Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mera job tumhare job se II

Expectations of employees are rising - and not just for IT workers, MBAs and the like. A report in today's ET notes:

Scarce talent, buoyant growth and surging attrition have led to hefty pay hikes, pushing companies to focus on employee well-being and better work environment. But most of it seemed to be happening in the rarefied world of white-collar, air-conditioned corporate offices.

Scratch a little deeper and cast the net wider. Perhaps not as brightly, but India seems to be shining at the bottom of the pyramid as well... There could not have been a better example than the construction and infrastructure sector.

The story gives the example of 34 year old Panda, a high-school passout working for Gera Developments as a construction worker. The company he works for is providing a crèche and makeshift school for children, basic medical care, comfortable huts to live in. What's more, he's given training on how to use new tools and they are very particular about safety a well.

ET estimates that the $70-billion construction industry is likely to create 90 million new jobs by 2012. Around 60 million of these will be unskilled and 25 million skilled and semi-skilled workers.

The question is, how many will benefit as much as Panda? Honestly, I would still say he is one of the lucky ones. A few construction companies doing high end work, employing better work practices and also perhaps having a sense of social responsibility will offer such environments.

The rest will continue to operate in the old manner, where every pair of hands is a nameless, faceless and replacable asset.

Now in the longer run this will lead to a restless kind of situation for the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) worker. He knows a few, very few people out there are offering a chance for a better life. He is not one of the lucky ones.

Will he accept his fate and continue toiling? Or will he join some kind of agitation. Will strikes, lockouts and unions come back into fashion??

Ambition everywhere
A friend who went to Kolhapur on a market research project recently remarked,"I met a lot of young unemployed boys. They are sitting idle not because there are no jobs but because the jobs they are getting are not 'good enough'." A Rs 1200 p.m. job as a clerk, for example.

"The minimum they want is Rs 2000 p.m.," she said. So the moment a Big Bazaar outlet opens in Kolhapur, you can imagine the rush of applications. Incidentally, the first lot of applications was actually from nearby Sangli where there is already a Big Bazaar.

Hopefuls who were turned away there knew a new outlet was coming up in the neighbouring town and hence were the first to flood it with their resumes. The 'grapevine' already had it that this job is more modern, upwardly mobile and well paying than the regular small town variety. The excitement was palpable!

Of course, government jobs remain attractive to the average young person of Kolhapur. But as we all know there is a 'rate card'. It takes Rs 1 lakh to 3 lakhs to get into a lowly official post in the first place.

In comparison, a Big Bazaar offers the chance of succeeding on one's 'merit'. It's your English ability, knowledge of computers, personality that matter. And this is especially attractive for Muslim youth who perceive - as well as experience - that many other doors are closed for them.

So it's not just the white collar - or 'those who can' - raising their aspirations. Across the spectrum, it's a silent revolution.

The creamy layer of the workforce, however, has more options. More mobility. What happens when the BOPs start dreaming of - even demanding - the same?


  1. Andy Mukhrejee of Bloomberg mentions the same problem here:

  2. I still don't understand why will an unemployed guy in Kolhapur not take up a job (however much it pays). Earning anything is better than earning nothing, right?

  3. Re Amrit's comment:

    Economics theory tells us that human beings try to optimise between money and leisure. If I believe that I am better off by "lazing around" rather than breaking my back working for over 12 hrs a day for a pittance, i may choose the former. So, earning anything is not, and need not be, better than earning nothing.

  4. Young people not being happy with work that is being offered to them is sad - not just for them, but also because it delays the trickle down effect till they get a job.

    Also, like you rightly mentioned, i feel a disgusting lack of commitment to making an employment relationship work - on both ends. Instead of fighting attrition, companies have started to accept it and make margins for a certain amount of attrition. Employees, obviously, are racing down the path of mercenary breeding.

  5. Hi Rashmi,
    I did not quite understand the following statement

    "And this is especially attractive for Muslim youth who perceive - as well as experience - that many other doors are closed for them"

    Can you explain with all the screwed up quota system in our country what doors are closed for them? I bet its just their perception.

  6. I certainly agree with you in the new trend that people dont work if they think the money is not worth the effort. In a godown I know of, workers are quitting a 2600 Rs monthly paying job because they feel the effort-to-money quotient is not favorable. A construction worker in chennai makes anywhere between 3500-4000 in a given month.

  7. I worked as a sales manager for three years and i would like to present another facet. Just open any newspaper and you will see tons of sales representative jobs available. But there are not many takers. I say this from experience.

    There are very few who want to toil in the sun, chase customers and have an earning potential of Rs. 10,000 plus. The attitude of many is- "Sir, give Rs. 5000, but please give me a desk job."

    There ARE jobs available for hardworking men and women out there but there aren't many of them around.

    (But probably I shouldn't complain- I myself left sales for an IT job a couple of years ago...:p)

  8. Would you happen to know what's the unemployment rate in india? I'm not sure if the sources are credible, but quick "googling" shows that it's lower than even America's. Unemployment has never been a problem in India, underemployment has been. I once read a newspaper report of how most beggars on the streets of delhi, when offered factory jobs, refused it because it would earn them just around hundred rupees a day.
    It would be great if you ever write an article on employment in india and include all relevant statistics! Good thought-provoking post this one was.

  9. Good post..


  10. I am glad you slipped in the line about muslim candidates facing a wall..It's a fact that perceptions towards them, never 'normal', have become even worse lately. And this is more like a deep, bleeding wound rather than the short, brutal horrors of Gujarat and other places. And it is especially true of Mumbai. Lots of times, when I pick a candidate for my firm, I get his immediate superior to take a call too. Have invariably found that whatever the background, urbane or first generation white collars, there is a reluctance to take on Muslims. On perceived 'problems' like not 'figuring' them out at all, or possible 'client issues'. Such a pity, that we lose our brightest muslim candidates to the gulf consequently.

    And yes, dazed and confused has a very valid point. The way people recoil from any job that has sales in it, is actually unbelievable now. And this has spread way beyond the top MBA grads now. I always belived that the huge salaries there, and the lifestyle changes they bring, would put people off any hard work in the field. But to see people prefer a low paying job to a potentially much better sales job is a real shocker, especially at the beginning of their careers. It is because of the association of sales with cold calling for them, besides the really all encompassing nature of the job description.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. It indeed is a revolution of sorts. With media beaming inputs about a resurgent India, a prosperous India etc, aspirations have gone up manifold !

    Aspirations have gone up ! Skillsets havent gone up to match the aspirations. That is a queer situation we find ourselves in. With low skill and sometimes, lousy attitudes !

  13. >>> And this is especially attractive for Muslim youth who perceive - as well as experience - that many other doors are closed for them.

    A lot of doors are closed for me too, because I am not a muslim or OBC..!!!! Stop giving this a communal twist...

    my company has about 5 % muslim employees.. So now what do you want? 20% should be reserved for them ??!! Crazy...

  14. The definition of well paying job has a taken a sea change in last 5 years. Fresh graduates or students who completed XII or diploma are on lookout for jobs in their area of interest. Due to the uneven growth in different sectors of economy... retail and services alone have HUGE openings.

    As for willingness of candidates to take up a field job vis-a-vis a desk job.....people who want a Job will opt for the latter and people who aspire for a CAREER will jump for the former.

  15. I didn't quite follow the abrupt shift of focus in this post from small-town jobseekers' heightened job expectations to Muslim youth lapping up Big Bazaar-ishtyle jobs.

    I am from Kolhapur, a city that has one of the highest per-capita incomes in India. Over the last two years, I have seen the populace's mindset change from "Money's best kept in the bank" to "Have it? Flaunt it". The change in the jobseeker's attitude reflects these very changes. I am sure a lot of Tier II and III city residents would be able to identify with this trend.

    Coming to Big Bazaar (and ofcourse others of its ilk), I personally prefer the neighbourhood kirana, cloth and stationary dukaan to the one-stop shop model (more on the reasons later and elsewhere). But then, proliferation of the Big B model is becoming nigh irreversible.. for.. It Happened in India !!

  16. interesting read. MBA is still the desired qualification for many.

  17. though the BOP n likes are thriving for a decent job but the problem lies in other facts as well. if u consider d state of education system in states like U.P u will discover dat d educated youth hardly knw anything n its not there fault entirely.THe kind of situation n education they receive
    from primary level leads to an ignorant outlook regarding wats happenin around them n they jus concentrate on gettin a degree(may b a fake one)
    if BOPs start dreaming n acting then definitely there is no stopping but it may not be the near future

  18. India is primarily a Service Economy when it comes to IT, so injection of investment or renumeration is dependent on requirements of developed economies, and therin lies the rub . . . as it always does in 'dependant' situations . . . surviving so long as someone wants your services.

    Liberation will truly arrive when India begins to develop products that create a market.

  19. Hi Rashmi
    Being going to your kind post i like to speak a little fact of money and lesuire, simple and hardmoney.
    Today though the world have developed and being developing there are many cases by employer. the employer want to keep more than handful of gain profit rathere than investing some amount on employee. The employer will spend money on such money which dosent make any sense if the employee ask for increment the employer just reply " if want to continue with job then you have to work for the given amount and if not then get out of job" theis is real factor which happen. The other factor is that when an employee ask for increment in salary then the employer will put pressure on the employee by incrementing a low very low amont then expected. The other job in marketing feild is that When an organistion appoint a Sales Man of there organistion will not pay salary and but a commission where a some sales represtantive make a huge commission by selling the product by promising to customer wrong way though the said quality is not applicable to product and just making fool to customer, and when the customer come to know the fact said by the sales man then he close the door for other customer where other Sale man suffer of selling the product. The sales mand who preech a right quality and to right product get nothing and he fails to receive even his daily expenses. Yet there is more but of nonuse

  20. i work with a retail giant in india & the kind of churn i c at my workplace is phenomenal. people do not stick for more than 2 years with any 1 employer. since the market is booming, they are attempting to make hay while the sun is shining.

    Plz visit my blog All good things in life & do comment whenever you find the time.

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