An oft-quoted fact over the past decade or so has been that we have steadily moved on from an agriculture-led economy to a services-based arrangement. So palpable and strong is this sense that the assertion is taken at face value without any discussion on the quality of the service on offer.
Let us understand the implications of this in the context of the tricity, a predominantly urban conglomerate and see if a service-led arrangement is actually a pointer to better quality as well.
With the tricity’s 30 lakh residents predominantly engaged in and availing of services, I will try and judge the quality (a difficult job, but needs to be done) of a few and suggest two new services that the city could be needing over the next decade.
A major disappointment in service quality, in recent times, has been in the delivery of an essential product - the gas cylinder.
A wide-spread experience with most people has been that both dealers and banks reported shortage of stationery at some point or the other, an excuse that seemed peculiar, but made sure that the majority of the customers did have to make a repeat visit to these offices.
Another newly-fangled supposedly high-end service that has been around for more than half a decade in the tricity has been the supposedly swish, prim and proper baby-sitting kiosks at some of the malls.
Parents leave their child in enclosures of swings and jumping mats for an hour or so, at what are pretty stiff charges of around Rs 150.
An innovative idea yes, and it does fill a need, but the staff manning the counters at these kiosks, mostly girls, appear so much like adolescents themselves that you sense better-trained handlers could have been provided for the money you pay.
Now, that we have lampooned the two services, justifiably, what are the two ideas that the tricity needs?
Strange as it may seem, skill development in two areas tops my priority list- cooking at home and a primer course on medicines.
These will emerge as a necessity over the next decade can be the fount for new businesses targeted at the end-consumer.
The primer course on medicines might seem a simplistic idea, but how many of us actually know the easy remedies for common health issues and how to keep cool in an emergency.
The PGIMER did launch a service on these lines this week, but we need better public connect. The poor need to be educated to help them realise that most of their visits to hospitals and doctors are futile and that knowledge in this field is capital for them.
As our lifestyle has evolved, home-cooked food has become a luxury for the urban nuclear family and has spawned new restaurants et al, but a service that actually glamourises home cooking and inculcates it into any of the sexes can help improve healthcare.
Trained senior citizens, especially women, who have spent the majority of their lives cooking can be employed and gain a sense of purpose — a win-win situation.
Programme design could be crucial for implementation of these and help in keeping up with the times.