|Role models: MindTree's front office
is run efficiently by two physically-challenged individuals
who silently make the case for equal opportunity
employees, or prospective employees, together under some sort of
group label is a shameful practice, and several firms flatly refused
to discuss 'jobs' alongside 'physically challenged' with us. They're
entitled to their discomfort. We persevered, however, because some
uncomfortable issues do need to be addressed by responsible HR professionals.
Hiring physically-challenged individuals for non-physical jobs is
one of them.
Back in 1989, Javed Abidi was a 24-year-old
bubbling with excitement. After a four-year course in mass communications
from Wright University, Dayton, Ohio, he was sure of snagging a
good job as a hack with some top-notch publication of India. What
he got was loads of sympathy, no job offers. Was it his wheelchair?
It hobbled his physical mobility, but not much else. Determined
to make a career for himself, he started freelancing-and even organised
a gripping face-to-face between the times' cola warriors, Parle's
Ramesh Chauhan and Pepsi's Ramesh Vangal. In 1992, he decided to
dedicate the rest of his life working for the disabled. Today, he's
Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment
for Disabled People (NCPEDP).
Abidi initiated the first-ever corporate research
study on the disabled, conducted in 1999 when NCPEDP looked up the
'Best Employers' survey published by a magazine and mapped disabled-friendly
policies across India's 'top 100 companies'. The findings? Of the
70 respondents, 20 admitted in writing that they did not have a
single physically-challenged employee on their rolls. Recruitment
in the private sector was 0.28 per cent of the universe, and in
the public sector, a marginally better 0.5 per cent, taking the
average to 0.4 per cent. For MNCs, the figure was 0.05 per cent.
The research was conducted 18 years after the
then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announced a 3 per cent job reservation
in the public sector for the physically-challenged, and four years
after the Parliament passed the Disability Act that extended the
reservations beyond peon/clerk jobs.
Now, with the intensity of bottomline pressures
any business faces, it's unrealistic to expect do-gooder recruitment
policies. But the strange thing is, few have devoted much thought
to such recruitment as a strategic HR issue, as something that could
Can it? Well, there are those who've resigned
to their disability. And those who'd rather die than do just that-the
sort who speak with a passion, a steely nerve to compensate for
the disability, that could surprise you.
Ironically, few have devoted much thought
to such recruitment as a strategic issue.
Compassion works best when it's good business.
For many firms, it is. In fact, that's what it really is: a recognition
of the value brought to the business. Ashok Soota's MindTree Consulting,
for instance, has seven employees with assorted physical challenges.
The offices are designed with them in mind, too. Says Subroto Bagchi,
President and coo, MindTree Consulting, "A person in a wheelchair
can roam around MindTree campuses without any assistance, there
are separate restrooms for the physically-challenged situated in
each floor of our Bangalore campus, swipe card slots and door handles
are placed at a height that can be easily accessible to a person
on a wheelchair."
The fact is, some of the world's wisest people
have had impairments of some sort. For tech blue chip Infosys Technologies,
it's simply an issue of meritocracy, according to Hema Ravichandar,
Senior Vice President (HR). There should be no discrimination on
gender, age, sex, physical abilities or other classification. "In
fact," she says, "we have people with disabilities holding
The country's big disabled-recruiter, though,
happens to be the state-owned NTPC, which employs as many as 288
physically-challenged people. The company provides wheelchairs,
special ramps with railings and disabled-friendly toilets, apart
from other measures.
Often, a gesture as simple as a small sign
can do the trick. Sadly, though, even libraries (physical disabilities
tend to create voracious readers) are not very disability-friendly
The cause's champions, however, are in no mood
to give up. The Worth Trust, founded 40 years ago by Paul Brand
of the Christian Medical College in Tamil Nadu, started as an organization
to rehabilitate the leprosy-cured, and has widened out since. "We
have six small-scale industries and profits from these go into the
training and rahab of the disabled," claims Director C. Radhakrishnan.
The Trust also runs three industrial training institutes.
Whichever way one looks at it, it's hard not
to admire the very perseverance-against steep odds-that many physically-challenged
people display. Combine that with the extra book-reading and brain-wracking
they may have done, and they pack one helluva punch. Yet, most of
India Inc. seems resistant to this logic, groans Abidi. By his information,
70 per cent of all Chinese disabled are gainfully employed, while
barely 1 per cent of their Indian counterparts are. What's worse,
he rues, is the brain-insulting tasks they're often assigned-as
if the disability must somehow manifest itself above the neck as
well. Ironic, don't you think?
|Tattoo art: Designer work in the flesh
Mark For Life
Make moolah branding
people? Become a tattoo artist. The art's been evolving in India
for 1,500-odd years, but now with the rich n' famous getting into
alt bod-appeal, you could dream of your own designer studio. "We
charge anything between Rs 2,500 to Rs 1 lakh," says Hardy
Mitra, owner of Funky Monkey, a swank high-hygiene Gurgaon studio,
"depending on the kind of design the client wants." It
takes the skill of the craft, of course. But more importantly, a
vivid imagination combined with a special sensitivity to the client's
unarticulated motivations. Self-expression is a game of intimate
empathy. Forget FTV. This is real designer-work, in the flesh..
am a 36-year-old manager (training and development) with a cellular
service provider in Uttar Pradesh. My expertise lies in sales and
certain behavioural programmes, for which I have been trained by
international partners in my previous organisation. I've just been
offered a training assignment by a telecom MNC which is basically
a product distribution company. The package being offered is not
very remunerative, but working with an MNC and that too in Delhi
seems tempting. I had a frank chat with my boss who advised me not
to leave, guaranteeing me a promotion in March. In my current job,
my performance rating has been 'outstanding' and I've been awarded
as well. Also, I'm in charge of quite a few HR initiatives within
the company. My boss even went to the extent of saying that he would
eventually want me to head a circle independently as an HR manager.
Should I stick around or take the opportunity at hand?
One thing that is attractive about your current company is your
chance of becoming an HR manager and not being pigeonholed into
training. However, once this offer is out of your hands will your
boss stick to his promise? Or actually, is it really a promise?
On the other hand, the attraction about your new assignment is that
it's an MNC and located in Delhi, which opens up the field for you
professionally. I would say a bird in hand is worth two in the bush
and unless your boss puts pen to paper where his mouth is-I don't
think you can bank on that. However, do make sure you are joining
a good company in an assignment commensurate with your experience
and that there is scope for growth there. Otherwise you will be
a loser both ways.
I am an engineer with seven years' experience
in materials management and logistics management. I recently got
an opportunity to pursue MBA in operations management from a second-rung
B-school. Will this improve my career prospects?
An MBA degree, even if it is from a second-grade
business school, will give you an additional qualification, especially
in operations and definitely improve your career prospects-there
is no doubt about it. I will advise you to go ahead with it.
I am a 25-year-old junior service engineer
in a multinational tractor company with two years' experience. I
am a diploma holder in automobile engineering and also got an opportunity
to edit the company's workshop manual and booklet about tractor
maintenance. However, I'm not satisfied with my remuneration. It
seems I need to upgrade my qualifications to get more opportunities
or to play a larger role in the organisation. Will an MBA via correspondence
boost my career prospects?
An MBA through correspondence will not substantially
improve your career prospects. However, it may give you additional
knowledge and aid in learning and self-development. If you are looking
for a resume boost, you need to do a full-time MBA.
I am a software application engineer-cum-systems
and network administrator with over 12 years' experience in the
Indian and international it arena. My last job was with a TV broadcasting
company in Malaysia where I spent four years. However, due to family
problems, I had to return to India last year. Thereafter I decided
to start working from home turf and applied to several Indian it
majors. I was even called for preliminary interviews. But to my
astonishment, I found that most of these companies were using technologies
that were either obsolete or far less known than what I've learnt
abroad. So it comes as no surprise that they rejected me, seeing
my credentials and experience. Ever since I've returned, I have
even upgraded my CV with certificates from both Sun Microsystems
and Cisco. How should I deal with the problem?
Well it is surprising that you have not found
a company which has technology matching your experience. However,
it may just be that the economic environment is not conducive for
high-tech jobs. In any case, you need to do two things. One, ask
around which companies deal in technology that is your forte and
apply to those. Secondly, you need to acquire skills that are in
demand. You have just done two certifications-that should stand
you in good stead if they are relevant in the current environment.
Highlight these courses while applying for jobs. You may have to
take a little backward step to get into a good it company. That
may be a compromise worth making in the short term.
Answers to your career concerns are contributed
by Tarun Sheth (Senior Consultant) and Shilpa Sheth (Managing
Partner, US practice) of HR firm, Shilputsi Consultants. Write to
Help,Tarun! c/o Business Today, Videocon Tower, Fifth Floor, E-1,
Jhandewalan Extn., New Delhi-110055.
The BT industry is
hiring PhDs, but is it getting brainier?
|Next frontier: There's something cooking,
but what is it?
so it'll be some time yet before protein-enriched potatoes can actually
plug India's nutrition deficit. Or before DNA-group-specific medicines
and diet-targeted food brands hit the market. But the labs are busy,
and the promise of biotech glory has upped the life-sciences and
genetic engineering ante. India alone has nearly 800 biotech companies
hoping to leverage the country's high-grey-matter concentration
and low-cost advantage to crack global apps. It's a specialisation
in which India turns out some 700,000 post-graduates and 1,500 PhDs
Nice numbers. But are they world-beaters?
"The intellectual capital focus is on
scientists and the target technical areas are biotechnology, biochemistry,
bioengineering, microbiology, enzymology, synthetic chemistry, biopharmaceutical
and biomedical sciences," says Nirupa Bareja, Group Head (HR),
Biocon India Limited, which boasts of 60 PhDs on its rolls. Raman
Akella, Head (HR & Administration), Shantha Biotech, is also
keen on PhDs (the company has 16). Likewise, Ranbaxy, which has
That's a lot of PhDs. So should we expect to
see their breakthroughs appear in prestigious research journals
such as Nature? Maybe not just yet. Besides, as Akella sums up,
"There are no stereotypes in the biotech world, except for
the desire to make an impact on the world of disease."
Is it still about customer engagement?
|Cafe Barista: Now the dumbed-down model?
those who still don't know, means 'bartender'. The cheery fellow
who insists on your name and is bothered about more than wallet
disgorgement in lieu of a hot liquid down the gullet. Bothered,
actually, about coffee-brewed to its stimulative best-and you
the person. Or, at the very least, you the person and coffee,
as you might see it. It's a hoary old tradition, coming down the
ages. "Barista Coffee is not just about drinking coffee,"
as a spokesperson for the café chain says, "but also
about the entire experience."
Experience? The baristas don't even get the
names right anymore, forget the rest. Ever struggled for popcorn
during a blockbuster intermission? That's roughly the engagement
level nowadays (okay, with the name-taking ritual thrown in as
part of the process), if Gurgaon's mall bars are any indication.
So much for soaking the baristas in all the world's café
To be fair, the engagement model was always
somewhat unrealistic in India, a country beset with too much social
awkwardness for bartenders-in the fullest sense of the term-to
operate as a genuine brand USP. Would a single-outlet café,
then, be able to make a go of the original idea?