Soft-skills Abilities a Key Requirement for the Indian Workforce

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

June 16, 2022

Economies are now pushing towards increasing their human capital resource, and possessing technical skills is a vital component to being gainfully employed. Countries across the world are investing heavily on equipping their workforce with knowledge in emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence, data analytics, cyber security, blockchain and the internet of things have become buzzwords in this new age.

Possessing one of these technical skills also makes an individual much sought after in the talent marketplace. Companies are ready to pay handsomely to onboard such talents in their business with the promise of being future-ready in these competitive times.

In this race to be the first in digital competitiveness, many businesses are overlooking the need to sought and develop other much-needed soft-skills capabilities such as leadership and communication. This is one of the topics being covered in our upcoming Horasis India Meeting, to be held on 25-26 September, 2022 in Vietnam. The meeting will bring together 300 of the most senior members of Horasis to inspire India’s future.

India at the Cusp

This cannot be much truer considering India is at the cusp of a major shift in its economy. In a post-budget press conference in February 2022, India’s chief economic advisor said that India’s economy may likely touch $5 trillion by 2025-26 or 2026-27.

The country also boasts of a strong startup community. India now boasts of 100 unicorns with a total valuation of $332.7 billion. Just last year, India’s tech startup Freshworks became the first Indian SaaS to get listed on Nasdaq, pushing its market valuation to $13 billion.

But this may quickly turn into a pipedream if the supply side is not addressed. The workforce entering the talent market in the country lack soft skill capabilities, which include cooperation, leadership, pro-activeness and empathy. Most institutes seldom educate their students on these significant parameters, further pushing the cost and time for individuals to become employed. 

Being well-versed with technical and domain knowledge is not enough. The ability to effectively interact and manage both internal and external teams, along with effective client management, stem from core soft skills. These are capabilities that will continue to be in demand among employers.

India’s Push to Become an Export Hub

In a video conference addressing the Indian business community abroad, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Local Goes Global – Make in India for the World”. He has urged the global Indian business community to develop foreign markets for India-made goods. “This is the time for us to establish a new identity of quality and reliability. We have to try that there is a natural demand for high value-added products of India in every nook and corner of the world,” he said.

A promising signal for Indian businesses. But are they ready to leverage this opportunity? There still lies significant areas which need addressing. First is the need for a quick export-import clearance. To be part of the global value chain (GVC)in manufacturing, India will need to excel at just-in-time production and supply chain. India’s contribution to products manufactured through GVC is very less. Its share in high-margin commodities such as integrated circuits is 0.01%, mobiles is 0.19% and LCDs is 0.04%.

Another is the lack of better customs and border infrastructure. It is 15% to 20% cheaper for Indian firms to trade with businesses in Brazil or Germany than with its neighbor Bangladesh. A truck carrying goods need an average of 138 hours to cross the border between India and Bangladesh. What further aggravates the situation is the inability of freight trucks to cross the border. Trucks coming from India will need to unload all the shipments on to Bangladeshi trucks and vice versa. This process alone consumes 28 hours.

These processes are both time consuming and costly. This also further impacts the cost of the goods, eventually affecting consumers’ spending power.

Way Ahead

Strengthening foreign investment strategy alone may not yield desired results. Businesses should also join the bandwagon by pushing for upskilling its workforce in soft skills. There’s much work pending, and as the Indian government works on developing favorable policies to upgrade its export capabilities, Indian firms too, will need to start investing in upskilling its workforce in soft-skill capabilities, such as being adept in learning foreign languages, effective leadership and communication prowess.

Institutes and coaching/mentor centers present a viable opportunity for developing and enhancing soft skill capabilities among the new workforce entering the market. Educational institutes will need to include soft skills as part of the curriculum, which is regularly updated and adheres to industry standards. Similarly, the Indian government and the business diaspora will need to start initiating the need and awareness around soft-skills development.

As the government continues to do its bit, it is critical to understand that this is not an area for the government to develop alone. Only with a collective approach can India realize its vision of becoming Asia’s export hub.

Photo Caption: Cargo being loaded at a port in Cochin, Kerala. Photo by Kingsley Jebaraj on Unsplash.