Monday, September 29, 2008

Some things don't have to happen again and again

Last week, there was an article in "Times of India", I think, about over 50 people getting cheated by a bogus recruiter who promised them all jobs at the Hyundai facilities in Chennai for a neat sum of money.

Last month another bogus recruiter (same???) cheated hundreds of people after promising them jobs in IBM!

These are just instances in the last month that caught the media attention. We don't even know how many such incidents go unreported.

Why is it so difficult to regularize businesses and stop desperate people from getting cheated? All we need is a site where all recruiters have to be registered. If you are not registered there I won't deal with you. End of story.

Let me illustrate this with what happened to me 2 weeks ago and how I was able to get clarity quickly.

A man from a tamil monthly called "Pothu Nanayam" contacted me over the phone asking for an appointment to interview me for his magazine. After ensuring it was really me he was after, I asked him to come later in the evening.

Promptly at 5:00 PM, a smartly dressed, dignified looking man arrived and introduced himself as Udumalai Chandran, the chief editor of the magazine. He told me that their monthly magazine concentrated on articles about upcoming businesses and business men, especially those who were also involved in service organizations such as the Rotary International.
He told me their circulation was around 26,000 a month and all of their revenues came from advertisements sponsored by the people they interview. So, even before he started the interview, he had made it clear that I would be paying him somewhere between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 4500 depending on the kind of advertisement I chose. He also showed me the last six issues of his magazine, each covering over 40 people, many of whom I recognized as fellow rotarians.

The interview lasted for over 30 minutes, during which time he asked all the standard questions and jotted down everything in good, chaste, high-quality tamil. Finally he asked for a photo and gave me a receipt for Rs. 1500 (which was all I was willing to pay - that too only because he had come all the way to my office). I told him I'd mail the cheque along with the photo during the course of the week. He thanked me, wished me all the very best for my new venture and left. As he was leaving, I asked him to leave behind the last issue so that I could go through it in leisure.

I mentioned this to a friend later that day and said that I had agreed to pay because I felt guilty for having brought him to my office, but I was not happy since I had never heard of the magazine.

He laughed and said that it would be worthwhile to check them out before paying them. He informed me that there is an organization called the Registrar of Newspaper for India where I could check for the existence of any newspaper or magazine in India. Promptly, I went to that site and searched for "Pothu Nanayam" by name as well as by the registration number given on the back of the magazine "TN/MS (S) 246". No such magazine was registered on that site!

Two days later Mr. Chandran called me for the cheque and I told him that since his paper was not listed in the Registry of Indian newspapers, I was no longer willing to pay him anything. He seemed flustered and sounded surprised at not being listed in the official registry. He briefly thanked me and hung up.

He seemed like such a nice man, but I think I did the right thing. I don't like paying for anything if I am not sure and it took me 2 minutes of guidance and 3 minutes of internet time to find out the antecedents of his "organization".

While I have no way of knowing whether the magazine is real or not, at least I was able to decide for myself based on the information available from authorized sources on the web.

Similarly, in the case of recruiters, there should be an avenue for people to find out the antecedents of people and organizations.

Knowledge = Willingness to check + access to information.
We, especially here in India, need to inculcate the first and provide the second. If we really want to help people, it should not be too difficult, especially if we are moved when we hear or read about poor, desperate people being cheated.

Instead of waiting for the slow moving wheels of the government to spring into action, we at have decided that we will provide facilities for recruitment organizations to register themselves along with details of which companies they officially represent. It may not solve the whole problem, but it is still a place to start.

If you have any other suggestions, do write in the comments section. Thanks.

Friday, September 26, 2008 is in private beta

We had a soft launch yesterday. Just for a few close friends and some of the early birds who had registered on our site. All systems fine and responding well.

We are sorry we could not accommodate all the registrants in this first round, but thanks for the overwhelming response. We will send you special invites as soon as possible.

The real launch is expected to be sometime around the end of October '08. It's an aggressive deadline, but we are very keen to meet it.

Look out for that invite.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cost of experience

So, what is the cost of experience today? I heard from a past colleague yesterday that it is about Rs. 10,000 for each year of experience. Don't understand?

Let me explain. Let's say a person has not found a job even two years after finishing college. Since he does not have any work experience, he does not get any offers. But he needs a job to get work experience. A classic catch-22.

Enter, a company that is willing to give him a service letter that states that he has worked with them for the last two years – with project descriptions to boot. At a price, though – for each year of experience that he wants the service letter to state, he needs to pay Rs. 10,000.

I have heard short-sighted people say that this is a victim-less crime. "After all, it has improved a person's employment-worthiness", they say.
Not only are people who have worked hard to gain experience deprived of a well deserved opportunity, the employer has also been hoodwinked into employing an experience-less, most probably unqualified, highly UNETHICAL individual. Who knows what he will get up to once he gets hold of confidential information during the course of his work?

Obviously, we need the law enforcement agencies to nail these fraudsters. But, I don't see that as the whole solution. We need to be able to prevent these unethical companies from plying their wares. NOW.

What we need is a decent credibility checking mechanism – for individuals and companies; a way to blacklist companies that are into such unethical practices; a way by which employers can share such information with each other.

Are there any providers of such facilities out there? In India? In the US? Anywhere else in the world?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NSG's impact on the Indian Job Market

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multi-national body that controls the export of fissile material. The group came into being after india detonated an atomic bomb way back in 1974, an event that was called Smiling Buddha. Since then, the members of the NSG have refused to export to India any material that can be used in making nuclear devices.

Earlier this month, the NSG, under pressure from the US, lifted the ban. As part of the deal, India will have to disclose which organizations within India are civilian nuclear establishments and which ones are military in nature.

Civilian establishments, which are/will be predominantly power plants, will in theory get access to enriched uranium required for the production of electricity, while military establishments will need to continue to fend for themselves.

India is expected to spend over USD 40 Billion over the next 15 years in building and running nuclear power plants!

Setting aside my apprehensions about what the future holds for us Indians, I would like to speculate on the effects of the NSG waiver on the Indian job market. Till date, all nuclear related organizations within India have been predominantly military in nature and limited in number. Getting a job in a nuclear power plant has been really difficult because of all the security regulations involved and civilians have had very little opportunities to find jobs in this sector.

However, once the waiver is in place, there are already clear indications that large business houses such as TATA, and Reliance will enter the field and build their own nuclear power plants solely to produce electricity. When that happens, the number of jobs available to civilians in this area is bound to sky-rocket.

And, we are not talking about the need for additional nuclear scientists alone here. We are talking about a whole range of other qualified people and secondary establishments needed for the smooth functioning of these massive power plants.

Nuclear power plants are like super large factories operating in 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, throughtout the year. To start with, we need to build them which means there will be a tremendous increase in the requirement for structural engineers, civil engineers, architects, and other construction related personnel.

Once the power plants are in place, there will be jobs for highly skilled individuals as well as entry level personnel. For probably the first time in India, there will be ample opportunities for people with pure sciences background (A group that has been completely deprived of meaningful employment opportunities in India). Obviously, there will be a need for more nuclear scientists, research assistants, laboratory assistants, power plant operators, computer operators, quality control engineers.

The large power plants will employ thousands of people which will mean that each of these establishments will be like townships leading to a wide variety of indirect employment - from schools and hospitals to transportation services, to restaurants and cinema halls.

Finally we come to the informal and unorganized sector consisting of drivers, house maids, plumbers, electricians, and others required for the smooth functioning of the townships.

I am yet to see any official figures on how many jobs will be created over the next 15 years because of the NSG waiver, but I am sure it will be in the order of hundreds of thousands of jobs and that is good news. Especially when you consider that the number of job openings are coming down in most parts of the world!

One thing I can't help wondering about though is what this 40 Billion dollar budget can do if we were to concentrate on harnessing some clean energy source such as solar energy. We could be pioneers instead of buying outdated, expensive and extremely dangerous technology. There's another blog post itching to get out.