The craze for cushy government and corporate jobs is on the rise among our educated youth. Those straight out of colleges or B-schools aspire to para-drop into cosy cabins “strategising” for companies, little knowing that they are not even conversant with the day-to-day tactics of business. This mind-set is typical of the sub-continent and some neighbouring regions where social status is determined more by the office you occupy than the actual work you do. This is most unfortunate and detrimental to the overall growth of economy and business. The deleterious mentality needs to undergo change rapidly.
As an entrepreneur and industrialist with interests in diverse business domains, I constantly find myself besieged with requests and recommendations by parents, many of them very highly placed, for desk jobs for their children. The elders seem to be extremely concerned about keeping their tender children away from the sweat and grime of real business. Little do they realise that they are harming their progeny in the process. By keeping their fresh-out-of-college kids away from the hurly and burly of real business they are depriving the young ones of real education and training. Educational institutions can offer bookish knowledge but it needs to be practised on the shop floor, in markets and bazaars with dealers and distributors in far and remote towns and villages, through direct door-to-door selling, by conducting marketing surveys in the hinterland, by realising company dues from reluctant stakeholders, by acting tough and smooth as well as smiling to maintain and nurture business ties…
Business is a school of hard knocks. And this schooling begins after students pass out with degrees and diplomas in management and other related disciplines. Mind you, this is real business schooling. Those who excel here go on to earn name and pride sooner than later. Those bagging easy desk jobs through recommendations remain stuck there or soon find themselves unfit to meet real life business challenges. The cocooned cabin life comes to a sudden send. They quit or are asked to do so. They are compelled to start their professional life afresh though much precious time is lost by then. They find themselves lagging behind in their careers throughout. Why are the children and more importantly their resourceful parents not realising the folly of overprotection?
I don’t find this happening in the West. Of late, even our neighbouring countries have shown the trend of young people going in for masters in management after considerable work experience. Several leading business schools do not consider inexperienced college graduates. Unlike Nepal, management curricula and pedagogy, that is teaching methodology, is experience based abroad. Real and current business studies form the crux of professorial input and pupil participation.
How will a student understand production management if he has not spent time on the factory’s shop floor and has never seen an assembly line at work? Can a person learn the intricacies of consumer behaviour without having vigorously interacted with customers herself? Can books alone inculcate problem-solving attitude and ability in you if you are not used to tackling small and big business challenges before entering a management institute to further sharpen your skills with the latest research-based knowledge? Can HRD treatises generate in you empathy for company employees, develop insight into organisational behaviour and equip you for handling sudden industrial unrest? In a nutshell, books cannot substitute experience gained from the ups and downs of corporate life.
I, therefore, always advise students to experience business realities in factories, markets, business negotiations, government and regulatory offices before aspiring for managerial assignments jobs in the corporate office. Frankly enough, bereft of such experience they will find themselves of no use at the corporate level. One who has not been in the battlefield cannot make a general.
The IIMs in India conduct the toughest test in the world for admitting students. Most of them are engineers from the prestigious IITs and other leading institutions who pay fees from their savings and education loans. Leading industrial behemoths, including MNCs, strive hard to recruit these bright students a semester before they pass out. Most of these students go on to become CEOs of top companies in their country and abroad.
But few management students in Nepal would be aware that these students are made to undergo the most rigorous training in the smallest of towns and villages during their management traineeship and even after that. These bright stars from IIMs drawing multi-lakh and even crore-plus remuneration packages travel alongside tiny vans and even manual rickshaws with their company products to small kirana shops and stores in suburbs and villages. They spend time with the shop owners sipping syrupy tea in dirty cups and kullhars (earthen cups) amidst a swarm of flies and dust and seek shelf space for their FMCG and industrial products or pharmaceuticals. This is real relationship management in action. This is real education. This is the mantra to success. Corporate assignment at the headquarters or regional office does not even figure in the initial career plans of these rising management stars. They know their time will come when they complete their tapasya. It has been rightly said: first deserve then desire. Unfortunately, few seem to pay heed to this age-old maxim in Nepal.
Today’s youth also ignore another vital fact. Though all of them want to be ensconced in the air-conditioned confines of a corporate office, few remember that almost all mighty business houses and conglomerates have been built by entrepreneurs single handedly. In Nepal, these great men toiled for years under most tough and unfavourable circumstances and regimes to create new businesses which blossomed into business groups and conglomerates. Nepal’s top businesses are a testimony and tribute to the pioneering spirit of this venerable tribe of gentlemen. My late father Lunkarandas ji was the one to set up the foundation of Nepal’s largest multi-national business group. I have myself witnessed the hostile challenges which he had to encounter to carve out a place for the family business and then professionalise it. The risks he undertook in his venture then would drive the wits out of a professional business executive today.
While there is no denying the fact that entrepreneurs and only entrepreneurs have built the world economy, created wealth and employment and shared it with public holders of company shares and securities, very few youngsters in Nepal think of launching their own enterprise. They prefer the security of government service where there is little accountability. The next choice is a desk job in a reputed private entity. Our youth are not even remotely venturesome. When you avoid pain then you miss out on gain.
Ironically, the idols of the youth remain the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Dhirubhai Ambani, N R Narayana Murthy, and a host of entrepreneurs who have changed the face of the world. All of them had very humble beginnings. Even modern companies prefer entrepreneurial executives; they have come to be known as intrapreneur. GE’s former CEO Jack Welch figures on the top of this category.
The informal sector in Nepal is run largely by lowly educated but gutsy women. They run tiny shops and stores, earn for their families and create jobs without investing big amounts. When will our educated youth draw inspiration from these ladies, show some daring and enter the business domain, fully prepared to conquer its vagaries and taste success? When will the global start-up revolution ignite their minds and hearts?
Nepal’s educated youth needs to come out of its comfort zone before its passion and spirit totally evaporate and the country turns into a virtually fossilised entity.
Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. (firstname.lastname@example.org)