Self employment framework should be designed around a robust digital foundation which should bring together all the pre requisites for building successful business models.
India requires to create 17-20 million jobs each year to channelise the youth entering into the workforce for productive gains. The experience of jobless growth of the last few years despite GDP growth has been worrisome for policy planners. As per UNDP’s Human Development Report between 1991 and 2013, India’s working age population increased by 300 million but only 140 million people could find employment. It is estimated that by 2050 280 million more people will enter the job market. Employment generation process is reeling under the pressure of the combined impact of automation on hiring norms and replacements, outdated regulatory frameworks related to employment, lack of appropriate skills to cope with the emerging needs of the industry and lack of adequate investment in sectors with the potential for large employment such as infrastructure, healthcare and tourism. The intertwined approach required to address the complex problem of employment generation requires urgent attention including revisiting labour laws and schemes for ease of starting new businesses. In this context, let us examine the avenues available for gainful and sustainable livelihood opportunities for approximately 10 million graduating youth entering into the workforce each year.
The oft quoted statistics of 20% of the graduating youth being absorbed by the industry continues to be the reality and in the near term this scenario is not likely to change substantially. This is on account of the IT industry being the sector recruiting the largest number of candidates each year until recently, rethinking its strategy for people hire on account of automation and the resultant change in the business model and the manufacturing sector also becoming less dependent on human resources on account of economic and policy related implications leading to machines taking over some of the jobs humans could perform. This would mean the youth graduating need to look at alternatives other than seeking employment with organisations.
Start up India and entrepreneurship could be an alternative and candidates who have the requisite capabilities should be encouraged to pursue this path. But millions of youth may have challenges to opt for this career path and therefore the other alternative proposed is self-employment with a federated or cooperative model. Let us examine the ingredients to make this model work. Firstly possessing cutting edge skills will be extremely crucial and therefore we would need to have an effective method to help youth identify their potential and aptitude and based on this equip them with the relevant skills that would enable them to utilise these skills to become eventually self employed.
The current approach of just delivering skills related training programme with no tangible outcomes should be replaced with a comprehensive outcome driven approach. This is where digital platforms could play a significant role. Starting with identifying and assessing the aptitude, counselling by experts from various walks of life and locations, training for skills integrated with internships and finally creating structures such as Guilds or Cooperatives with members possessing similar skills and having the bargaining power as well as the ability to create the customer pull—all of these should be part of the integrated approach supported by the digital platform aimed towards preparation for the self employment track.
It is important to recognise that majority of the youth would not be geared at the start for self employment and would prefer being employed with an organisation as they may lack in self confidence and various attributes that are required to make the business tick. The cooperative framework proposed should not only create confidence in the individuals but would also provide the organisation cover and handle the tasks which an individual may not be equipped to deal with and the individual member could just focus on sharpening their skills and servicing the customers. It should also give them comfort that they are not alone as they would be part of the groups with members with similar status.
For this approach to work, we need to reorient the stakeholders to view their roles and perhaps review the current policies and practices too. For instance, in order to bring together several individuals under a cooperative framework, we would require an academic institution or industry body to be involved in the initial phase to give it the initial impetus and put in place the required governance framework.
Banks may have to review their funding policies and support such frameworks which may not have the ability to prove their creditworthiness or business potential to begin with. Academic institutions need to revisit their curriculum framework, student selection process, counselling methods, skilling techniques etc and most importantly indoctrinate students from the early stages on the benefits of being self employed and create aspiration for this pathway. In order to stitch together the various hues explained, collaboration and communication amongst the stakeholders would be the critical factors which would require to be provided by digital platforms.
Above all, there has to be a well orchestrated plan to implement, monitor and support the model. The responsibility for this should be given to industry or trade bodies in each location as they would also be able to guide the academic institutions regarding the immediate opportunities serving the local needs.
UNDP’s Human Development Report states that India will be the most ‘job stressed’ nation in the next few decades and therefore self employment could possibly be one of the avenues to mitigate the challenge. To kickstart the programme, we need a few pilots to be set up in rural and urban locations which would enable all stakeholders to ideate and derive useful insights on the implementation.
Self employment framework should be designed around a robust digital foundation which should bring together all the pre requisites for building successful business models. Such a framework could be the initial step towards creating confidence, self belief and familiarity to run a business which in turn could eventually lead to entrepreneurship and creating jobs for others.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company.