Products, Patents and Platforms


Spotted these young boys en-route to Kuruva Islands in Wayanad District. (2010)
Young 'automobile engineers'. Somewhere in Wayanad (2010)

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/ites/3ps-to-power-new-business-model-of-tcs/articleshow/70182626.cms


You can read more about how the 3-P focus is going to influence the strategy of India's top IT services provider in the above link.


Let us deep dive into what this means in terms of expectations from employees. Do you think this approach to growing a business is restricted to the realm of the IT world alone? I do not think so. India has for long been seen as a land which provides great services. Someone decides what needs to be done and by when, and we have been delivering accordingly. We get paid for it and the cycle has continued. When skills required to deliver were rare (which is the case when we are dealing with a new technology/process) we commanded a premium. Employees got paid more and as is the case in typical demand-supply scenarios with supply becoming strong, and with more players offering similar services, it was a matter of time before pricing pressures built up. If it did not immediately reflect in lowering of salaries for many, it definitely showed up as increase in working hours. Why else do we see people hanging onto their jobs and tolerating an almost 24/7 on-call existence?


In the midst of all this we see another interesting development. Practically every single experienced leader (across industry domains) I've spoken to during the past year I've heard about what I've personally observed. Hiring a fresh graduate involves investing much more in training than it has been in the past. Everything cannot be pinned to the quality of education alone - curriculum not changing fast enough to keep pace with what skills/capabilities industry expects and so on. In my view, a lot has to do with how in these past close to two decades, we have seen huge changes in life-styles, especially in busy towns and cities. Life-styles which changed due to parents earning a lot more than what their parents did. Resulting in young ones seeing a lot more comforts than previous generations. And why not? There is no harm in enjoying the benefits of an improved economic status within families. But what this did and continues to do so is that young ones:

  • aren't getting exposed to small challenges early on and learning to deal with them

  • aren't getting to develop patience standing in lines to pay any bills or buying things

  • aren't having to do many tasks around the house (thanks to helpers/drivers)

  • aren't fixing any broken stuff around the house (enough money to replace or have someone else fix it)

We can easily add a few more bullets to the above list. But let us look at what this translates to:

  • Lack of problem solving abilities

  • Fear of trying out 'experiments' and learning from and dealing with failures

  • Since many have hardly been exposed to DIY projects or helping fix things, they are unable to apply their mind to 'think out-of-the-box' or use their imagination to come up with innovative solutions

  • Unable to deal with ambiguity (need to be told precisely what has to be done, how and who to seek help from)

  • Lack of empathy and respect for every job function other than their own

  • Lack of a bunch of soft-skills and ability to appreciate the value of inter-personal skills/relationships (It is all about winning at any cost)

This list too can be easily expanded. But let us go back to the beginning of this article. Industry wants to transform and move up the value chain in terms of not only better services but also move into the zone many developed countries are in, namely, owning IP, licensing technology, developing products and so on. Besides, with the advent of AI, ML and the use of automation wherever possible, many tasks are becoming redundant and do not require much human intervention.


Almost every other parent I come across (and I come across many since I have been a teacher of sorts these past ten years) seems to think that studying more or doing further studies is the answer. I wonder, what industry is going to do with a huge number of 'over-qualified' people. People who cannot or are unwilling to dirty their hands. People who want to be in supervisory roles from day one. People who want to be managers within their first five years. People who want to jump into startup mode without any relevant experience in any domain (idea may be out-of-the-world, but do they even understand what it takes to execute and take it to market, sustain and scale?).


It is time we shifted focus from getting our kids to passing an examination with high marks to being able to appreciate the benefits of being all-rounders when it comes to life. In the process, if they turn out doing exceedingly well in their formal education, let us celebrate that too, else it really does not matter if they are naturally cut out to excel in subjects they are genuinely passionate about. In team meetings I've attended in my past avatar, I've seen good ideas coming from everyone regardless of which colleges they came from. In fact, the most dependable and 'go-to' candidates where those with great attitudes and willingness to keep learning.


How can industry help with the transformation which is much needed? I would urge all hiring managers and HR to demonstrate that they appreciate attitude and ability to do the job more than going gaga over saying things like we hire only the cream from certain colleges. This change in approach then needs to made more visible. Only then students and their parents will get the confidence that while education is important, we need to get other priorities right. If industry (the consumer) and parents & students (the providers) can help change themselves, we can break the middlemen who have been creating way too much hype over branding their products and services in the field of education. Many of my guitar students have already begun preparations to get into IIT while still in their 6th grade!


In these recent years, I've been talking to not less than two to three thousand youngsters on 1x1 basis a year (thanks to the opportunities my entrepreneurial ventures help create). I've also been interviewing at least close to 150 to 200 MBA aspirants every year from all over India as part of their selection process. The young generation is smart and intelligent. But there are serious flaws in the way we are getting them to prepare for the big journey ahead.

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