You may have got good marks in your graduation, but that is not enough. You need “soft skills” to make that kill, says

Dola Mitra

        Just because you have a college degree in some stream or another, it doesnt guarantee you a job. In todays competitive job market, employers are going to look for something else. Whether you like it or not, at the job interview, its your fellow job seeker and competitor, who is perceived to have, for instance, better communication skills than you, is more likely to walk away with the job.

         You may have got good marks in your graduation, but not acquired what employers call, “soft skills.” These are essentially what is referred to as people skills”, which are the intangible skills such as the ability to communicate well or be innovative.

          But then, as you know, not many college list  soft skills in their syllabus as a possible subject of study. It is assumed that you are either born with it or you have to go and get it from somewhere else. It has never really been your colleges headache to ensure that when youre out there in the big bad world of employment, you can process and package the knowledge gained from your college education in ways that might help you land and hold a job.

          But that is about to change. St Xaviers College, Calcutta, is planning to introduce courses that would train students in acquiring soft skills and this may be as early as July this year. “The idea is to impart the kind of education that will make our students employable,” explains Father Mathew, principle of St Xaviers College. He points out that the courses will especially target students from the minority communities from underprivileged backgrounds, including handicapped students and those who have got admission under various quotas because of their marginalized status in society.

          And the area of focus of these courses will be acquiring skills that would help students get jobs primarily in such areas as information technology and IT enabled services, because of the vest employment opportunity that exists in these fields”, explains Father Mathew. For instance, one of the proposed courses that intends to impart basic professional skillswill not only include such computer application and software training as Microsoft Office 2007, Tally and Access, but also teach organizational skills and research skills”, along with courses in personality development and communication in English”.

           The soft-skills courses are going to add to the other, already existing career-oriented programmes, which the college had started in July 2006. The six courses in this category, which are on offer at the moment are — advertising; computerized accounting; foreign trade practices and management; logistic and supply chain management; tax practice and procedure and real estate management. The last was started in 2007 in collaboration with CREDAI Bengal, the well-known, Bengal-based confederation of real estate developers.

           According to professor Ashis Mitra, who is in charge of the career-oriented programmes, “ These courses were introduced in order to provide students with the opportunity to gain practical skills that would help them in their individual professions.”

           The six existing career-oriented courses are, however, not open only to students of St Xaviers college, but also to outsiders. Says Mitra, “There are quite a few professionals who take up these courses as a means of value addition.”

           With the exception of the courses in real estate management and logistic and supply chain management — for which the application criterion is a graduation degree or proof of appearance in the final graduation degree examination — the other courses are also open to under graduation students. There are no other prerequisites though, says Mitra, it helps if you have an academic background or a natural orientation in the area of your interest. However, for those who do not have that, additional tutorial material is provided to bring the student up to the standard that is being followed in the classroom. The courses — the completion of which will give you a diploma — are taught mostly by professionals from the different fields, though faculty members also include the colleges own teachers. The duration of the courses is from six months to a year and classes are held from three to five days a week for two hours (from 6 to 8 in the evening).

            The number of seats at the moment is 25 per class. If you are interested, application procedures for the next batch — which is in July — will begin end of this month or beginning of next. You can get the application forms from St Xaviers College on Park Street or download it from the Internet ( The fees vary, depending on the course that you are taking. They range from Rs.10,000 to Rs.18,000. The real estate management programme, for instance, costs Rs.15,000 and the logistic and supply chain management is Rs.18,000 for one year, payable in three installments.

             Details of the soft-skills courses—including cost and duration—are in the process of being worked out, but according to A.C. Gomes, vice principle, arts and science, St Xaviers College,” Initially it will be introduced to the BA and B Sc students who are enrolled in the general category since unlike students in the honours categories, most of them are from marginalized backgrounds.” Gomes explains that the general streams students and those who have gained admission under the reserved or handicapped categories do not usually have enough marks to make them employable and are therefore more in need of career-oriented training. He adds, “Many of the students are from the lowest echelons of the social and economic strata and do not always have the level of awareness when competing with those from more privileged backgrounds. In order to bring them up to the mark, it is necessary to equip them with additional skills that would help them compete in the job market.”

             Gomes point out that the whole endeavour to introduce career-oriented courses, especially to the more marginalized students of the college, is part of the vision of this college, which is ingrained in every Xavarian, and that is to provide an option for the poor”.    



Living in the clouds


People used to caviar will sneer at simple roe. But the huge pay hikes of recent years must come down to earth some day

             If you scan the newspapers today on job prospects and salaries, you can be pardoned for feeling a sense of bemusement. There are pessimists and optimists. The former talk of salary cuts and pink slips. The latter point out that Indian pay hikes this year will be among the highest in the world.

             The politicians are linking pay hikes to the rate of inflation. The finance minister wants companies to charge less for their products and services and so reduce profits. The Prime Minister says that corporate salaries and lifestyles should be curbed so that the rate of inflation can be brought down. The Prime Minister is an eminent economist, so he knows how illogical he sounds. But if it wins them brownie points with the voters, they dont mind what they say.

             But what is the reality? According to management consultancy firm Hay Group, salaries in India are forecast to rise 14.4% in 2008. This is the fifth successive year of double-digit growth and is matched only by Sri Lanka. Salary increases in that country have been higher because of the rate of inflation. So, much to the PMs and the FMs dismay, higher inflation may actually lead to salary increases in the private sector as companies move to reward their top performers to neutralize inflation. For the public sector, take home anyway increases with inflation as dearness allowance is linked to the consumer price index for industrial workers.

             The Hay Group says that job hopping is increasing; it could be as much as 20% in high-demand sectors. Thats because employees can expect a 40-45% increases in salaries when they switch jobs. In the information technology (IT) industry, where the doomsayers are talking about a slump, industry body NASSCOM says there will be a shortage of 500,000 people by 2010.

              Look at some more numbers. CFO Asia magazine says that Indian finance executives got the highest pay hikes in Asia in 2007. The 2008 Compensation Survey puts the average increase at 25%. The Hewitt associates 12th India salary survey says that in real estate and infrastructure the hikes were around 25% in 2007. Even in areas that are not booming, the increases were 13-14%.

              But look at it from the point of view of the Cassandras. According to the latest Team Lease Services employment out look report, the global slowdown and the rupee appreciation are expected to impact salaries in India very hard. Business confidence is grim and nobody is hiring. 




What’s hot: sector and cities

HOT… Delhi Bangalore

Infrastructure Pune Chennai

Telecom Hyderabad

Retail …AND NOT FMCG ITeS Calcutta

Insurance Manufacturing Ahmedabad

Mumbai Engineering

              For the correct piture, turn to Infosys, the bellwether for the IT sector. Head of human resources, T.V. Mohandas Pai, recently unveiled the companys recruitment plans. Infosys will hire 25,000 people in 2008-09, he said. This would be somewhat lower than the 33,177 in 2007-08. The average salary hike for Indian employees would be 11-13%, against 12-15% last year. (Incidentally, the hikes for overseas employees would be just 4-5%, which shows where the shoe is pinching.)

              The numbers are lower, but are they alarmingly so? “People used to caviar will sneer at simple roe,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Sing. “Huge pay hikes must come down to earth some day. There were massive increases because of the compensation disparities between India and other countries. Today, the differences have largely gone. Witness the stream of expats and NRIs returning to work in the country.”

               Subir Gokarn, chief economist for Standard & Poors Asia Pacific, gives a slightly different analogy in his April newsletter. “Remember that barely five years ago, GDP growth was below 6% a year,” he says. “Compared to that, we are now worrying about it falling to around 8%. That is perhaps the best reflection of how dramatically the economy and its investment climate have changed in such a short span of time.”

                The pessimists on the job front are really the irrational optimists of the past.  





Banibrata Banerjee

Promoter, Datapings Software

          Software is no longer a soft option. The majors are facing problems in a recession-wary US. This, in turn, is percolating down to smaller players at home. Today, just smart strategizing is not good enough. You need the patience to stick it out and the guts to overcome the frequent tight bends. Some have what it takes. Meet Banibrata Banerjee, the dapper promoter of Datapings Software, a Delhi-based software solutions firm.

               With a childhood spent in the dusty mining town of Dhanbad, there wasnt much in the environment to encourage him for a life in business. Coming from a solid middle-class background, his father a mining engineer, the emphasis at home was always on studies. So study he did and did it well. Says he: “I did my schooling from De Nobili School, Digwadih, Dhanbad. Those were the good days when life was only about studies and play.”

                School for a small boy in a sleepy town is always fun and he was no exception to this role. “I have fond memories of my schooldays as well as the vacations,” says Banerjee. He has the usual stories of making friends for life, hanging out together, experiencing the thrills of adolescence while sticking to a strict curriculum and regimen under the watchful eyes of his parents and his friends parents.

                Of course, De Nobili has had a firm hand in shaping his destiny. Apart from a large network to fall back on for securing business and general support when the going gets tough, the school helped me develop the attitude to adapt to diverse circumstances”.

                 And the ability to take risks grew from this attitude. The entrepreneurial streak was probably ingrained in him and the environment helped him firm that up.

                 But Banerjee took a safe option at first. He did his B.Com from Deshbandhu College, Delhi University, and then went on to do a postgraduate diploma in technology management from the All India Management Association.

                 He experimented with different companies before setting up shop on his own. “I worked with organizations like Panacea Biotec, India sky, Genesis PR, Development Alliance and Apollo Tyres. I had the opportunity to work with top-level CEOs and learnt a lot from them,” says Banerjee. One thing that has remained from the time he worked for others till now is his ability to meet challenges head on. This is probably the single-point secret of his success.

“In any business, there are problems but one needs to keep his nerve to succeed”  

                 After all this chopping and changing, entrepreneurship called. One fine day, he chucked his well--paid job to open his own firm. And thats how Datapings came into being. Another motivating factor for his venture was that the ideas that I had were not being accomplished as a mere employee”.

                 There has been no looking back since then. The company has grown from a paltry Rs.5,000 venture to Rs.6o lakh in the last fiscal; Banerjees eyes are set on a Rs.1,000 crore enterprise in the next 20 years.

                 His core area is providing software solutions, HRMIS, website development, intranet management, and database maintenance. He counts Apollo Tyres, the Orissa Forest department, various NGOs and several Department for International Development (DEFID) funded projects among his clients.

                 Of course, he wasnt without his share of problems and heartache. However, friends and family chipped in and helped him stand on his feet. Also, “in any business, there are problems but one needs to keep his never,” says Banerjee.

                 Banerjee has a simple formula that explains his success. “Honesty, sticking to my principles, and never for getting that sales price minus cost price is profit,” says Banerjee. He has as role models N. R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys and Indias milkman Varghese Kurien and tries to follow their examples.

                 So how does this techie businessman relax? He simply takes work as a challenge and negates most of the stress this way. Also, he loves watching movies and going off for impromptu drives with his family.

                And in a business where every day brings a new challenge, and choices matter, hes played smartly for now.  




Understand your portfolio composition


Most investors tend to go by the nature of the fund while looking at ever, most of the times, they forget that monitoring the performance of the fund is an essential part of the investment and this can lead to some disastrous consequences.

Nature of the scheme: Taking the nature of a scheme into consideration is a very important factor for a good mutual fund investment. Several benefits including tax benefits are associated with the nature of the scheme. An equity-oriented scheme has the benefit of a 0% tax rate on long-term capital gains and 15% on short term capital gains (10% earlier). To get this benefit the scheme needs to maintain and average of 65% of the assets in Indian equities during the year. If a fund is unable to do this then the classification gets changed to a debt oriented scheme and the fund investor will have to pay tax where there is a long-term capital gains generated on the scheme.

Importance of portfolio: It is vital to take a close look at the portfolio. It is not just important to see what is the composition of the portfolio and which area has different amounts invested. This only gives an idea about the quality of the portfolio. An investor must also check the percentage composition because this will give a clear idea about the kind of category that the scheme falls under and the overall risk that is being generated by the portfolio.

Change in the nature of the investment: This has happened where a scheme has been classified as a debt investment scheme because the portfolio composition fell below the specified percentage rate. Many investors failed to realize this position and they were in for a shock when they sold their units and found that a tax had to be paid on the gains that were generated. In case the scheme is classified as an equity—oriented one, there will also be securities transaction tax (STT) levied when the units are sold. If there is no STT, then the scheme will be classified as a debt oriented scheme. These are some small indications but most of them prove to be too late in preventing a hit for the investor.  


Most investors look at the nature of their mutual fund only at the time of investment

It is important to monitor the position of the investment even after wards

A shift in the nature of the scheme from equity to debt has several consequences

The composition of the portfolio determines the position

The tax impact in terms of STT and capital gains will change in case the type is changed




Everybody wants to be Walt Disney


Animation is definitely in but whats news is that students are shunning the routine subjects in favour of this offbeat course, a trend that the city has never witnessed before though its cousins like Mumbai and Bangalore had captured the mood much before.

             With DreamWorks Animation, creators of Shrek, Shark Tale and Madagascar, and Reliance Adlabs announcing its plans to set foot in Kolkata in a few months time, more and more students are enrolling for the animation courses with the hope to secure a job in this sector. The recently held Animation Awareness Workshop bore testimony to this fact. The event saw a huge turnout of 80 students from various schools such as Ashok Hall, South Point and St Sebastian, marketing the launch of Thumbnail Animation Academy, an institute to train individuals in animation.

            With the advent of big companies such as Adlabs and DreamWorks Animation in Kolkata, the scope of jobs for trained animators has definitely expanded. In fact, the animation field had not witnessed such a boom earlier,” said Arvind Chopra of Digital Magic Animation Academy.

              Explaining the sudden craze, Chopra said since animation is a skill-centric job, one needs to be trained in the field to gain an entry into the firms. Requiring a huge manpower, these organizations would definitely look out for skilled individuals and thats where institutes such as Digital Magic Animation Academy, Arena Multimedia and Ready to Go Animate come in.

              The institutes train novices and transform them into professionals. Though the course fees are usually a little high in comparison to other courses, around Rs.80,000 to Rs.2,00,000 for a certificate or diploma course, once a person gets into the industry, rich dividends are assured in the form hefty pay packets.

            Being the cultural capital of India, Kolkata offers a pool of talent as the people have an artistic bent of mind and an interest in art is essential for becoming a good animator. On the other hand, anyone can join this course as it is technically-oriented and with the right training, getting a good job will not be much difficult,” said Shantanu Chandra, director of Instaniqa.

              The job prospects are many as well. A beginner would have a variety of options to choose from—Web animation, Graphic, Sound etc. Each of these jobs would fetch an income of around Rs.8,000 to Rs.10,000 for someone just entering the industry. The figure can go up depending on the skill of the person as it is a creative field.

               So for all those seeking a career in animation, it is a green signal all the way and theres no stopping you thereon.      































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