Technology, Venture Capital, Private Equity

Perspectives from an Indian VC

Aerosmith – Brought to you by Accenture

Posted by Arun Uday on June 1, 2007

Was in Bangalore the last couple of days visiting some really interesting companies (surprisingly a couple of non-tech as well). The optimism in the entrepreneurial community there was palpable with all of them gearing up for strong anticpated growth. Little wonder that the Indian economy today reported another Chinaesque growth number for the just concluded financial year. Of course, as a part of our evaluation, we need to understand the risk factors as well and not surprisingly, on a macro level, the infrastructure problems was a common complaint there. However, if there was one concern that outweighed even the infrastructural challenges, it was the huge manpower crunch. One VC friend even complained that his secretary got recruited by a rival hedge fund for a salary that would be enviable for the best of techies!
It is quite clear that if there is one issue that has the greatest potential to derail our economic march, it is the talent logjam that we are already facing and something thats expected to only exacerbate going forward. Ramping up hard infrastructure (roads, airports etc) altough not easy may still be achieved with some bit of effort (Delhi’s vastly improved infra as a case in point), but soft infrastructure takes much more time and focus to build. Skill levels of people cannot be raised without concerted efforts from all concerned stake holders viz govt, corporates and public at large. And somehow, one doesn’t get the feeling that there is enough seriousness on the govt’s part to address this issue. With India being more hinged on a services led growth story (rather than China’s low cost manufacturing one), it is obvious that this issue warrants immediate attention.
One possible step to immediately mitigate some of that could be to utilize the existing government polytechnics to train candidates in computer, business and communication skills. We had these polytechnics set up after independence that achieved considerable success in imparting job oriented vocational training for the manufacturing sector then (some my own family members from the previous generation being benificiaries of the same). With services replacing manufacturing as the dominant theme of our economy now, I don’t see harm in tweaking the same model to better suit today’s realities. The private education providers (NIIT et al) are to some extent filling that gap. But, I guess the big issue there is the moral dilemma that they face. They can’t charge a bomb to their candidates, and not award a certificate no matter how bad he is. As a consequence, one rarely comes across someone who enrolled to their course but hasn’t received a certificate. This results in credibility issues. May be NASSCOM could also come up with standardized tests to independently assess these students to address this. The private and govt institutions could then together help bolster the semi skilled resource base and raise the employability standards of the youth. These are some immediate measures that could be taken while we simultaneously work on a long term addressal of these issues.
Coming back to the title of the post, I was intrigued to see the Tiger Woods commercials on television for Accenture. The funny bit was that at the end of the ads, Accenture was not marketing their superior IT consultancy skills to prospective clients, but urging candidates to apply to careers with them. They now seem to have taken this to another level all together. An article in one of the Bangalore newspapers (a similar one here) had me in splits. It talked about Accenture co-sponsoring the forthcoming Aerosmith rock show in Bangalore on June 2nd with a view to reaching out to potential hires. Hmm, pop maniacs head banging in a rock show while simultaneously working out a C++ program in their minds – sounds pretty ingenious to me 🙂

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