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Interview with Frank-Jürgen Richter, Chairman, Horasis

Times of India, October 28, 2015


The talent pool in India is like a two-way pyramid - there are few people at the top who are exceedingly good and few at the bottom who are exceedingly bad. But at the middle, the number of job-seekers is very, very high and they possess mediocre capabilities, with the potential to do better or worse. How do we ensure 100 per cent employment for this large chunk in the middle?

Employing people is a difficult task and a task with a long gestation period. It is incumbent on governments or for profit educationalists to out-guess the economy a long time into the future to ensure a fit between the educated and the jobs looking to be filled. That naturally is dependant also on the global economy – we have seen a world slowdown following 2007 and the banking crash, but that is only 8 years ago. A full-term education takes 5 to 16 years from a person's life and longer, if we take university into account; perhaps 20 to 25 years for a person to pass through a doctorate and move into employment. Who can rightly guess that far ahead? Only now are some nations picking up – but the one-time driver, China, causes concern with its reluctance to grow fast. India has a higher projected growth rate, but from a lower absolute base. So, it is not surprising that education and getting the right skills set to match the jobs pool is a hard issue. We ought not worry about getting 100 per cent into employment - not everyone is a rocket scientist, or an Einstein; some, in fact, are very difficult to educate. Yet, for these poor folks, we ought to try to find jobs they can do to give them a sense of achievement and social well-being.

What would you say is the best time for entrepreneurship - at the start of one's career when one is full of enthusiasm or in the middle of one's career when one has more knowledge and a greater network?

Both times are correct, but the support networks differ. For the younger people with fewer ties and long-term commitments – like a new family and a home - a fast moving society is fine. They can indulge in 30-hour days and 8-day weeks! And also, if the law allows, they may be allowed to file for bankruptcy, to learn and to restart. These young people seem to acknowledge no boundaries and they creatively break barriers. The older person with commitments, a wife and a family, possibly older family to support as well, needs the support of his or her firm. In this case, the background enterprise may be able to create incubators and allow 'interpreneurship' where the researcher has a protected salary. They don't need to go for broke, but can and will work long hours to be creative. In fact, there is no age at which a person suddenly stops being creative; however, governments, industry and society have to be supportive and allow both men and women equal rights to search for new ideas and bring them to fruition. We must also recognise that not everyone wishes to be a researcher or an entrepreneur - many will be better fitted and more content to be a team worker.

The theory of a 'global economy' where global, rather than country based organisations work together to co-create a sustainable world is gaining ground these days. How feasible do you think this idea is?

In fact, we have all been doing this for centuries. Raw cotton was taken to the UK where it was treated and woven and cloth brought back to India. The fact that this decimated the Indian cotton production process was a bi-product of unthoughtful over-development and greed. Now, it is common-place to have Indian brains develop ideas in the US, have these ideas translated into semi-finished goods in Europe and perhaps assembled in India for global consumption. These ideas are feasible - what is needed is a sense of responsibility and 'give and take' so as not to over-exploit a regional economy. Again, we need education to allow all parties to understand critically the bigger picture and exploit the situation sustainably.


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