Sunday, July 26, 2009


DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN07 - Nandan M. Nilekan...Image via Wikipedia

I don't usually write about non-job market related stuff on this blog. But every once in a while, I need to express my views on other issues. One such issue is the Unique Identification project headed by Nandan Nilekani. I believe that, though this is not directly connected with the job market now, soon the Unique Identification will be playing a major role in every aspect of our lives including our professional one, so in a way, I guess this subject is not entirely off-topic.

I am planning to keep a close watch on how the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is progressing and give unsolicited advice every now and then. Please feel free to voice your thoughts as comments to this post.

The first task that the UIDAI is planning to embark on is to create a database of the 1.17 Billion Indian population. Apparently, the database will help in the issuance of identification cards for every person in India.

I already have two issues to raise here:

The first is about the database. While I hope they use the existing databases for a start, for the UID to really work where the others have failed, they have to ensure that the large portions of the population that have always fallen through the cracks are covered this time. One example of such a population is the Bihari population that has migrated to all parts of India in search of work. Take for instance the Biharis who have moved to Chennai who form a large portion of the labour force that is working on the MRTS projects. They have completely uprooted themselves from their native land and have moved to Chennai, lock-stock-and-barrel. They have no home address, many times no homes at all (living under the partially constructed MRTS), and have precious little by way of unique identification.

Can we take two or three such clearly identifiable "problem" populations and see if the envisaged solutions work?
Some questions we should be able to answer clearly include
1. How can they uniquely identify themselves?
2. How can they register under the PDS scheme?
3. How can they ensure that their children get admissions in the nearest public schools?
4. How can these people enroll under the NREGS, NREGA schemes and avail the benefits?
5. How can we provide them with (and track) the basic health coverage that they require?

I hope we do not just concentrate on the low-hanging, easily identifiable, middle class, urban population.

My second issue is even more fundamental - is providing an identity card workable?
Given that a fair number of people don't have homes, or even pockets (Remember, Sarees have no pockets), will people be able to hold on to these cards for long periods?
How ruggedized can these cards be?
What percentage of these cards are expected to be lost on an annual basis?
How long will it be before people report missing or stolen cards?
What will it take to provide replacement cards?
Will one need to go to a police station and file an FIR to get a replacement card?
What identity proof does one need to provide to get a replacement card?

I am sure we can think of a million other issues that are specific to poor nations such as ours, that are non-issues in more advanced countries which have these identity cards. So here is my fundamental question - Do we need to provide cards at all? What if we record into our database the finger prints (of all 10 finger, if you will) and the retina prints of every citizen? Anytime we need to identify ourselves uniquely, we have all that is required right there with us. Would that work? what are the problems?

Please do leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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Advice for participants of the Virtual Pool Program at Satyam

As you know, Satyam, or Mahindra Satyam as it is called now, has created a virtual pool program(VPP) for over 7500 of its employees. As part of the program, the employees will remain on the rolls of Satyam for another 4 months. During this period they will be paid a reduced salary, but would not have to attend office. If during the next 4 months, there are openings in Satyam, then these employees belonging to the VPP will be given first preference and reinstated in their old position. If, however, no openings materialize, then at the end of the four months period, the VPP members may have to resign and find other employment.

While this is not a satisfactory situation for anyone - employees or company, it is one of the few options that Satyam has had given the market and company situation. In my mind, I am pretty sure that a majority of the people in the VPP will not get reinstated unless the global economy dramatically improves, which is quite unlikely, though there are signs of recovery.

So, I thought it may be a good thing to list down some of the things that Satyam employees reading this blog could do to help themselves.

First, realize the following:
1. That you come from a company that has been one of the top 5 delivery organizations.
2. The Raju fiasco and the downturn in the market has resulted in this situation and not your performance.
3. Satyam, the company is also not entirely to blame for this situation.
4. As a trained Satyamite, you are probably one of the better software engineers in India.
5. Given a choice between an ex-Satyam candidate and any other candidate, most software services companies would still prefer an ex-Satyam-ite.
6. There are always opportunities for good candidate in any market.
7. The market will definitely improve.

Now, do the following:
1. Build your network now.
2. Start looking out for opportunities.
3. Call and tell your friends that you are looking for openings.
4. Get your paper work in order [Your joining letter, service letter, recommendations from your boss,...]
5. Request your company to provide you with a copy of the credential verification report that they would have procured when you were hired.
6. Build your profile with all the details of the projects you have done.
7. Keep an eye out for all the job openings within Satyam, so that you can quickly identify those that you are suitable for.
8. Join thousands of your fellow VPP members on and dramatically improve your chances of finding your next job.
All the best.