Friday, August 01, 2008

A lighter look at careers

Here's a guest piece I wrote for DNA's Anniversary issue

On roaming

'Always on the move' is the caller tune of a new generation when it comes to careers, says Rashmi Bansal

Once upon a time, careers were like fixed line telephones. You were lucky to get one and grateful for the connection, despite the hiss. Now, careers are like cellphones. You have many to choose from, keep upgrading your handset and changing the ringtone.

Depending on your socio-economic status you have the following talk time plans:

* The Swami plan: This plan is basically aimed at India's vast and furious middle class. It involves spending some of the best years of your life studying for entrance exams like IIT JEE, AIEEE, CET, CAT, XAT and so on.

If you manage to crack these, you will be rewarded with a lifetime prepaid card which entitles you to a good job, house, car and someone to marry. Either from campus or based on how cool your qualifications and salary look in the classifieds.

Those who don't qualify under Swami plan can opt for the 'mini Swami' where they at least get the degree, if not the IIT-IIM branding. Hence it is always safer to opt for engineering over Physics, History or Home Science; and MBA above all else.

The network coverage is poor if you graduate from a bschool in Jhumritalaiyya but it's better than 'no signal'. Which is how ordinary BAs or BScs feel today, despite the love and affection showered on them by call centres.

* The Bunty plan: Yeh world hai na world, isme yeh woh log hain jo kuch kar ke dikhaana chahte hain. Magar lack of angrezi skills and general spit and polish impede their progress. While cellphones may now display smses in Hindi and Gujarati, jobs which offer the chance of rapid growth require people who think in English.

The Bunty plan however does offer some hope. There are a slew of jobs, from mall security guard to radio taxi driver that now employ 10th or 12th pass youngsters at decent salaries, in better working environments.

These jobs are like lower end handsets with VGA cameras compared to the Swami plan which comes with 5 megapixels and a Carl Zeiss lens. But it is still, a step up in life.

* The Pappu plan: He can't dance, saala, and he does not need to work either. Pappus are the new rich kids of India who we see in the movies, and all around us. They don't have the zeal of a Swami but compensate by forking out the cash for the most bling bling of handsets. Degrees from foreign colleges or in local colleges through the backdoor ('donation').

Many Pappus have the easy option of joining the family business. Others do need to get jobs but will do so in due time, after 'discovering themselves'. The trouble is, there is always a newer, shinier model out there which makes it difficult to appreciate what you have in hand.

* The Babli plan: In a country where 'boyfriend' is a person you never bring home, the cellphone is a girl's best friend. And 'further studies' is the magic mantra which opens every locked door. Parents who never allowed their daughters to stay out late lovingly pack up and pack off their kids to hostels and PGs in distant locations. Because after all, 'career ka sawaal hai'.

Cellphones have made remote areas more accessible.

Careers have made life for small town girls more aspirational.

How many will switch their careers off after marriage remains the question.

The bottomline is, zamaana mobility ka hai. It's ok to experiment with jobs, and even with life, because like the shops at every streetcorner selling connections, there is no shortage anymore.

Koi na koi job mil jayega, the important thing - for Swami, for Pappu, for Bunty and Babli - is finding the one that gets them out of bed all charged up and ready to go. Each morning!


  1. Hey, intersting take on career choices. As someone who was (allegedly) crazy enough to do a masters in home science and human development, and then study counselling, i empathise with those who envy the swami plan. Being in an alternative career line and struggling in a country where swamis are applauded is almost enough to make you want to follow the herd and settle down with a lifetime prepaid!Sigh.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. After hearing lot of noise about "lifetime", my father got very interested to know what it actually means. After a lot of inquiry, he found something ranging from 2015 to 2024 for various services.

    Here when we talk about swamis getting lifetime prepaid, we really need to look into the most probable lifespan of it. There is always a chance that world takes a turn and contemporary careers take over.

    A funny email mentioned once that mobiles, PCs, Cameras, iPods etc etc might cost a few hundred bucks only. At the same time, basic needs like, vegetables, milk, water, oxygen, Flowers, fruits might cost you a fortune.

    So, swami's shouldn't sit back and relax and non-swami's needn't think they will suffer for too long.

  4. Rashmi,appreciate the witty nature of your blog write ups. Yes, people do have more choices with respect to careers now but that's more of a western gift rather than an inhouse capability. Most of the jobs that we think or talk about have been "outsourced" to us because of cost and labour arbitrage reasons. The day this advantage goes, be prepared for the humble spade.Its time we build our own capabilities to suit our favorable demographics so that jobs that our "swamis", : buntys " "puppys" and "bablis" crave for remain with us and not get outsourced to our neighbour (read China) in the near future.

  5. I read your blog. I read about choice of swamis getting lifetime prepaid. really its choice open there to getting various types of job. really its wonderful.

  6. I agree with u zamaana after all mobility ka hai

  7. i have a Swami plan..and it sucks..i want more and more, i just dont want to talk with that plan. I want to surf the net, book holidays, travel and do as much as i can. i wann upgrade all the time..and that does not letme appreciate the plan i have got rite now..I want a master swami plan..Nowwwww.
    Rashmi i like ur writing but i feel more and more that ur discussions of careers is becoming a comparison of have and have nots. rather than portraying IIT/IIM types as swamis u shd show waht happens after the degrees..Is everything rosy? I'm sure not..why do IIM grads change jobs so quickly, what happens when they lose an overpaid job on a 5% swing in US markets.. Is everybody happy with their career choices. I have too many MBA friends who wish they were in advertising or marketing but cant even think of it fearing a downgrade in their plans. Every body's plan sucks anyway.

  8. loved this post-and this coming from you exactly when I am in the midst of making a crucial career choice.I have a half mini-swami,so I am wondering whether to go for a full-swami or a post-paid connection :P

  9. hi there
    a very interesting perspective on careers. liked the analogy between cell phones and careers. well Swami category guys do get all the goodies, but very few of those very Swamis enjoy life in the true sense of the word. for them it just one race after another. IIT done, CAT next in line or GRE or PhD etc. i find that boring.

    the mini Swamis atleast have some fun. i did try goin down the safe secure road, but realised within a coupla years of job that, i am secure, settled and all that, but 5 years down the line will i be really proud of what i am doing?
    thats when i decided that i had to get outta swami mode and just follow my dreams:D so far so good, lets c wot happens:D

    take care

  10. So true and an interesting perspective... Can't agree more

  11. I think ur perspective is bullshit & ur one of d few promoting "BRANDism" in india where students are flocked to get into branded T/B Schools.

    Swami plan..Ahhhh..fat salary..Mini swami..ahh..u gettin atleast a degreee...
    & above all engineering >>> sciences.
    "it is always safer to opt for engineering over Physics, History or Home Science; and MBA above all else. "

    I must say, u r just another person pretty much influenced by socio economic status which will follow after doing a particular course.

    Mayb people read dese stuffs from responsible ppl like you & go for swami plan.

    mayb dats y our country lack acclaimed artists & indains known for bagging routine jobs where china gives us competition.

    Sad to see something like this coming from who himself is a student from an elite college where ppl explore dere interests.

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