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The emergence of a new wave of talent in India

A large number of organizations are training the unskilled from small towns for tech roles at various levels.  Many aspirants from small towns are held back due to lack of education, poor socio economic background or physical disabilities. Such people have found hope in organizations that help them learn the basics of a computer, spoken English and grooming for work placement. Anudip is one such organization in Kolkata that trains individuals for a job. There are other such organizations which include Delhi’s Humana People to People India and Dr. Reddy’s Foundation in Hyderabad. Humana teaches skills like basic computing and data entry; while Dr. Reddy’s helps marginal farmers across 20 states leverage technology and raise outputs. Such training helps those who want to switch careers. 

The $150 billion IT industry in India has a reason to be happy as market aligned skills training is gaining traction in the country. Often, small town talent is a better fit for repetitive, low skill tasks and individuals, who had no takers, are now getting better jobs. At Anudip, around 4,000 students are trained free of cost each quarter. It has a revenue stream through course fees for specialized short term courses for various companies. iMerit, a BPO firm draws 80% of its talent from Anudip. It assigns tasks for various technology clients across the country and in the US. These tasks range from digitally tagging images of vehicular traffic for a German autonomous vehicle maker to cancer cell categorization to creating agricultural layouts for large areas. It also provides skill training to employees to fill for any gaps in their knowledge. The course offered is very basic and not a diploma, hence it can be completed in short term. If the courses ran for more time, it would be much better since it is hard to keep up with the changing technology.

One key hurdle in this market training model is distrust. In India, people are wary of asking a non-engineer to perform technical tasks. With the US clients, this is not an issue. There is a plus side of recruiting small towners, they are eager to learn and not quick to leave, which sets them apart from the professionally qualified technical staff. The attrition rate at iMerit is under 3%. However, it is important that these individuals are immediately recruited after the completion of the course, or they forget what they learnt. Even after they find jobs, the employers are expected to help them hone the existing skills and teach new ones. They also arrange a skill training program to enhance the skills of the individuals.

Moreover, the aspirants have unconventional ethics too. They may not be used to a 9 to 5 work day which could have a significant impact on the work culture. With a growing number of small towners learning the basics to generate income, it will be interesting to see how they perform their tasks and benefit the company in return. 

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