Long way to go

 

Training and research at the universities help the industries grow. The research and innovation needs State support system that is unfortunately lacking, says Dr Upinder Dhar, Vice Chancellor JK Lakshmipat University, Jaipur, in conversation with Syed Zafar Mehdi

Q1. Indian universities don’t feature much on the global map. What is lacking?

What is lacking is quality research. Indian Universities have a long way to go in terms of quality
research. In US and Europe, a large number of universities have acquired stature and recognition
as they have produced Nobel laureates through years of research. Indian universities too need to deploy meaningful resources in quality research for global recognition.

Q2. In Indian context, the focus of education is more on placements and less on research and innovation. What reasons do you attribute to it?

Yes, in India the orientation is to go for well-paying jobs. Research and innovation needs
a State support system that is unfortunately lacking. The population is large and stipend for
research and innovation is either not there or is woefully inadequate than what a job could get.
Even in the case of IIMs, the fellowships during research programs are nowhere near the salaries.

Q3. What procedure do you follow in attracting best talents and encouraging teachers to
embrace innovation and entrepreneurship?

At our institution, the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is highly valued. Our faculty is
involved in several innovative projects. They are part of National Entrepreneurship Network
(NEN) and have also initiated the activities with TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) and CSBE

(Council for Small Business & Entrepreneurship). Further, we are doing a major project with
University of Wales. This project has been funded by British Council and is aimed at driving
innovation in the SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) sector. Our faculty is attempting path-
breaking work on enhancing productivity of SMEs through innovation.

Q4. What are the areas where the university and industry can interface for the benefit of
students and for the betterment of education scenario?

Both complement each other. Training and research at the universities help the industries
grow and the practical experiences gained at the industries help in fine tuning the courses at
universities. The areas of interface therefore straddle all the functions.

Q5. At a time when universities are mushrooming, retaining and attracting competent
faculty members has become a major challenge. How do you deal with it?

We provide total academic and professional freedom. The faculty is free to undertake research
and conduct training programs besides teaching. The faculty is encouraged to network with
peers nationally and internationally. JKLU has tie-ups with five leading universities globally
for joint research and academic collaboration. Faculty is also encouraged to attend conferences
and is nominated to present papers abroad. It helps that the university is backed by renowned JK
Organisation which has a long-term vision to develop the university as a Centre of Excellence.

Q6. Lot of students in India take loan to fund their education. Do you think in-exorbitant
fees discourage students to pursue higher education?

No, that might be a popular perception but it’s a fallacy. High fee structure is not a deterrent for
quality institutions. Even IIM Ahmedabad charges Rs 15.5 lakh. By no means is that a small
sum. Students are skeptical of paying large amounts where credentials of an institution are not
well established. Well-established and trusted institutions demand and get good fees.

Q7. Many students are heading off-shore for higher education. How can this trend be
discouraged?

This can only be done by encouraging and appreciating good institutions in the country. There
needs to be a mechanism to support quality upcoming institutions. Another need is to encourage
Indian institutions to tie-up with internationally well-acclaimed institutions.

Q8. Has globalisation affected the scenario of education in India? Do you see any scope for
students to interact with global academia in the present scenario?

The interaction of students with global academia is already happening. India is fast emerging
as global player on the educational landscape attracting the attention of global academia.
Unfortunately a large number of sub-standard institutes are mushrooming in India bringing a
bad name to the education sector. But few well-known good institutions can’t be ignored. Global
academia is visiting India and students are able to interact with international faculty directly or
through video conferencing now.

Q9. How does your university frame its curriculum? Is there any education policy you
follow to meet the challenging standards?

We constantly review the curricula of leading institutes in India and abroad and have a finger on
the pulse of emerging trends. There is a lot of deliberation on this subject and the contribution of
faculty is vital.

Q10. What is your take on the public-private partnership (PPP) for enhancing job oriented
and technical education?

PPP is a good initiative provided that good institutions are chosen by the government which have
the mandate for value-based quality education and enjoy transparency in functioning.

Say No to Job Stress

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

While stress can be a motivating factor at times, it can also hamper productivity and performance of the employees, and adversely impact their physical and mental wellbeing. With recession hanging like the sword of domiciles over employees yet again, and things like ‘layoffs’ and ‘budget cuts’ playing on their minds, the uncertainty and anxiety among the workers has also increased, leading to higher levels of job stress. Finding ways to manage stress at workplace is perhaps the biggest challenge facing employees today. The better you manage your own stress at work, more likely are you to positively influence people around you.

In a study pertaining to stress at work, Andy Ellis of Oxford College UK draws a chart to suggest how stress can adversely affect employee’s performance. He argues that initially job stress can fire up the employee to produce good results, but if the stress level goes unchecked, performance takes a nosedive and person’s health also deteriorates. Age is also an important determining factor. A University of Utah study found that as stressed workers get older, their blood pressure increases above normal levels.

Stress can have positive influence on a person, but only to a certain extent. The feeling of prejudicial treatment by the supervisor, strenuous work schedule etc are bound to compound the work-related pressures and anxieties.Michiel Kompier and Cary L. Cooper in their book Preventing Stress, Improving Productivity: European Case Studies in the Workplace state that occupational stress is a serious problem for the performance of individuals, organisations and as a consequence, for national economies.

In a lengthy study, Tom Cox, Amanda Griffiths and Eusebio Rial-González from University of Nottingham Business School call work stress a major health concern. “The strategic argument for the management of work stress, on the basis of the available scientific evidence and current legal thinking in Europe is that work stress is a current and future health and safety issue, and, as such, should be dealt with in the same logical and systematic way as other health and safety issues.”

Stress often translates into feeling of boredom, and boredom is always counter-productive at workplace. Sandi Mann of University of Central Lancashire, England, in his study says boredom is the second most commonly hidden workplace emotion, after anger, and believes modern workplaces are becoming more boring.

The case of women employees is more critical. A new research by Dr. Michelle Albert, Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has found that women with significant job stress are almost 70 percent more likely to suffer heart stroke and nearly 40 percent more likely to have other cardiovascular traumas like stroke, than women less stressed out by work.

‘Clear Communication defines bottomline’

 

There needs to be clear communication in terms of what is expected out of employees to help them become productive, shares Mr. Sanjeev Goel, MD, Intec Capital Limited, in conversation with Syed Zafar Mehdi.

 

Q1. You started out as Finance Controller 25 years back, and now you are presiding over a
flourishing business enterprise. Has life come full circle?

Ans. No, we still have a lot to achieve basically. We are one of the companies dealing with SME sector
financing for all their machinery purchases, but right now we are present in only about 14 locations,
so there is a long way to go in terms of our presence, and in order to serve all the SME customers. In
terms of achievement, we have done decently well, but as far as continuing our endeavour and the
vision is concerned, we have to do a lot more.

Q2. How stiff is the competition among the financial service providers in country, and how do you
see the future?

Ans. If you talk of competition, it is there in every arena today. As far as our finance area is concerned,
there is a lot of focus from RBI side for financing the SME sector. A lot of new entrants are coming
to India, many private bank branches are opening, and RBI has made it clear that the priority sector
portfolio should be to the extent of 40 per cent of the total portfolio. There is a clear-cut focus, so the
competition is immense. But if you see our spacing, the way we work, and the way we handle the
situations, basically it is very different. In terms of the turnaround time that we can finance a case,
starting from the lead, it takes around 15 days, which none of the other financers can do because of
the infrastructure we have.

Other thing is, these bigger banks and financial institutions do not have the kind of infrastructure to
serve the small SME customers. They find it too expensive to serve this sector. We are financing
machines of 5 lacs onwards. We not only work on the balance sheets but also many other things.
The way we understand this sector and the kind of focus sector approach we have, it is very different
from banks and financial institutions. And, ours is a completely a relationship based model, be it with
vendors or customers.

Right now, we are trying to extend our base across Southern India and Western India, and we are
constantly striving to have our presence and maximum SME clusters. Presently, we are present in
about 150 clusters of about 360 clusters.

Q3. You have a firm grip on nitty-gritty and flip flops of financial market. What does it take for new
companies to establish their presence in the market?

In terms of establishing yourself in the financial market, you need a lot of experience, because you
cannot fund these SME customers just on the basis of balance sheets. You need to have lot of
understanding of each and every segment, the nature of SME customers, policies and processes to
serve these customers, managing the teams, and then basically your total management team itself.
The kind of understanding required is developed only through experience. It has been almost 18
years now since we started out, and over the time we have developed the processes to finance these SME customers.

Q4. Is there any formula or prescription you follow in winning the confidence of stakeholders and
customers?

Ans. For the customers, you need to understand their need basically. What is the exact need and how
you can provide them the right solution. And, you have to provide them timely and good service. If
you offer good service, they will be happy, and the response time has to be fast. You need to be
connected with them even beyond business. So, if you are able to connect with them and able to
deliver on your commitments, that’s all they want and require.

For the shareholders, you need to honour the commitments you make to them, in terms of growth,
profitability etc. Secondly, you have to be a complaint company, so that you manage all the
compliances well.

Q5. How do you evaluate the performance of the employees and what do you do to motivate them
to produce better results?

Ans. Ours is basically a KRA (Key Result Area) organisation. There is a clear communication in terms of
what is expected out of them. So, that is one of the keys on the basis of which we evaluate them. In
terms of motivating the employees, clear communication is a must. That is one of the essential things.
Most of the time, employees are not clear about what is expected of them. Secondly, you have to give
them the strategic thoughts as how to achieve the set targets. Thirdly, you have to constantly monitor
their performance. On the training front, you have to make sure if they need training in any of the
areas. If you do that, they will be motivated to perform well and achieve the goals.

Ans. How do you see the employer-employee relationship and the dynamics of workplace
changing?

The one thing that is majorly changing is that the pressure is intense today, on the employee and
the employer both. Today, the employee is expected to perform from day one. So, in terms of the
pressure for performance, it is way too high. The expectations from each other, whether it is salary
or perks for employee or delivery of service for employer, are also high. It is a working relationship
basically. There is no time for each other, to connect emotionally or understand each other. That’s
what is missing today. And, probably that is why you see high attrition levels today. You are not
interested in understanding his problems and he is not interested in understanding your problems,
and both of you end up putting pressure on each other.

Q6. How is the NBFC sector in India shaping up?

Ans. RBI has become stricter and stricter but in some of the areas, NBFC is really geared up to work. Like
in the area of micro finance, the kind of work NBFC has done is totally its forte because traditional
banks are not able to get into these areas. If you talk about car finance, infrastructure finance to the
SME customers, they areas are governed by NBFCs in present scenario. In certain areas, NBFCs
are really making a dent in terms of satisfying the customers they are catering to. I think there is lot of
scope and lot of potential for NBFC sector to flourish in India.

Q7. How difficult or easy is it to build successful management teams in a non-banking financial institution?

Ans. It is probably as difficult or as easy as any other area because there is lot of competition everywhere
today. In terms of building management teams, both the employees and employer have to work in
tandem, meet each other’s expectations and help each other in understanding what has to be done
and how it has to be done. So, it is all about knowing each other and working towards a common
goal.