In the early 1980s on the streets of Delhi, a little-known company with an institute-sounding name, NIIT, advertised for students, talking about the future potential of an industry called software. Computers were then hardly in vogue in India, with IBM having been unceremoniously thrown out by the government in 1977. HCL, one of those companies that tried to replace IBM as a computer maker, parented NIIT. Yet, it was only a decade later that most of India woke up to the industry. Tentative beginnings were such that software experts at HCL and NIIT were then doing stuff that future giants such as Oracle and SAP were doing at the same time.
What India lacked then was two things: foresight and ambition. Typewriters gave way to computers, with old jobs fading and new careers springing up. The challenge for India now is to spot the future sunrise industries while shedding baggage of the past.
To a good extent, the dramatic informalisation of skilling initiatives under the Skill India mission does reflect a positive change from the moribund system of formal education, but the world has changed so much, that it may be desirable to find even newer grounds.
Schemes such as Make In India smell of the same old dreams: Build infrastructure, create factory jobs, and be like the China of the 1990s or US of the mid-20th century.
Things, however, seem to have moved on in the larger world. That is where futuregazing and future-readiness may be key performance areas for policy-makers, corporate strategists and entrepreneurs,
Increasingly, there is focus on creativity across a set of industries. This would require a mindset that goes beyond the narrow “skill” approach. There is no doubt that skills will generate higher Rajat Chauhan on how to make India a fitter and healthier nation