Pardon me fellas, but even I would like to believe that the heading is only for impact so some people will read this. But that said, I am speaking about us ‘engineer breed’ of independent India of course and context is the Indian Budget 2017 and what Mr. Trump is doing to H1B in the US for our IT brigade meaning Indians and Chinese in particular, to what is now established as “Technology” and forever I find myself asking “then for God’s sake what are us – the electrical, mechanical, chemical, civil, marine kind of engineers who have grown up to be technologists and know a bit about businessmen too?”
So now that you have the introductory and if you are a non-IT technologist of any kind, let’s feel for ourselves and find that role which has been eluding us this last decade specially where the CFOs and all kinds of financial-legal specialists have taken over the IITians and other engineers to head companies, make deals and keep all kinds of divisions and heads under their wings, who will punch time cards to prove their utilization, once they are hired as ‘out-of-the-box’ thinkers by the HRM of modern world (yes, those typical KPAs on Naukri.com et al). That building up of Nehruvian India post independence from the British in 1947 is now passé and engineering techies have become second or third row of priority for India, the global power of the future as the world looks at us.
There is no doubt that Indian engineering and IT alumni are the most sought after professionals and preferred teachers and trainers all round the world. But in India, we are suddenly retrograde. I know for sure that our infrastructure and energy, once a success story of engineers with BHEL, EIL, ISRO et al in prime contention are there but the definition of ‘Tech’ is the people who deal with any kind of CPU, intelligent electronics and software analytics.
Again back to the Trump election, it was always the American people who did not mind the accented Indians in first place as long as we could be a fair blend-in, stayed in background when we should, come as saviors when a project deadline needed as did the ‘job-shoppers’ back in the ’50s from here, just like the Korean and Chinese crews completed those ship-builds and other hardware which made America what it is; in parallel to what Nehru and the trailing generations of leaders were doing in India.
Now we are in Modi’s India, unfortunately way too late for this separation to be less stark than I am now feeling insides of me. Everybody was listening before this to the CFO and shareholders with young ownerships learning no better about ‘creating’ than to make highest profit as being the only real KRA sans the shareholder rhetoric on year closings. The task of building from scratch, taking risks had gone unless someone could stockpile big time out of advances on large size infrastructure immediately to make room for the ‘rainy day’ which has always looked a certainty in the cut-throat competition of tariff based and speed tendering to make political parties keep promises and the Indian engineers ‘on their feet’!
So worked up and stressed out had become our engineers and technicians along with labor, workforce and all kinds of contractors and sub contractors as CEOs with their HR hangmen created all kinds of regulations to turn them into machines with ‘hour on hour’ monitoring and then came the electronics of spy cameras and recorders for loyalty to be thrown out of our system as opportunities opened up everywhere; and even as younger and smarter techie ranks learnt to hop in and out for highest bidders, putting the stress back on ownerships.
So now we have simpler equations where the IT guys are creating software to ensure ‘loyalty’ in companies and continued communication within teams in age when we do not like to speak, write or even read elaborate emails but ‘forward’ quotes and postulates; so that now the engineers slipped one more step down after owners, accountant, HR and IT man.
What’s going on here? When PM Modi started taking ‘class’ on values going out from the young and school kids, I felt a ray of hope but realized later that he should be looking at their parents – my generation. What have we done under pressure of these last 2 to 3 decades of ‘hard work’ where office timings became open ended after 2nd half, but our sense of professional ethics and inherent team and fellow feelings amongst tripped downhill in the blame-game we called competition.
As it happens, we are still buying technology from Germany, China and now even from South Africa, Israel and middle-east whom our forefathers had taught! The government put so much on shoulders of BHEL and PSUs once they found a floundering private sector enterprise from India, who are happier to be ‘consultants’ for services and downstream project EPC and manufacturing companies than to be the big time manufacturing as tax policies never quite worked to ‘make-in-India’ ever; even as the ownerships found ways to be fund surplus after these 2 decades of privatization through mix of trading and using countless heads to accomplish far less than what our country is truly capable of. Yet “Jobs” is a huge abyss for so many talented people.
If you visit technology fairs like ‘Green Summit(s)’, ‘Indian Infrastructure’ or on Electricity you will see that still the core machinery in the technology intensive fields of power & energy at large are still coming all from overseas with yes, spectacular value addition from Indian engineers. But to say, we are yet independent in general for all our technical supremacy, we are not; else why is China Option #1 for most even today?
The Risk taking ability has consequently come down in the MSME and SME sector which is an indicator on government policies and what Budget 2017 was expected to correct with some innovation to create capacity and jobs with the surplus money from demonetization. Boosting the rural, farming, etc. are basic obligation of a nation to give healthy food and medicine to the people all the time and in no way an achievement. The lacunas in enabling the rest of Indian entrepreneurship are still there and is evident when 60% of our Indian wealth lies with 1% people and the ratio incrementing with each budget, quite alarmingly. Now that’s a lot of money to live with and whether a CSR whip, nay obligation, enable growth is still not established.
In the constant drive to empower youth, create jobs for educated, it is the institutes running to the banks as Vice Presidents and CEOs at 35 or 40 has become a norm, even as corporates find too many unemployable. However, it has been observed that even young leaderships do not need the experience and vision to correct the backlog which is saturated with malpractice and indecision or poor decision in times when a certain kind of old adamance has perpetrated ownerships who have seen unimagined prosperity in these last decades of privatization and development. In many places there is little passion left to grow further and so many whose next of kin do not show that same will and mettle for all that lies already on the table.
This is what is ‘Backlog’ and where we see projects unfinished, mismanagement, selling on premiums, land and asset purchases on basis on who we know and where lie the loopholes.
It’s not just me, I find umpteen superb professionals, young companies, deficit for funding which is still asset based for whatever skills one may possess and enterprise an entrepreneur might carry. The irony is there are so many who fail simply for want of funds and the stoppages for any number of reasons. Forget businessmen, nobody nowadays has patience or faith in anybody nowadays and venture capitalism is only a catch-word for ‘use and throw’ as money has to be made at any cost everywhere and that’s so tough with policies, environmental and simple political issues adding to complexities. In fact, nowadays to show the way-out of a corrupt deal anyhow, is a KRA without any inhibitions and employees or aspirants take this as way of life and what is to be expected!
So if getting past clean earnings reaching dangerous proportions was why our visionary PM took such a drastic step as DE-MONITIZATION; then I am optimistic. Well the spurt in ‘legal’ appointments from mid-management onwards over last 5 years to answer all those ‘buried’ cases of unfinished projects; this has never been seen to my memory in Indian businesses since a law firm used to be hired in past. So it kind of jives, isn’t it?
Now, coming back to Budget 2017, let’s analyse what have we gained post demonetization and cornering of corrupt people in these recent months with companies of today and yes, the government; what do we expect to gain now to revive those acceptable values and habits so much so that now have to remind each other on ‘WhatsApp’ forwards with each morning or they will just go down as mythology one fine day!
The Finance Minister started his speech listing how many companies do not file taxes and who haven’t even started their balance sheet. Sir, just look at us; I recall the speeches on ‘capacity building’ and talent deficit which has today made umpteen crass technical and management training institutes to mushroom along with some very good ones too. But they find relevance only when their products become VPs of E&Y or PWC, while here are some of us looking on “hey, what’s wrong with me….I was made in USA and EU too not too long ago and am an international, a professional”.
Honestly, I started my company over this last decade just because to my query “what will those professionals amongst us who have not accumulated capital do in these efforts to enhance entrepreneurship and capacity?”, the minister’s reply at a forum on ‘manufacturing & project resources’ as of 2006 was “hold on to fingers of the bigger players”. And look what that did to us (sure these people are there smiling, right?).
Well now that I have created the separation on TECH terminology, let’s look at what President Trump is actually saying in the same breath as he loves ‘Hindus’ and the H1B rise in minimum wage to US$ 130,000.
Aha, so I think President Trump wants us stalwarts back in action, those who have seen all sides of the world, taken our darn risks and all and throw out our accent when it matters too. We even know that language of excellence for they took it away from us here in India far too early for we spoke ‘global’ amidst ‘make-in-India’ and how stupid it was that at one time, right? So I am hoping our PM will likewise bring back enough wealth to split to higher than the 1% every year hereon backing up with policies so some of us can truly see the glitter of ‘good times’ or ‘achhe din’ in entrepreneurship, after waging wars to get to ‘India shining’ earlier on; no politics here though.
There is still one confusion in my mind and that is this – “are we moving forward or back to ‘Building-Up’ days?” of course, with a ‘RE-building’ tag where IT and Engineers of all kind work in tandem as visionaries on our own to create a better world and definitely, without punching time cards and swords drawn all the time. Well, only time will tell and my strong recommendation – “Techies is Us 2” with a ‘V’ sign for ‘peace’ (LOl is Lolll).
Cover Image: Brochure of Pentacle Energy & Infra Projects Pvt. Ltd.