huge force of IT-trained professionals? And, interestingly, the demand has increased to skilled professionals in many knowledge-led fields. “If India has to continue and build upon its recent growth success, an educated workforce is critical,” says Rajesh Jain of Emergic. “Across the space, India will need an educated and trained youth.”

As reported by The Financial Express, even our Prime Minister alluded to this at the launch of the National Knowledge Commission earlier this month. India’s place in the world will be determined by its “brain power,” not by the military or economic powers, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Brain power” should certainly be reflected in a country’s economic competitiveness as well as military prowess, he said.

And, there you have it. A wake-up call from the Prime Minister himself, confirming the state of affairs… or those to come. Although the IT industry has made this all possible, the need for “brain power” will not only be in IT, but in many other fields.

1 comment:

phucker said...

Lovely article. With (or without) your permission, I welcome you to the group of people that view "India's Glass" as half-full, and not 90% empty.