Wanted: skilled professionals

Updated: Feb 26 2008, 07:40am hrs
Remember the last time you felt utter irritation on receiving one of those random call-centre calls asking about home loans, credit cards etc Worse still, remember the utter shock when the caller (supposedly representing a prestigious MNC bank), conversed in a vernacular language.

The scarcity of skilled personnel is something that all industries are facing today; the same is being witnessed in the Indian media and advertising industry too. This explains why one notices the increased frequency with which media and advertising news portals these days have been flashing people movement stories. It is due to the shortage of talent. Our industry is in dire straits when it comes to availability of qualified professionals.

There are two-three key reasons for this, one of them being the demand-supply imbalance. The education system is not geared to provide trained recruits at fresher level. Most graduates, under-gra-duates being churned out are mere generalists, and not trained for a particular field. Prestigious institutes such as the IIMs too have not been paying enough emphasis on softer subjects like media and advertising.

Another roadblock is posed by the low remuneration offered across all positions, especially at the entry levels. The low commission rates at which most agencies operate, ensure that employees remain unsatisfied, thereby leading to high attrition among lower and middle level management. What agencies must understand is that good talent does not come cheap. It is like the chicken-and-egg situation: unless you attract good talent, you cannot have differential thinking.

In an industry, which is mainly driven by talent, how much time and effort are we really investing in harnessing this talent How many media companies visit campuses to recruit How many make reasonable offers How much time do CEOs invest in people issues, as compared to financial ones

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report says that the Rs 35,300-crore media and entertainment industry is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 19% for the next four years. In 2005, a record Rs 2,500 crore was invested in the sector. Most of it is riding on infrastructure expansion plans: multiplexes, digital cinemas or direct-to-home television systems. That kind of capital needs people with sound understanding of the media business, which is where most media companies are running into a wall. The result: jobs chasing rising salaries and new media schools instead of top-notch talent.

Part of the problem is historical. Till the early 1990s, the theoretical and ideological foundations of media education in India had largely been developed within a closed industry scenario dominated by large government-owned broadcasters. Things changed once private broadcasting took off. The need for more professionals arose.

As a result, there was a surge in the growth of media schools. Most have, however, focused on the content side. It is at the business endthe operations, scheduling, ad-sales, brand management, media planning/buying or strategic levelsthat the gaps are bigger. Here are some trends that will help the media and advertising industry attract and nurture talent:

Trend 1. Rising popularity of unconventional careers: Young people are increasingly steering away from conventional careers like engineering, medicine, law etc. Vocational courses like interiors, event management, media studies and retail management are gaining popularity.

Trend 2. Skill enhancement on-the-job: Enhanced skills help move up the growth curve, which is why a lot of media companies have started encouraging professional learning among employees by sending them on various executive development programmes that are related to the skill-sets needed in their tasks. Media companies have started sending promising employees on international stints to give them exposure.

Trend 3. Specialised higher education critical: Gone are the days when one degree fitted all. The youth are fast realising that specialised degrees are the key to recognition, marketability and success. Educational institutions introducing courses like BMM (Bachelor of Mass Media) at the under-graduate level is a step forward in the right direction. Over a dozen media schools, have come up in the last three years.

Trend 4. Cross-recruitment and the emergence of new media: With the emergence of new media, be it Internet, mobile or even media in consumption spaces like malls, multiplexes etc, media companies will need to go beyond the media industry and recruit from other industries such as FMCG, IT. This trend has taken off and will be the way to go.

While these trends indicate the positive direction the Indian media and advertising industry will follow in years to come, the underlying thought Id like to leave behind is that media companies need to participate actively in designing curriculum and training based on their needs. The rapid pace of globalisation will see media companies demanding skilled professionals at all levels, whether junior, mid or senior.

The author is MD & CEO of Future Media India