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www.expresscomputeronline.com WEEKLY INSIGHT FOR TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS
21 July 2008  
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Home - Technology Life - Article

Feature

Going the rural way

Companies are looking at the rural job market to tap the hidden talent pool. Renuka Vembu ascertains the causes which have led to this, and the benefits arising out of it

It is said that there are two drastically different segments of population residing in India—one comprising the urban, elite, working-class of people, and the other, the rural masses, who constitute the majority. It is also said that the true judge of globalization and economic development is when it makes an impact on people at the grassroot level. With the dearth of the IT talent pool growing by the day and the shortfall rising to an alarming rate, companies are now looking beyond the metros to tap the requisite talent and bridge the rural-urban divide.

Companies and their programs

Companies are tying up with educational institutes or even working in collaboration with local state governments, to identify the hidden talent amongst students. While Fujitsu Consulting India Private Limited (FCIPL) focuses on class B cities like Chattisgarh, Punjab, Jaipur and Bhopal, Geometric is going into the interiors of Maharashtra, and Gujarat to scout for engineering graduates, and HTMT Global Solutions has its presence in Durgapur and Mysore. Patrick David, Executive Vice-president, Global Human Resources Strategy, HTMT Global Solutions, explained, “Based on our business delivery model we will explore locations that closely align to optimal delivery for our customers. In addition, we look at the availability of skilled talent in that location. Partnerships with colleges are dependant on how closely the skills of the students map to our delivery requirements. The bottom line is finding the right job/skill match.”

Cisco has a more detailed structure in place. Their Cisco Networking Academy runs its education program in 167 countries and in over 100 cities in India alone. These target places like Tura (Meghalaya), Pudukkottai, Nazareth, Krishnankoil and Namakkal (Tamil Nadu), Mullana and Israna (Haryana), Badshahithaul, Tehri, Garhwal and Uttarkashi (Uttaranchal), Ferozepur and Phagwara (Punjab) and Changa and Patan (Gujarat). In addition to this, they have signed

an MOU with the Rajasthan Government under the Rajasthan Education Initiative whereby they are involved in accelerating IT education (hardware and computer trouble shooting course, concepts in TCP/IP processes, etc.) for teachers and secondary school students in 32 Government District Computer Educations Centers (DCEC) across the state. Some of the districts which are being taken up are remote areas like Jhalawar, Pali, Jalore, and Dausa. They also have dedicated project managers in states, provide free online curriculum, Web-based learner management system and 24x7 help desk support.

Assessing the rural workforce

"The educational system has diversified geographically in greater measure than talent absorption mechanisms. Therefore, a concerted effort to target these towns with relevant education institutes will help to bridge the resource crunch faced by the industry"

- Rajiv Singh
Vice-president, Human Resources, Geometric

"The critical success factor for any public-private partnership requires every partner to contribute equally to scale and ramp from a pilot to
large scale initiative"

- Lokesh Mehra
Regional Manager Corporate Responsibility, Cisco South Asia

It is a unanimous voice that the rural workforce is not second, in any way, to the urban candidates. If anything, it is lack of awareness and opportunity to get to the top, and make use of the available options. Also, they match the knowledge and skill-sets; whereas they might need a bit of polishing when it comes to language, communication skills, and etiquettes. In short, while they have a clear understanding of the work and are adept at process knowledge, only the softer aspects need to be made familiar with.

In an attempt to prove themselves to make it big coming from the smaller towns, they have a zeal, passion and determination to prove themselves against all odds. From here stems the fact that they are more dedicated and loyal to the work and the company, because they are have an additional responsibility and a point to prove in the social circle. With the cost factor in the big cities going up, companies also feel the need to look at different places and go the rural way, so that it gives them an opening to cut down on costs and comparatively also a long-term employee commitment.

Anagha Wankar, Group Manager, HR, FCIPL, asserted, “It has been our experience that the commitment levels of associates coming from these backgrounds are much higher. They have an inner fire to prove themselves and hence work with a single mindedness of wanting to achieve the best. These associates are no less than any of the other associates. What may be different are the language skills and business etiquettes which are trainable gaps.”

Lokesh Mehra, Regional Manager Corporate Responsibility, Cisco South Asia, stated, “Majority of the students in rural areas go by hearsay and trends and are not aware of the opportunities in the networking industry or sector. Software is still a buzz while other sectors like networking and animation which are growing faster are ignored. As information slowly percolates to the rural areas, people would realize the benefits of aligning with these growing fields as well as the lower hierarchy chains required to get promoted in such industries.”

Bridging the gap

Giving opportunities to the rural talent uplifts individuals from their status level, empowers them and paves the way for socio-economic development. It aids companies to bridge the gap between the urban-rural divide, and also acts as a part of their corporate social responsibility program.

Rajiv Singh, Vice-president, Human Resources, Geometric, explained, “Urban talent has good access to job opportunities with the development and widespread deployment of the recruitment processes in India. We believe that such access is not as easily available to candidates from smaller towns. This move will essentially increase our access to engineering talent. Ironically, the educational system has diversified geographically in greater measure than talent absorption mechanisms. Therefore, a concerted effort to target these towns with relevant education institutes will help to bridge the resource crunch faced by the industry.”

The plus points

For an industry as a whole, initiations by companies into tapping the rural talent pool will help galvanize a movement that will bring to the fore the entire hidden workforce. Organizations will have a larger pool of people to work with, and can leverage from the best of the lot. Rural people can work on par with the urban class, and the divide can thus be blurred.

Cisco listed the impact that their engagements would make at the grassroot level.

  • Enabling students to learn through e-learning environments, anytime, anywhere at their own pace, and with more targeted assessments and accountability than traditional classroom setup. 
  • Exposure to latest trends and technologies making students technically proficient and empowering them to realize their true potential.
  • Getting them to become IT literate, strengthening their confidence to take giant strides and make their presence felt in the new economy.

Mehra added, “The critical success factor for any public-private partnership requires every partner to contribute equally to scale and ramp from a pilot to large scale initiative. The government’s role in this area will be to ensure adequate infrastructure exists, incentives for participants, providing guidance and support as well as branding such successes.”

Singh summarized, “First, we’ll be able to ensure that our talent fulfillment is efficient. Second, we’ll be able to create a culturally diversified employee base, which is highly recommended in these times. We do not wish to create a city-driven cultural environment because we don’t believe that necessarily expresses the most optimal environment for the development of our employees.”

With more organizations realizing the significance of going to the interiors of the country to tap local talent, it will herald in greater opportunities where it is needed the most.

renuka.vembu@expressindia.com

 


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