The conference theme, of taking Indian corporations to the next level of growth, performance and excellence itself generatedtremendous sense of challenge and anticipation
The National HRD Network-Delhi Chapter conference, ‘Towards the Next Orbit’ from December 1 -3, 2010, was a resounding success having 1,350 registered participants. The conference was a confluence of ideas of CEOs, HR leaders and thought leaders from India and abroad. Participants experienced a rich mélange of thoughts, wisdom and experiences from 65 speakers packed in two and a half days. The conference theme, of taking Indian corporations to the next level of growth, performance and excellence itself generated tremendous sense of challenge and anticipation. The Chief Guest Arun Maira (Member Planning Commission) and the academic conference chairman Dr. Pritam Singh (Professor of Eminence, MDI-Gurgaon) in their initial speeches set the tone for the conference. The last decade has seen the India growth story and the ensuing opportunities which have been have been thrown up making waves globally. The big question raised by Arun Maira however was regarding the sustainability of this growth and the ensuing dangers unless it is inclusive touching the lives of millions of have-nots.
Today, India is in the throes of tremendous conflicts, pressures both internal and external and located in a politically volatile region. Within the country there are many secessionist forces creating unrest where there is under-development. In addition, there is the youthful profile of India (with more than 50% below 25 years of age) which clamors jobs, gainful employment and seeks a better life. Unfortunately, even the bulk of the educated among them are unemployable owing to skill deficits and this is another sensitive explosion point. At the same time, the demand for skilled and employable people is only going to grow not only in India but also globally, especially as the developed nations go grey, thus creating a huge opportunity for Indian youth. This is a historic opportunity for Corporate India to contribute to developing skilled people for their own needs as well as extending this template to do mass skilling of people through tie ups with educational institutions. If the large CSR budgets of corporations get focussed mass skilling and development of talent of various kinds and levels along with governmental support, it will truly help sustain growth. Such work would be more than philanthropy since it would principally address the huge problem of talent scarcity being faced by the corporate sector, especially as they move to rural hinterlands. In this context it must be mentioned that CEOS like Manoj Kohli of Airtel sharply highlighted that it is the responsibility of corporations to help transform the lives of all. Such a strategy would be a clear win-win for all concerned. Another important direction of thoughts triggered by the conference was the session on a core HR domain – Performance Management Systems.
The deliberations by distinguished panel of HR leaders indicated a coming of age on the subject. In the last few decades, companies have been blindly importing and using Western HR models regardless of local conditions and nuances. When someone like Ram Kumar, Head HR ICICI raised his voice to admit that mistakes had been committed in blind adoption of global HR practices, becoming too rigid in applying PMS systems and so on, it was a revelation. It clearly demonstrates that corporate India must now move to developing its own HR models, relevant to its context of high growth and designed to address issues of its own people.
It was quite evident from the speeches of the CEOS that they today view HR as an important partner for building and sustaining growth. HR professionals must develop and balance both business and people skills.
The conference was remarkable for its format of talking, sharing, reflections and panel discussions and this successfully involved the audience all the way. It will be remembered for stimulating minds, touching hearts and uplifting the spirits of the audience. If the government, corporate sector and academia get together, a million fireflies – in the words of Arun Maira – will glow by dint of hard work and enterprise and help move millions of Indians out of poverty and keep India in the new orbit it has reached.
Asha Bhandarker is Raman Munjal Chair Professor of Leadership Studies at MDI-Gurgaon