Your company has been a big contributor to the upward graph of the Sensex. How do you look at the last 20 months?
Larsen & Toubro is the barometer for the country. We address everything that is basic for the country. We have now moved out of road building as it is almost a commodity business, but we are still ready to build if there are important projects and we are invited. Same with bridges, we are keen to build signature bridges. We are in the entire infrastructure arena. We are building India and we are recognised globally among the best infrastructure companies. Good infrastructure can also help us retain talent. The best talent in India often goes away because jobs abroad may offer them better quality of life. I have said again and again infrastructure is a $ 1 trillion issue. It is now a question of how fast we can spend that money.
What are the constraints?
Our constraint is not money — it is talent. If I had more engineers we could have grown a lot faster. A lot of engineers are employed by the information technology sector and there is a dearth of people who will go and work on site in infrastructure projects. In China, goods can be loaded on to ships within two days. In India we are 50 years away from that kind of a situation. Sometimes I feel the infrastructure sector is not glamorous enough to attract the best talent. And now I have even started losing factory workers to countries like Canada.
How are you tackling the problem?
L&T will be training 40,000 people every year. We have started the programme and we will reach this number in five years. We have started the first centre in Hazira and have taken over three Industrial Training Institutes from the Gujarat government. This will be a hub and spoke approach. We will have two different kinds of training centres all over the country: focussing on manufacturing skills and construction skills. Apart from this, through our L&T Employees' Trust we are opening school dropout training centres. These centres will train people who did not complete their schooling. They will be imparted skills that will make them useful in their villages - jobs like repairing tractors. We will also give them mobile phones. We will reach the 40,000 figure in five years.
How much are you spending on this project?
For the main centres for manufacturing and construction training we will spend Rs 5 crore each. The school drop-out training centres are being funded by the trust in which all L&T employees have contributed and the company has made a matching contribution. For the trust we are trying to build a corpus of Rs 150 crore after which we will be able to spend Rs 10 crore a year.