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?Focus on KPO to outdo China?

IIM BANGALORE Director Prakash Apte on Saturday stressed the need for India to look beyond IT-enabled industries and focus on manufacturing and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) if it was to stay ahead of competitors, particularly China.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2006 15:50 IST

IIM BANGALORE Director Prakash Apte on Saturday stressed the need for India to look beyond IT-enabled industries and focus on manufacturing and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) if it was to stay ahead of competitors, particularly China.

The academician also urged the government to make education ‘demand driven’ and cut subsidies to ‘mediocre’ institutes of higher learning. The resultant savings should be used to widen the skilled workforce pool by strengthening educational infrastructure in rural areas, he added.

Addressing delegates on the concluding day of the IMA National Management Convention-2006, Apte said India had failed to convert its superiority over China in skilled manpower into a competitive edge. He warned that the eastern neighbour was fast narrowing the gap in language skills and would overtake the country even in business promotion outsourcing (BPO) if complacency were allowed to set in.

Glaxo Smithkline Director (HR) P Dwarkanath, Contests2Win Managing director Alok Kejriwal, Chesterton Megraj Managing Director Anuj Puri, Jain Irrigation Limited Chairman and Amirullah Khan of the India Development Forum were the other speakers on the concluding day.

The convention witnessed attendance by large numbers of businessmen, entrepreneurs as well as scores of management students. In his address, the IIM-B Director pointed out that India boasted the youngest working population in the world with an average age of 25 years, as opposed to 40 years in US and Europe.

He listed a diversified industrial base, sophisticated financial architecture, a healthy GDP and knowledge-driven industries like biotech and infotech as factors that gave India a lead over its rivals in the global arena.

“India possesses a vast pool of skilled manpower with three million scientists, one million engineers and 400,000 doctors being produced every year,” said Apte. ‘‘However, instead of leveraging this talent pool to acquire a preeminent position as a manufacturing or knowledge-based industry hub we are content with BPO operations,’’ he added.

“China, although it lacks our numbers, has harnessed its skilled resources more effectively and is emerging as a leading manufacturer even in cutting edge technologies,” the academician pointed out. He suggested that the state of affairs could be attributed to misplaced governmental patronage.

Apte rued that institutes of higher learning were subsidised regardless of the calibre of the alumni they churn out. Instead, the government should subsidise only top-notch science and liberal arts institutes.

“The money spent on producing mediocre physicists and historians should go to providing better salaries for teachers and learning aids like computers in village schools so that the country can broaden the numbers of technology-savvy workforce,” he added.

Earlier, in a well-received address in the first session Contests2Win MD Alok Kejriwal spoke about innovation. He listed pain, greed, loss, status, luck and irritation as the causes that led to innovation. Speaking of his website, Kejriwal said it represented the triumph of interactive marketing over interruptive advertising.

The entrepreneur advised managers and management students not to be cowed down by hurdles as ‘each big problem carries the germ of a big business opportunity’.

Economist Amirullah Khan dwelt at length on the country’s economic state and listed poverty, regional disparities and over-dependence on agriculture as the chief challenges facing the nation.

There is no unemployment in India, as people here cannot afford it. So even an MSc woks as a drive if he cannot find a suitable job.

The problem is under-employment as in agriculture where, although it employs 60 per cent of the total population, contributes only 20 per cent of the GDP”.