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Soft skills factories add polish to services boom

Jobs are going abegging in the country’s organised retail boom, but there are not enough polished counter-folks and salespeople to say the right things, reports Ruchi Hajela.
Hindustan Times | By Ruchi Hajela, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 06, 2008 10:38 PM IST

First it was about teaching American accents for call centre agents. Now it is also about “May I help you?” — and acquire a host of accompanying personality traits and attitudes.

Jobs are going abegging in the country’s organised retail boom, but there are not enough polished counter-folks and salespeople to say the right things. And a training business is now riding piggyback on fancy stores and glitzy malls and scouring small towns for people who can ride the job train.

A Delhi-based company, MIE Educational Services, has invested Rs 8 crore to set up training institutes in places like Rewari, Faridabar and Lucknow to polish up native talent that may not have gone to English medium courses or finishing schools. Appropriately enough, MIE stands for Making India Employable.

“The MIE centres will offer soft skill training for roles such as employee management and customer services, required largely in the outsourcing and retail business,” Parikshit Dhanda, Founder & CEO of the company, told Hindustan times.

At MIE, undergraduates or even school dropouts can undergo training for a fee ranging between Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000 and can expect to get placed in the role of a customer service executive with a retail chain such as Spencer’s

According to software industry association NASSCOM, India added about 3.2 million graduates last year, but only small proportion of them are employable. The ratio of employability is as low as 10 to 15 per cent in smaller towns and cities, said NASSCOM, which has chalked out its own initiative to cover the gaps in collaboration with industry players.

NASSCOM this week mentioned towns such as Madurai, Aurangabad among emerging centres for the business process outsourcing revolution.

NASSCOM has an assessment-cum-certification programme which aims to train final year students from smaller towns with analytical and keyboard skills.

“There is a huge gap between what is taught in schools and colleges and what is required at a job,” said Pankaj Aggarwal, who heads the knowledge division at recruitment and training company Hero Mindmine Ltd.

Hero Mindmine Institute, a part of the Hero Group, has been offering training services to companies as well students for the last four to five years. The company has about 170 centres across India that train about 70,000-80,000 students every year for skills such as communication, voice and accent usage and business etiquette.. Students need to pay anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for the ‘personality development’ courses and can expect to get a job as a front sales executive in a retail store or, of course, as a call centre executive.

Bangalore-based Next is another company that conducts a daylong workshop on basics such as writing e-mails. Other training courses – which include skills for medical transcription, insurance marketing and call centre jobs - may vary from two to 12 weeks and cost between Rs 2,500 to Rs 12,000.

“As per the demographics, about 150 million people will be getting into the workforce in the next 10 years,” said Manoj Pasricha, Managing Director of Next.

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