Can India stop being obsessed with Salaried Jobs

Poha Seller Rajendra Bhuj, Kutch in Gujarat

Recently Prime Minister Modi said that, "Even selling pakodas is a job". Congress leader Chidambaram wanted to know how many jobs had been created. A few days later the World Bank said, "India needs to create regular, salaried jobs with growing earnings rather than self-employed ones in order to join the ranks of the global middle class by 2047."


In the absence of credible data the political tug-of war on jobs shall continue. Having said that, one way to ascertain job growth is to look at corporate and industrial data.


According to a MINT report, "corporate jobs grew at an average annual pace of 4% between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2009. The pace of job creation was less than 1% in fiscal year 2013 and a little above 1.5% in fiscal year 2014. Fiscal year 2015 actually saw a contraction in jobs, after which there has been a slow recovery." 


Unfortunately the eco system in our country has made getting a job the ultimate achievement.  Within that government jobs are at a premium because they give job security, periodic pay increases, pension with lesser accountability. This week apprentices blocked trains, on the central line of Mumbai's suburban railways network, because they want to be absorbed by railways, is a case in point. 


What most fail to realize that a burgeoning salary and pensions bill leaves fewer resources for development. Did you know 43% of Maharashtra's revenues for FY18 are eaten by these two heads and P&A, Pension costs are 56% of the Ministry of Defence's total expenditure in FY 18. 


Further with a 130 crore population there are limits to the number of jobs any democratically elected government can create.


It is in this context that there needs to be a movement to become job creators instead of employees. Entrepreneurs who build their businesses around consumption of roti, kapda aur makaan shall always do well.  


This article shares stories of people who became entrepreneurs and ideas on how the government can create an enabling environment.


During a recent visit to Kutch the author met Rajendra who sells Poha in one of Bhuj's busy streets. Sales are from 7 am to 12.30 noon. On an average he sells about 150 plates of poha daily @ Rs 20/ a plate. He left his Mumbai job to return home. From 5 to 9 pm the person who owns the shop sells chat. Each dish sells at Rs 30/. Morning and evening there is a never ending stream of customers.


Business Standard Weekend 10th March 2018 spoke of a Tea Stall in Pune (Yewale Amrutalay) that sells tea worth Rs 12 lakh a month. The popularity of street food in Indore is known countrywide. And these are only a few examples.


Let us respect food stall owners, even though they are not convent educated, who create wealth and generate employment.  


Governments can create khau galis in designated areas and ensure area is clean.


About 15 kms from Bhuj is Bhujodi village. It is best known for its weaving products. Here visited Shyamji Bhai Vankar's shop. He belongs to the Meghwal community, named Harijans by Gandhiji and scheduled caste by the Indian Constitution.


The shop sells shawls, saris, stoles, bedcovers, carpets, etc. During the two hours that I spent saw many foreigners and a couple who run a leading textile studio in Kolkata that sells Indian handcrafted wearable textiles. Shop accepts payment by credit card. Shyamji speaks English, Hindi and Gujarati fluently.


Shyamji's shop provides livelihood to about 225 people of whom app 35% are women. Similarly Shrujan, a not for profit NGO that works for craft revival and sustainable livelihoods for women, works with over 4,000 women in Kutch.


                        Shyamji Bhai shop in village Bhujodi near Bhuj, Kutch in Gujarat

The government can promote tourism to Kutch and ask government stores like CSD to buy from here. Similar clusters like Ima Market Imphal and Darkot near Munsiyari in Kumaon, must be promoted.


Next the author needed a taxi for a twenty day Tamil Nadu trip and was introduced to English speaking Velu. Employed as a personal driver he wanted to be self-employed. Notwithstanding the pressure of monthly EMI's Velu is happy and hopes to have more taxis soon.   


The government can promote tourism to Tamil Nadu.


Sandeep Rai, District Coordinator, Centre for Advanced Research & Development, Dindori Madhya Pradesh shares an interesting story of Ishwar Das Tanwani.


Born in a small business family Ishwar started by selling 'bhajias' to pilgrims in Narmada Dindori over the weekends. After doing matriculation he moved to Kolkata where he worked as a wage attendant and clerk in a Bus company. He returned to Dindori in 2001 with Rs 90,000/ and set up a shoe shop. Overcoming numerous challenges, he has a chain of shoe stops in Dindori today and employs about fifty people. 


Ishwar's success mantra - never compromise on quality, lose self-confidence and stick to what you know. 


At the other end of the spectrum is Vinita Kumar, an investment banker turned business women who runs Tianu, a furniture store in Mumbai that designs, produces and sells furniture. Since a corporate job was the most coveted after a government one twenty-five years ago, she did a masters in finance but eventually gave it up for her heart lay in furniture design.


Vinita states one can become an entrepreneur when you are passionate about something, or have a skill. Today her furniture company provides employment, directly and indirect, to over forty people.


Are those referred to above counted in any employment survey? Yet they are part of India's burgeoning middle class!


What is common to these stories is possession of a skill, willingness to take risks and being driven by something you relate to. These traits must be instilled in the youth by every teaching institution. 


Notwithstanding the fact that scaling up from thousands to millions of entrepreneurs is not easy if the government focuses on providing electricity 24 by 7, improving road connectivity, creating a free market, promoting tourism and skilling job creation would leapfrog.


Will more Indians support entrepreneurship and or become entrepreneurs themselves?


The author is an independent columnist, founder and Chartered Accountant.


First published in The Economic Times. Link here

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