‘Sat­is­fy­ing, chal­leng­ing work’

Money should not be the main driver, say IRMA alumni who are chang­ing lives

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Ra­hat Bano

Ru­ral man­age­ment de­gree-hold­ers have never had it bet­ter. Here’s what some alumni of the In­sti­tute of Ru­ral Man­age­ment, Anand, up to:

Min­ing glory

Ajay Shas­try had a 14-year stint with Olam In­ter­na­tional Ltd, Sin­ga­pore, an in­ter­na­tional sup­ply chain man­ager and pro­ces­sor of agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties and food in­gre­di­ents. He was coun­try head for Olam In­done­sia Ltd be­fore he quit to ven­ture into the min­ing sec­tor.

The Pune-based top ex­ec­u­tive-turned-en­tre­pre­neur is now a part­ner in South­ern Africa Ferro Al­loys Ltd (SAFAL) since 2010.

“We are putting up a ferro al­loy plant in the south­ern Africa re­gion,” he says.

IRMA was a nat­u­ral choice for this grad­u­ate in dairy tech­nol­ogy who has tack­led­many a chal­lenge in tough times. “I had the op­por­tu­nity to build a busi­ness model from scratch – mod­elled on di­rect con­tract with over 50,000 farm­ers in a hy­per-in­fla­tion­ary en­vi­ron­ment in Zim­babwe. I rel­ished the chal­lenge of suc­cess­fully build­ing the busi­ness from scratch in a dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ment to a lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the in­dus­try space within three years. Ru­ral man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion proved crit­i­cal for me to un­der­stand and over­come the chal­lenges.”

He adds, “The ru­ral/al­lied sec­tors al­low one a lot of free­dom to in­no­vate and put your ideas to work. The feel­ing of own­er­ship is im­mense. The diver­sity and rich­ness in work is of a dif­fer­ent or­der. There is no monotony in work­ing in such sec­tors - ev­ery day is a new chal­lenge.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, ru­ral man­age­ment is the “most rel­e­vant” ed­u­ca­tion for a coun­try like In­dia. “The size of agribusi­ness (sup­ply chain, agri in­puts, seeds, agri equip­ment, the de­vel­op­ment sec­tor and al­lied agro in­dus­tries) is sub­stan­tial, which is poorly un­der­stood in youngis­tan and hence poorly catered to.” A ca­reer in ru­ral man­age­ment/agribusi­ness/de­vel­op­ment sec­tor is not only chal­leng­ing and sat­is­fy­ing but the op­tion also “pro­vides a less clut­tered pro­fes­sional space for a healthy ca­reer growth,” he says.

Giv­ing an iden­tity

Ra­jiv Khan­del­wal is di­rec­tor of Aa­jee­vika Bureau in Udaipur, which of­fers sup­port ser­vices to un­skilled labour and mi­grants. His non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion’s key ser­vices in­clude photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards is­sued to this group of peo­ple who can then use these to ac­cess bank­ing ser­vices and for em­ploy­ment pur­poses. “With the help of a sim­ple form, im­por­tant de­mo­graphic, mi­gra­tion and oc­cu­pa­tional in­for­ma­tion is col­lected. This in­for­ma­tion is ver­i­fied by the sarpanch – the elected head of the Pan­chayat. Fol­low­ing this, the photo ID card is is­sued to the mi­grant worker. The Aa­jee­vika Bureau photo ID is au­tho­rised by the gov­ern­ment of Ra­jasthan’s depart­ment of labour through an of­fi­cial or­der is­sued in 2008,” as per of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion.

“I’ve en­joyed the re­cur­ring chal­lenge and the high change one can bring about in com­plex, of­ten ad­verse, sit­u­a­tions in which our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are caught. My cur­rent work ad­dresses a press­ing con­tem­po­rary is­sue of our coun­try – viz ru­ral to ur­ban mi­gra­tion – and bring­ing solid so­lu­tions to re­solve these keeps me on my toes and my mind buzzing,” says Khan­del­wal.

And for young pro­fes­sion­als, there are “im­mense op­por­tu­ni­ties” in the ru­ral sec­tor, par­tic­u­larly in the non-profit sec­tor. “The non­profit world is go­ing through a se­ri­ous trans­for­ma­tion with highly spe­cialised or­gan­i­sa­tions in the field of pub­lic health, ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, liveli­hood gen­er­a­tion and fi­nan­cial ser­vices serv­ing both ru­ral and ur­ban poor. A new genre of so­cial en­ter­prises has emerged that brings so­cial good with busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy sen­si­bil­ity. Young ru­ral man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als can be­gin from work­ing at the cut­ting edge, im­ple­men­ta­tion level for thou­sands of op­tions (that) ex­ist. It would be un­fair to com­pare the ru­ral, non-profit sec­tor to ca­reer and money op­tions in the cor­po­rate world – the two are dif­fer­ent tra­jec­to­ries but the op­tions of do­ing high im­pact, so­cially rel­e­vant work are now as wide as the op­tions of work­ing in the cor­po­rate world,” says Khan­del­wal.

Seva and sus­tain­abil­ity

Nee­l­ima Khetan has come a long way - from work­ing at a Gandhi ashram in a tribal area to head­ing the cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity sec­tion of Coca-Cola.

She has worked with Pradan (Pro­fes­sional As­sis­tance for De­vel­op­ment) and Seva Mandir, both NGOs, fo­cus­ing mainly on is­sues of liveli­hood, ed­u­ca­tion, women’s em­pow­er­ment etc.

Her present role as gen­eral man­ager, CSR and sus­tain­abil­ity, Coca-Cola, in­volves look­ing at how the busi­ness can be so­cially sen­si­tive, re­spon­si­ble and sus­tain­able – for ex­am­ple, “how we use wa­ter, mak­ing ef­forts to re­plen­ish wa­ter.”

Khetan says her big­gest achieve­ment is, “(I) have come to ap­pre­ci­ate the value of grass root work, and have come to recog­nise the pos­si­bil­i­ties – as well as the lim­its - of mod­ern man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion in trans­form­ing so­ci­ety.”

Work in such do­mains re­quires loads of pa­tience, she says. A per­son who wishes to get into the ru­ral de­vel­op­ment sec­tor must, first of all, have pa­tience. “And the other qual­ity is re­spect for oth­ers. You should have the abil­ity to lis­ten to ev­ery­body and the abil­ity to learn from ev­ery­body,” she adds. You may not get too much money, but the work is re­ally chal­leng­ing and sat­is­fy­ing be­cause of the com­plex­ity and scale of some of the prob­lems you han­dle, such as mal­nu­tri­tion, ed­u­ca­tion to all, and im­mu­ni­sa­tion. “There’s an op­por­tu­nity for you to re­ally make a dif­fer­ence,” she says.

Shar­ing knowl­edge

Shirish Sinha is us­ing his train­ing to share knowl­edge for im­prove­ments in agri­cul­ture, foundries and hous­ing de­sign. He is se­nior the­matic ad­vi­sor – cli­mate change at SDC – Swiss Agency for De­vel­op­ment and Co­op­er­a­tion, Delhi. At this bi­lat­eral or­gan­i­sa­tion, they de­sign, de­velop and sup­port pro­grammes in the area of en­ergy and cli­mate change, some­times in as­so­ci­a­tion with NGOs and some­times with gov­ern­ments.

Un­der one of the pro­grammes, Sinha says, “we have helped de­velop or im­pro­vise tech­nolo­gies used in foundries and glass-mak­ing to make them more en­ergy ef­fi­cient. We also continue to work in cen­tral In­dia, es­pe­cially in Ma­ha­rash­tra, for re­source-ef­fi­cient best prac­tices.” Most of their pro­grammes are be­ing fo­cused on ca­pac­ity-build­ing – to build a new cadre of cli­mate sci­en­tists.

Talk­ing about the ca­reer prospects, Sinha says, “For the next few decades, the ru­ral econ­omy would shape some of In­dia’s de­vel­op­ment...Fu­ture growth po­ten­tial is in ru­ral ar­eas.”

Ajay Shas­try

Ra­jiv Khan­del­wal

Nee­l­ima Khetan

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