Sunday, 4 January 2015

“Make in India,” Skill Development, CSR: Win-Win for All Players

With the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (“the annual gathering of the Indian diaspora,” January 7-9, 2015 @ Gandhinagar, Gujarat) nearly upon us all the governments favourite catchphrases and pet projects will be getting aggressive publicity. In the spirit of give-and-take while the government plans to announce “non-resident Indians (NRIs) getting voting rights” to commemorate the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa it will also expect returns from the NRIs in the form of investment, sponsorship, lobbying for its various ambitious projects to stimulate a double figure GDP growth rate. Of them all “Make in India,” Kaushal Vikas (Skill Development), village adoption, smart cities, digitalizing India, Ganga cleanup will most probably get a lot of coverage.

One of the big-wins in terms of forward planning in my opinion of the previous government was the Companies Bill of 2012 under the aegis of then Minister for Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot (Ratified by Rajya Sabha in August 2013, passed in 2012 by the Lok Sabha) that replaced the Companies Act, 1956. The highpoint of which for me was the fact that “The Bill, as ratified by Parliament, prescribes an expenditure of 2 per cent of profits on CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities in their respective areas of operation. These would have to be outcome and timeline-driven with details posted on websites.”

When one keeps in mind the problems of joblessness, inflation, global economic slowdown and the massive population of the nation that hamper progress, the need becomes clear for India to be an international manufacturing hub, investment destination, and a “Skills capital” yet the skill deficit is huge in India and remains a stumbling block to it fully enjoying the demographic dividend.

Multiple agreements have been signed with the economic powers (UN, US, Japan, China, EAS, G-20, Australia, UK, France, Russia, etc.) and more will be signed when Barack Obama arrives in India for the 66th Republic Day. Many promises were made to NRIs, investors, and companies to address the infrastructure and red-tape bottlenecks but a bigger crisis is addressing the lack of skilled workers. 

According to a paper from the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Gujarat (land of one of India’s biggest success stories – AMUL), “There are currently many skills development initiatives underway, but supporting on the job training in the massive unorganized sector should be a priority as this is where most jobs for the youth are created.”
Using companies’ need for CSR programmes with visible impact as a solution to India’s skill deficit  can be a win-win for all players and take the nation into double digit GDP growth. According to the European Commission's definition CSR refers to companies taking responsibility for their impact on society. Many Indian and India-based corporate already have some very successful schemes and foundations in place to aid their consumer and future employee bases. TVS, Reliance, Tata, L&T, Citi group all have programmes in place that is skilling and empowering many. The National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC),a Public Private Partnership is in place with the goal to promote skill development by catalyzing creation of large, quality, for-profit vocational institutions. Also in place is the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship under minister of state (independent charge) Sarbananda Sonowal that seeks to harmonise the activities of “skill development efforts are spread across approximately 20 separate ministries, 35 State Governments and Union Territories and the private sector.” Events are also select “Team India” for the WorldSkills Championship to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2015. It remains to be seen whether the successful combination of skill-building and CSR pioneered by a few giants and the pilot programmes of smaller entities can be replicated to help transform the Indian workforce!

Young and Jobless, BBC series, November-December 2013,

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