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JUNE 3, 2007
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 BT Special
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Trillion-Dollar Club
India has joined the elite club of 12 countries with GDPs in excess of a trillion dollars. The country's GDP crossed the trillion-dollar mark for the first time when the rupee appreciated to below Rs 41 against the greenback. According to a report by Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse, India's stock market capitalisation has risen to $944 billion (Rs 39,64,800 crore), which is also closing in on the trillion-dollar mark. An analysis of the Indian economy.

Minding The Monsoon
The India Meteorological Department's prediction that the total rainfall in the coming monsoon season is likely to be 95 per cent of the long-period average, with an error margin of 5 per cent, is good news for agriculture. But experts say there's a need to revamp monsoon prediction so that the region-wise and timing of rainfall patterns can be forecast much earlier. A look at the credibility of monsoon models and their impact on agriculture.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  May 20, 2007

Going Grey, Staying Relevant
India Inc.'s obsession with youth is making executives in the 40-plus age group feel neglected. Here's what you can do to stay young in the fast-changing job market.
"I have seen many people move from top companies to SMEs and educational institutions"
Ganesh Chella
CEO/Totus Consulting
'Hospitalisation' Pays
Help, Tarun!

If you're in your 40s or 50s and feeling a bit left out of the explosive growth in India Inc., then you're not alone. In several new age industries, 30-something ceos have almost become the norm and many companies now prefer the exuberance of youth over the cool head of experience. Result: there's a different kind of midlife crisis staring mid-career executives across industries.

Executives in the 40-50 age group, especially those in mid-level jobs, need to seriously look at how to stay relevant in this youth-driven job market. "Many people in this age group must learn to graduate from being proficient in just one field, say technology, to adopting a much more holistic view of their company and, indeed, their industry," says Srinivas Shirgurkar, Managing Director of Ace Designers, a Bangalore-based machine tools company. Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has its own programmes to mould its people to face the challenges of working in today's dynamic environment. "Employees at this level undergo management development and competency enhancement programmes to enhance their skills; this is a far better option than trying to retro-fit them into a new job," says the L&T spokesperson. Then, companies like Tata Steel have in-depth and across the board re-skilling programmes for their employees. "We strongly believe in enhancing people capabilities through learning and development. This is one of our key initiatives to retain talent. Programmes are designed to enhance managerial, functional and cross-cultural capability to deliver effectively in the globalised business environment," says Radhakrishnan Nair, Chief HRO (Human Resource Officer), Tata Steel. That's lesson #1: go in for reskilling; it won't be easy going back to the classroom after more than two decades of working. If you find it difficult, motivate yourself into believing that it is just another hard assignment.

"There are not enough 45-year-old bankers in the market to recruit and most of them are culturally backward and bring with them old skills"
K. Ramkumar
Head (HR)/ ICICI Bank
"We've recruited retired defence personnel, for instance, who are well trained in managing chaos"
S. Nagarajan
Head (HR)/24/7 Customer

D.V. Narasingarao, 46, part of the founding team at SSI, an erstwhile it education and support solutions company headquartered in Chennai, started his career with Wipro (back when it was doing both hardware and software as a single unit) and then moved on to a technical support position with an Oracle channel partner in Dubai before returning to India and turning entrepreneur, helping set up SSI. Four years ago, Narasingarao decided to move away from the daily grind after SSI exited software and got into real estate. He did an MBA and joined e4e, an ITEs company providing solutions in technical support, financial services and healthcare, as Executive Vice President (Strategic Operations). "Youngsters who have not been exposed to the License Raj are so unfettered and don't believe in obstacles. They think that nothing can stop India conquering the world," he says, adding that he now sees himself as a mentor to young executives who're in a hurry to make their mark. That's lesson #2: don't let grey hairs become a burden; there's a market for experience; make the most of it.

K. Radhakrishnan, 48, Chief Executive (Hypermarkets), Reliance Retail, says it's important to make the most of experiential learning. He himself started life as a tea taster, moved into management, launched a noodle company, Indo-Nissin Foods, helped launch RPG Retail before moving to his current position, all without any formal degree in management. "Degrees don't have a life beyond three years," he says, "but relentless hard work is what keeps you relevant in the job market." His advice to executives facing mid-career blues: "Dissatisfaction arises because of a mismatch between reality and expectations; these should be suitably downgraded or upgraded to meet your state of mind," he says. Lesson #3: even if you see some young (or not so young) gun outshooting you, persist with your hard work; as the old saying goes, you can't keep a good man down for long.

"Age is not an issue in our industry; we still value experience and relevant skill sets"
Pradeep Pande
President (HR)/Ispat

But keeping pace with others, and with your own ambitions, often involves additional training to learn new skills-and this is relevant even for executives who haven't reached the "danger" age group yet. Start early, and keep re-orienting yourself to the changing environment around you. Says Subbarao Hegde, 45, Chief Technology Officer, GMR Group: "There will always be place for a specialist like me, even in today's youth-dominated market." It's a position he has reached the hard way. In 1998-99, he filled up a critical gap in his knowledge portfolio by taking a course in total quality management in Japan. "I was then working in Gujarat Co-operative Milk marketing Federation (better known for its Amul brand) and wanted to introduce the latest management techniques there," he says. Several more courses, including one at Institute of Rural Management in Anand, Gujarat, later, he joined the GMR Group, where he often has to camp out at various remote project sites overseeing the establishment of the group's technology backbone. That's lesson #4: get your hands dirty, take up an assignment that others in your position would prefer to avoid. You'll soon become indispensible to your organisation.

According to Ganesh Chella, CEO of Chennai-based Totus Consulting, a third party hr consulting services firm, executives in the 45-plus category tend to face uncertainties on the career front. They need to take a call on whether to focus strongly on their careers or make more time for their families. He says that rather than stay on at mid-, or even junior managerial positions in large companies, it may be a good idea to consider switching jobs and working with smaller companies or moving into charitable organisations and NGOs. "I have seen many people move from top companies to SMEs and educational institutions," says Chella. Lesson #5: Consider all options carefully before deciding to switch jobs. In this age group, it doesn't usually make sense to move for a few thousand rupees more; comfort levels are more important. So, switch jobs only if it adds value to your career.

Here's what you can do to stay afloat in a fast-changing job market.
» Define your priorities. Is it a) Money, b) Power, c) Respect, d) Time for family, and e) Hobbies or a combination of these that you want to pursue. Solutions come with clarity and there are enough of them if only you look around
» Be alert to trends; you should spot them faster than youngsters because of your maturity. There could be opportunities to grow and even mentor youngsters
» Check out your physical health status. Take proactive and remedial measures if you are in a high stress job-or switch to a less stressful one
» Reskill and reinvent yourself; that's ultimately the best way to remain relevant

But it's not as if all is lost for 40-plus executives who still haven't become CEOs. "We've recruited retired defence personnel, for instance, who are well trained in managing chaos," says S. Nagarajan, Head (hr), 24x7 Customer, a BPO.

Then, the 40-plus crowd remains in great demand in the manufacturing sector, says S.B. Ganguly, Chairman-Emeritus of Exide Industries. "In Exide, the average age across the organisation is 50.9 and we have no reason to consider changing this," he says. Adds A.K. Mukherjee, 46, Director, Finance, Exide: "In the manufacturing sector, one needs at least 15-16 years experience to master the business processes of an industry. Only then can one contribute significantly to one's organisation. From my own experience, I can say, that 45 is the ideal age at which to start aiming for the top." This is corroborated by Pradeep Pande, President (HR), Ispat Group. "Age is not an issue in our industry; we still value experience and relevant skill sets," he says, but admits that the average age in his company has come down over the years.

"People must learn to graduate from being proficient in just one field to adopting a more holistic view"
Srinivas Shirgurkar
MD/Ace Designers
"There will always be place for a specialist like me, even in today's youth-dominated market"
Subbarao Hegde
Chief Technology Officer/GMR

But some hr heads say that the greatest barriers for 40-plus execs are social and psychological in nature. "There are not enough 45-year-old bankers in the market to recruit, and most of those available are culturally backward and bring old skills to the table," says K. Ramkumar, Head (HR), ICICI Bank. "Most people in this age group also have problems adjusting to younger professionals; so, and it's not ability alone but social skills which are important." Often, this could involve the bitter pill of adjusting to a superior who could be younger or the same age as a 40-something executive. Lesson #6: take up a game or join a club; you will get to interact socially with a heterogeneous age group, perhaps lose a game or two to a younger opponent and also meet successful professionals younger than you. Over time, this will make the concept of a younger boss more acceptable to you.

But the moral of the story: don't lose heart even if you feel you're losing out because of your age. You can, with a little effort, make yourself relevant to your employer once again. And even if you can't, there's always some other company that may value your skills more.

'Hospitalisation' Pays
Expanding hospital chains offer great careers.

The healthcare sector is booming, hospital chains are expanding and newer players are entering the fray. This is creating a deluge of jobs across specialisations. And it's not just doctors and other medical personnel who're in demand. Large hospitals today need trained lobby managers, housekeepers, finance personnel, investment advisors, marketing personnel, engineers and others to keep them ship shape. "The scope is enormous; the problem lies on the supply side. There is a huge deficiency of well-trained personnel to man the positions," says Dr Amit Ghosh, a renowned surgeon in Kolkata and Chairman of Bengal Chamber of Commerce's Health Sub-committee, which recently bought out a study on the subject. And the best part is that leading hospitals pay salaries at par with the hotel chains with whom they compete for talent.


WHO'S HIRING: Apollo Hospitals, Fortis, Max Healthcare and almost every other hospital chain and standalone general and specialty hospital

WHO'RE THEY HIRING: MBAs, finance professionals, hospitality industry veterans and, of course, doctors and para-medical staff

AT WHAT LEVEL: At all levels; mid-level, junior and entry-level recruitments are most common

AT WHAT SALARIES: Senior doctors can get more than Rs 1 crore p.a.; top non-medical professionals can expect about half this pay. At mid-levels: Rs 12-50 lakh p.a.; at junior and entry levels: Rs 2-8 lakh p.a.

WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS LIKE: At least 25,000-30,000 jobs will be created over the next five years

Help, Tarun!

Q: I am a 23-year-old M.Tech civil engineer working for a construction company in a Tier-II city. Since I am involved in the marketing function of the organisation, is it advisable for me to pursue a specialised marketing course for better career prospects? What are the other growth avenues, especially in the realty sector?

An MBA in Marketing will enhance your career prospects. With your qualifications, there will be many avenues open to you, including in real estate and construction companies. It is an industry that is in the process of becoming more professional. Also, you may want to explore sectors like building materials and constuction.

Q: I am a 21-year-old English graduate and have just been offered a job as a technical writer in a major IT company. What are the prospects in this particular field and how is it different from content writing?

Technical writing is a field that will give you a steady career. If you have a technical bent of mind and enjoy it-related work, then this is a good option. However, since you do not have much of a technical background, it might also stifle your growth. A related option is content and copy writing. These are growing fields and hold a lot of promise.

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.