Reality check

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By The foreign media may like to portray India as a hub of low-skilled jobs, but, in truth, the country's hottest sectors now are finance and manufacturing
  • Published 7.03.06

It is a fact of life in India that most people born around Independence ? Midnight’s Children, give or take a decade ? still live under the mental yoke of colonialism. Thus, a business paper will faithfully reproduce an article on India or an Indian company by, say, the Financial Times. It doesn’t matter that the piece is full of inaccuracies or, as has happened in the past, carries a picture of Swaran Singh calling him Manmohan Singh. FT, says the editor, knows best.

For some time now, the foreign media has been looking at India through the lens of IT and outsourcing. It has been repeated again and again that the jobs moving to India are very low-level. India, they say, specialises in cyber coolies. The only advantage India has is that of low cost. It consoles the British and American psyche to perpetuate the myth that they were doled out an extra share of brains.

Forbes magazine has recently come out with a list of hot jobs in India (see box). It is dominated by the stereotypes ? sales representatives, IT programmers, personal assistants, teachers... “But the really significant growth is taking places in sectors such as manufacturing and finance,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. The West, and pricey consultants McKinsey & Co, had earlier written the epitaph for manufacturing in India. It will take some time for them to eat their words.

Manpower Inc, a leader in the employment services industry, has no such baggage. Its recent survey on Manpower Employment Outlook ? for the first quarter of 2006 ? says the biggest growth in India is likely to come in the finance, insurance and real estate sector. Education is close to the bottom of the list, keeping mining and construction company.

What are the other myths being propagated about jobs in India? Take a look at The Rising Elephant, a book by Ashutosh Sheshabalaya, a technology consultant and former journalist. He lists several myths about India and the exodus of jobs from the West. Among them:

* America’s white-collar jobs will go to many places, and it does not really matter where.

In reality, it is India that is due to gain most. According to one forecast, the gain is equivalent to 800 American jobs every day until 2015.

* India is home to a low-end software coding industry.

Indian R&D centres of American tech firms are filing more patents than Bell Labs. India also boasts a much larger number of software facilities certified to the “gold standard” of the US defence department-inspired CMM Capability Maturity Model, than America, Europe and the rest of the world.

* India is like Japan, high impact on a few sectors but slight overall.

As much as call-centre jobs, high-value technology skills are also at risk. India’s sweep of competencies has not only made relocation irreversible, but will result in its steady rise as a high-tech competitor to the US. Unlike Japan, or now, China, India’s focus is a full sweep of high-value, white-collar services rather than blue-collar manufacturing.

* Such a seismic shift in power has no precedents, and may therefore be unsustainable.

In contrast to America’s relatively brief history, India and China go back many millennia, and their people think in long-term contexts.

“Many of us can see the changes taking place,” says Singh. “We just don’t talk about it too much. If America wants to play ostrich, it’s so much the better for us. We’ll reach our goal faster.”


• Sales Representatives • IT Programmers and developers • Accountants • Marketing and PR Executives • Sales Managers • Engineering and technical managers • Teachers • IT Managers • Administrative assistants and Personal Assistant

Source: Forbes