Why Do NRI Professionals Find India So Difficult ?

22 11 2016

As Indian companies want to expand overseas and become globally competitive, one often cited prescription is to get the best people particularly NRI professionals to work in India.

Some NRIs are keen to return to India for various reasons, sometimes professional and sometimes personal or both. Compensation at the top is hardly a constraint these days for top professionals.

Yet, I see from several anecdotal evidences that the NRIs who choose to return to India taking plum assignments in top corporates or even government, wish to return back and many do.

Raghuram Rajan is back to teaching at Chicago. Kaushik Basu is back to US as a World Bank Economist. The recently fired Nirmalya Kumar after being in Mumbai for three and a half years is also leaving India, though he has not announced where he is heading.

I have spoken to a few friends who chose to return back after spending a few years here and this is their gripe about India and Indian organisations.

1. Professionalism in even the so-called professionally managed organisations is a 3 Micron gold plating. Beneath the coat is feudalism, bureaucracy, nepotism and a deep seated hatred for outsiders. Factions based on state, caste, village and colleges prevail. Merit is often the casualty. Mutual respect and valuing other persons time is more an exception than a rule.

2. The families find it very difficult to navigate the daily life in India. Be it the school or the traffic or getting simple things done at home. Unlimited patience and perseverance is required. Also, one can hardly trust anyone, because falsehoods and promising more and delivering less is the norm here.

3. The high pressure school environment in India with almost total focus on academics often puts off children who started studying in a western system.

4. India is no longer inexpensive. For global class goods and services, you pay dollar prices.


Nirmalya’s Jor Ka Jhatka..Dheere se

7 11 2016

Nirmalya Kumar, a former member of the Group Executive Council of Tata Sons has written a blog post, “I Just Got Fired“. You can get the link to his post here. The post has gone viral and has appeared in many publications.

At first reading, it is a personal account of a senior person’s firing by a corporate.  By using phrases like “No pity is needed” and “ I have nothing negative to say about the Tata group” he creates an impression that this post is not a way of complaining or hitting back at his former employers who fired him. By using “I realize that I am unemployed for the first time since the age of 18 and “Well, a bit lost, and ready at 8:30, instead of the usual 8:00, I head for my morning Starbucks coffee “, he tugs the heartstrings of his readers.

He mixes up the criticisms and his emotions, so cleverly, that you only realise after multiple readings that , this post is a subtle attack at some of the popular  beliefs about Tatas as an employer and as a business group.

Let me elaborate with examples :

  • “Despite the unceremonious and un-Tata like end”

This phrase clearly dispels the popular belief that Tatas do not follow a hire-and-fire policy. A popular perception among the employee community is that a  Tata job is very secure. By using “un-Tata”, he has brought out that Tatas are not what you think. Another aspect is that Tatas are not always graceful and dignified as they appear.

  • “What I found exceptional about the group was the kind of person that Tata attracts – unpretentious and dedicated. Yes, they really drink, as we would say in America, the “koolaid” of Tata. But I observed how hard they work, and how committed they are to the group and its values. “

This to my mind is the nastiest that Nirmalya gets. By praising the average Tata employee as hard working, dedicated and unpretentious, he gets them on his side and then he says “they drink the “koolaid” of Tata”.

Drinking “koolaid”  is an expression that is a reference to the 1978 event at Jonestown, Guyana, where hundreds of members of the Peoples Temple, a Californian cult, committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide.

He is clearly hinting that the gullible employees of Tatas are blindly believing the cult of Tatas without knowing the consequences of their faith, which could be disastrous.

  • They deserve a great Chairman.

He could not have got more direct than this one. He clearly feels the current one is not good enough.

  • It was not as if I was fired for non-performance (my last evaluation was excellent).

By this statement, it is apparent that Tatas do not follow any performance management system, despite their claims of professional management. They also are not fair and just with their employees, if the person belongs to a different camp.

  • When in future anyone mentions me, please don’t say anything positive. Throw me under the bus to gain credibility in the new regime. It’s my parting advice.

This parting advice is revealing of the insides of Bombay House and the Tata culture. Bad mouthing the previous bosses and blaming those who are no longer in favour and around to defend themselves, appears to be a sure ticket to succeed.

Tatas in their web-site have said the ” Dr. Nirmalya Kumar, Dr. N S Rajan and Mr. Madhu Kannan have decided to explore options outside Tata Sons and have left the services of the company.”  By writing this post and titling it as “I just got fired” he is openly saying that Tatas are lying when they say the GEC members have left on their own, when actually they have been fired.

Forget about all the exalted Tata values and ethics, one of the basic value is telling the truth and even on that count Tatas fall short.

Nirmalya Kumar through this one post has created such an adverse impact particularly among existing and potential employees of Tata group, that it will take a lot of corporate communications effort to undo the damage.

  •  Posted by G.Mohan

Nirmalya Kumar has posted a follow-up to the above post titled “Just Fired, and Moving On”. 

Lessons from Paddy’s career in Tatas

3 11 2016

S.Padmanabhan ( Paddy) former Head-HR of TCS, has now become the Chief Human Resources Officer of the entire Tata Group. What does it tell us about careers in large organisations. When the politics of the place changes, your career can change overnight.

In large organisations, politics and internal power structures influence a lot. If you suddenly face a demotion, you do not need to do anything remarkable to come back. You just have to hang around. Suffer some ignominy, some humiliations, sudden loss of power and relevance. Just plod along, accept whatever roles the large organisation gives you. In the case of Paddy he moved from TCS to Tata Power ( a much smaller co) and then to an absolutely sinecure and inconsequential position as the head of Tata Quality Management Services.

When Cyrus Mistry got replaced, suddenly the whole politics of Bombay House changed. Paddy and many other veterans’ fortunes have changed overnight.Paddy who was found not good enough for even one company i.e TCS, suddenly becomes the boss of HR of the entire Tata group.

If Cyrus Mistry had continued, perhaps Paddy would have retired quietly with no one knowing where he went.

The quality to succeed in large organisations is resilience and having this understanding that internal circumstances of your organisation have a huge role in your success or failure. You just have to be around and not do anything silly.

You can go from to hero to zero and become a hero back again.


Emerging Global Trends in Management Education and the Indian Opportunity

27 09 2016

Business schools have at most two years to prepare young college graduates for a career that is likely to last thirty five more years or so. Think for a minute what the world was like thirty five years ago!

Five complex, interacting key features viz.  being networked, flat, flexible, diverse and globalized have been changing the nature of business organizations rapidly across the world. Business management education has little choice but to respond these changes.

The emerging trends in management education are nothing but responses to reduce the chasm between the learning needs of the students and the teaching delivered by MBA programs hitherto.

Five major such trends are:

  1. The emphasis on the whole person development with social and ethical responsibilities becoming central issues. No quality MBA curriculum is complete today without core courses on sustainable development and ethics. Moral humility
  2. Unlike degrees in law, medicines or accountancy, the MBA qualification is transferrable across the borders. Exposing students to diverse cultures and knowledge systems in campuses spread across continents is becoming a norm for top-tier business schools in the world now.
  3. The practice of blended delivery through both classrooms and online platforms too is acquiring momentum in premier b-schools worldwide. For example, HBX, Harvard Business School’s online initiative is now fully integrated in their pedagogy design.
  4. Flexibiity in management education is emerging in the form of both customization of the curriculum and introduction of increasingly more number of interdisciplinary courses. Students in leading b-schools are now offered a wide array of electives to customize their education to reflect their personal goals, ambitions, capabilities, and risk tolerance. Corporations too can get courses designed by b-schools to meet their specific needs with respect to their key employees. Likewise, there is a growing recognition of the fact that in business, opportunities do not appear with neat labels attached to them – we need cross-fertilization of ideas from multiple disciplines to exploit them. Both pedagogy and course content in progressive b-schools have begun to address this reality.
  5. Entrepreneurial orientation in top b-school curriculum and culture is a reflection of the new business reality. To create value at any level of any business today requires risk-taking, innovative mindset. More so if students themselves turn into start-up entrepreneurs.

From the Indian perspective, although the country can boast of the fact that currently it produces more management graduates than any other country in the world, in terms of setting global standards of excellence in management education; we do not have many trendsetters yet.

We, however, have a significant business and societal opportunity in developing a different kind of b-schools which will serve as a springboard for a new generation of business leaders who are sensitive to the socio-economic challenges faced by our country.

Particularly rewarding would be the initiatives which imbue the bright, eager minds with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude and transform them into young entrepreneurs with ‘new-to-the-world’ product or service offerings.

Forward looking b-schools by bringing together intellectual, human and venture capital together under one roof may create a confluence of economic opportunities which in turn can create employment opportunities for multitudes.

– Rajib Sarkar



Engineers as SBI Clerks

8 10 2010

Recently a news item appeared in many newspapers including Economic Times.

ET said:

This may surprise those aspiring to be engineers, and may even cause a rethink among job seekers: Over 3,800 graduate and 200 postgraduate engineers are set to join State Bank of India (SBI) in the clerical cadre. SBI had a year ago advertized for over 27,000 posts in the clerical cadre. While 38 lakh aspirants from across the country applied for the jobs online, 28 lakh of them appeared for the written exam. There were 88,000 successful candidates and 27,000 were finally selected after personal interviews. “It was the biggest such exercise for us,” a senior SBI official said. 

This news item has triggered a variety of responses ranging from bewilderment to pity to anger. Some also see this as a positive happening which will bring in innovation in the dull and staid bank clerks’ job. 

In my humble opinion, this is a reflection of the Indian job market in 2009-10 just after the slowdown. There is a premium for stability and security. In the minds of Indian middle class, an SBI job, it cannot get safer than that. Secondly, there is a glut of engineers in many states. Private engineering colleges have sprung up in such big numbers that annual output of engineers is nearly seven lakhs. The hope of jobs in the fast growing IT industry is a mirage for many engineering graduates, with IT industries slowing down their recruitment and also giving many a certificate of ‘unemployability’. (Just like Rajiv Gandhi’s famous quote of only 15p out of a rupee spent in Delhi reaching the common man, NASSCOM’s finding (?) that only 15 % of Indian graduates are ‘employable’ has been accepted as popular wisdom.)

My message to the engineers who have been chosen is: First of all, congratulations! Being in the top 1 % of any national selection is an achievement. The decision to appear in the SBI clerical examination was a pragmatic one, given the circumstances. Now, that you have been selected make the most of it. It is true that a B.Tech or an M.Tech is an over-qualification for the clerks’ job. You will have batch mates, who may be less qualified. Instead of sulking about the circumstances, prove that by performance you are more capable than the others. Learn banking and acquire whatever professional qualifications are required for getting promoted in banking.

Please do not look down upon the tasks that are assigned to you, because you think you are overqualified. In many foreign and new generation private sector banks, many of the tasks usually handled by clerks in SBI like being a teller or handling counters in the front desk are handled by MBAs. It is just incidental that they happen to have fancy designations like Asst Manager or AVP and get paid higher. Remember, the private bank jobs carry much higher risks.

As for the recruiter SBI, my opinion is that they have done a great service by recruiting in such big numbers in a poor job market. They have perhaps got a relatively superior batch of clerks which includes so many engineers. Accepting engineering as basic graduation, rather than a specialized professional degree, reflects a pragmatic approach to current Indian reality. Rather, than feeling smug about it, SBI needs to design jobs and create a conducive environment so that these talented clerks are able to perform well. Otherwise, in a growing economy, these engineers would leave them as easily as they have joined.

– G. Mohan

Death Pangs for the MCA

29 09 2010

It is perhaps, the first time that an MCA has risen to the top job in a leading software company. The MD and CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, N.Chandrasekharan is an MCA from REC Trichy (now, NIT Trichy).  Just when it appeared that the MCA course was getting its due recognition, it appears that there are question marks for its survival.

As per a recent Careers360 article on MCA, “there are 75,021 seats in 1089 institutions. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu account for nearly 60 percent of total number of MCA seats in the country.”

The MCA admissions for the year 2010 are nearing completion.  The news from Andhra Pradesh which has the largest number of MCA seats in the country is depressing. Deccan Chronicle  reports that:

As many as 367 of the 660 MCA colleges have applied for “closure” due to poor response from students in the current academic year 2010-11. While a total of 34,451 seats were on offer in the convener quota during ICET counseling, only 13,104 have been filled. This is of course apart from seats in the management quota.

The vacancy data from Tamil Nadu is not readily available, but preliminary information gathered indicates, that the picture is not very different either. There are nearly 240 colleges offering MCA courses in TN. The total number of seats for MCA would be in the region of 15,000. As per the counseling schedule put up by a web-site, only 8543 candidates have been called for counseling. Even a candidate scoring 3.00 marks out of 100 is being called for counseling. Assuming that a small percentage of candidates called for counseling, does not show up for counseling, a vacancy of 50 % of seats in Tamil Nadu MCA colleges can be expected.

Why this situation has arisen? It could be a mix of several factors.

Firstly, Information technology and Computer Science as a career is losing its sheen, thanks to the recession of 2008-09. This is showing up even in choice of disciplines in IIT. For the first time, Electrical Engineering has closed earlier than Computer Science at IIT-Bombay, reports TOI.

Secondly, inspite of MCA being a specialised post-graduate course, focussing on computer applications, it is treated at par with B.Tech in Electronics/Computer Science /IT by most IT services companies for the purposes of recruitment. Given the huge number of seats created in the engineering disciplines, MCAs compete directly for placement with B.Tech graduates.

Thirdly, MCA programme competes with the MBA programme. In AP, the entrance test is common. Many colleges offer both MCA and MBA programmes. Many students prefer MBA over MCA because it is one-year less and more importantly the placement of MBA is not dependent on the fortunes of one industry, namely the IT industry.

Fourthly, MCA is competing with its own under-graduate version the Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA) course. Now many universities are offering the BCA course.  Good software programmers can get recruited right after their BCA, without waiting three years for an MCA.

Fifthly, for many science graduates, IT companies are offering jobs just after graduation. TCS, Cognizant and Infosys hire science graduates. Wipro has gone a step further. It not only offers a job but an opportunity to get an MS in Software Engineering from BITS Pilani through their WASE programme.

Lastly, the ballooning of seats in MCA was a highly opportunistic response from the private educational institutions, not unlike the NIIT/ APTECH. When NASSCOM and the IT industry kept lamenting about the manpower shortage facing the IT industry, many responded by adding an MCA programme. Both engineering colleges as well as MBA colleges started offering MCA courses. They added seats with little thought about faculty or course or infrastructure. Until 2008, when the IT industry was hiring in thousands, this problem was not visible.

The IT companies continue to hire MCAs but only from the top institutes. It is clear from the industry response that even the top institutes in India, whether MCA or engineering do not prepare the students well for a career in the IT industry. TCS is building a huge training campus in Kerala.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has announced that the company is setting up a new learning and development campus in Thiruvananthanpuram (Trivandrum), Kerala. The new campus will house up to 10,000 professionals when fully completed and will offer TCS’ learning curriculum to those who join the company from colleges.

Whereas, there is surplus capacity in private engineering colleges and MCA colleges, the IT industry is creating its own campuses. This is because of the huge gap in quality.

The shakeout was imminent and augurs well for the sector. This will bring a lot of pressure on the colleges which have managed to fill-in their seats to improve quality. Or else, it could be well their turn to close down in future.

As for the MCA aspirants, it should be understood that the MCA course is a specialized course. It prepares the students for a career in building and maintaining software applications. It should be taken up only by those who enjoy software programming and should be only at the good institutes.

– G. Mohan

The Moral Decline of the Medical Profession

27 04 2010


Since my childhood I have been hearing that medicine is a noble profession. Doctors make great sacrifices to save lives. On the operating table, they play God. They dedicate their lives in serving the humanity. A doctor exists to serve her patients blah blah blah. All these beliefs lent doctors a great deal of respect in the society.

Yet, it seems this respect is eroding and eroding rather rapidly. The cancer of corruption and greed that has eroded most of the institutions in the society has touched the medical profession too. The recent arrest of Dr Ketan Desai, the President of Medical Council of India, the foremost professional body of Doctors, by CBI for accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore, just proves this.  

Informal chats with professionals in the pharmaceutical marketing throws up anecdotes galore of the greed and malpractices of highly successful doctors. In the pharmaceutical trade, an amount of 35 % of the MRP of the drug is set aside for marketing expenses. A significant part of these expenses is spent on gifts for the doctors. These gifts are so devised, so that the Code of ethics for doctors is not violated.

MCI has amended the Indian Medical Council (Professional conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002.

“The amendment prohibits the doctors from accepting gifts, travel facility, hospitality, cash or monetary grants or any other favors from any pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry for self or family members.”

Yet, the Health Minister has admitted in reply to a parliament question that nearly 2,000 doctors have violated professional ethics.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, because this represents only cases where the pharmaceutical companies have complained to the MCI. In most cases, pharmaceutical companies have accepted it as an occupational hazard or a cost of doing business and therefore do not complain.

In an incident which appeared bizarre to me, one pharmaceutical marketing manager was narrating how physicians deal with senior citizens. Diabetes being a rather common disorder among Indians, most senior citizens are recommended to undergo blood and urine tests for sugar. The diagnostic centre in connivance with the doctors produce wrong reports indicating diabetes. The physician then puts the patient on insulin. As the patient comes out of the chamber, he is likely to be greeted by several Medical reps (MR) asking the patient, not his well-being, but what the doctor had prescribed. Based on the brand of insulin prescribed the respective co’s MR puts a tally mark against the Dr’s name. On reaching a target of say 50 the doctor is eligible for a car. Insulin being a life-long treatment and usually patients do not change the brand, the cost of car can be recovered in the long run. In the meanwhile, the competing MRs go and complain to the Doctor about how he has been partial to one company. Then they bandy their gifts and inform the doctor where the Doctor’s score stands with respect to their company’s scheme.

One pharmaceutical company CEO made a comment that he is quite happy bidding for government tenders than dealing with doctors. Bribes in government tenders at 20 % are lower than the expenditure on gifts to doctors. In addition, he did not have to put up with the tantrums of many specialist doctors, who often insist on calls every week only from the CEO.

 Government has through various means like Drug price control order, MCI guideline etc have tried to keep the cost of drugs in check. Yet, in healthcare, medicines account for only 15 % of the total expenditure. Other heads like diagnostics, hospitals, Doctor’s fees etc account for the rest. These are all in unorganized sector and there are virtually no price controls and guidelines for these.

Most patients would have their own story to narrate about how many tests they or their family member had to undergo before the doctor pronounced his diagnosis. On many occasions an expensive MRI or a CAT scan was done but the doctor did not even spend a minute reading the report. Up to 50 % kickbacks to the referring doctors by the diagnostic centre is the norm in most metros.  The high rates of tests are not only to recover the investment the promoter has made in the equipment but also for the expenditure to cultivate a network of doctors who refer their patients to the centre.

Private sector hospitals particularly the tertiary care centers often under a corporate structure are a law unto themselves. The malpractices in pricing and dispensation of medical devices like stents or heart valves are many. Under the veneer of computerized efficiency and courteous patient care, over billing and cheating the unsuspecting patient is rampant. Most ambitious doctors today dream of owning and operating at least a nursing home , if not a hospital. Multimillionaire doctors like Dr Naresh Trehan have become role models for many doctors.

It is no surprise that increasing number of doctors are unable to resist the temptation to cheat their patients a little or be greedy with the pharmaceutical companies, so as to make a fast buck. In the bargain, they are losing their respect in the society. In honest chats with doctor friends, they will confess that they also started with great idealism, but they could not stand up to the pressures of consumerism. Now, their ideals and ethics are limited only to family and friends. For all others, it is just money, money, and more money.

– G. Mohan

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