The mixed responses of the country to the Supreme Court judgement on reservation in educational institutions is just one more example of the deep schisms that exist in the country’s thinking on the whole issue of inclusiveness. While it is inevitable that some doubts should surface about the ability of educational institutions to raise capacity fast enough to accommodate the new flock of students without compromising the availability of education to the rest of the aspiring carer builders, wiser heads have obviously ruled that it is necessary to take steps to “promote and preserve the essence of equality so that disadvantaged groups can be brought to the forefront of civil life.”
The NASSCOM agenda for the current year seeks to address two other segments of society that deserve to get a boost as the industry and indeed the country pulls out all the stops in an attempt to continue the high growth story despite the gloom of an economic slowdown in the West. The first focus is on women, who now constitute more than a fair share in the IT and BPO sector at the entry level but who seem to fall off the career ladder at some point with the resultant single digit percentage representation at the senior management and leadership echelons. Many companies and now the association itself are focusing on a Women in Leadership initiative that identifies and anticipates all the mid career road blocks at home and work that women encounter in our country. The real metric of success would be to have attrition of women comparable to that of men through their career and it will take a lot of initiatives and proactive workplace policies to ensure that.
Another area where much has been spoken and written but not enough action seen on the ground is the ability to reach out to and include the underserved sections of the population with training and job opportunities that enable them to participate in the success of the IT and BPO industry. The NASSCOM foundation through its Knowledge Network program has enabled the power of Information and Communications Technology to touch the lives of tens of thousands of people in a dozen states but a full fledged movement is required to provide technical and soft skills and job opportunities at multiple locations around the country and spread the prosperity not just on demographic but only on a geographic dispersion basis. The creaking infrastructure in urban locations and the absence of capacity in the educational institutions around the country can only be addressed by reaching out to “Bharat” as a real alternative to the few urban Indian cities where the knowledge industry today proliferates.
In a year where the slowdown is likely to affect the aggressive growth plans of many firms, a concerted inclusiveness movement will prepare the foundation for the next wave of growth which is not far away as the India story continues to be watched by the world!
Dr Ganesh Natarajan is Chairman of NASSCOM and Global CEO of Zensar Technologies