Universities as Custodians of Wisdom for the Future Generations: Manish Sabharwal

An interaction between Sri Manish Sabharwal, Vice Chairman Teamlease and Member, International Advisory Committee and the faculty members of Chanakya University was held on Tuesday, 29th August 2023 at Chanakya University. Sri M. K. Sridhar, Founder-Chancellor, Sri M. P. Kumar, Pro Chancellor, Prof. Yashavantha Dongre, Vice Chancellor and Sri Nagaraj Reddy, Chief Operating Officer were present on the occasion.

We present here a synopsis of Sri Sabharwal’s thoughts as shared on the occasion.

Sri Sabharwal began by expositing that there is no dearth for job opportunities in our country, but the problem is one of poor wages, and the reason being a lack of expertise and skills in employees. In his over 40 years of experience, he has noticed that the hiring standards have plummeted drastically in corporate India, because of unavailability of skilled resources. The career trajectory of a student to a great extent depends on the geographical location from where they hail. Students from rural India or even tier 2 and 3 cities obviously lack the opportunities that are available for those from the metros. He substantiated this with a job fair that was held in Jaipur with nearly 8,000 job leads that saw a turnout of a mere 800 job seekers.

Hence, ‘unemployment’ is not the right metric to understand the problem, and instead the focal point is ‘productivity’. Productivity from educated, trained labour is greater than productivity from less educated and poorly trained labour. What Indian human resource really needs today is ‘Atma Deepo Bhava’ as the Buddha has said to mean ‘be the light unto yourself or self-realisation’. The sources of light are what he calls infrastructure of human capital. These sources include intelligentsia, our own capacity to think and most importantly education institutions especially higher education institutions.

When we look at the problem from the perspective wages and productivity, we will then have to address challenges related formalization (education institutions like schools and colleges), urbanization (moving human capital from towns to cities where employment opportunities are available), industrialization (establishing more productive enterprises), financialization in human capital. Free and hight quality education up to K2 is essential in India.

Five design principles to transform India’s human capital over the next:
• Learning while earning – Learning should essentially be for ‘living’. But in a country like India, learning is also for earning. A skill can be learned in 6 months or a year and make a student worthy of earning. But this time isn’t sufficient to learn the finer life skills of confidence, maturity, being a team player etc. Vocational training is necessary but after the pre-university course. Besides, constant updating of skills is very essential, hence a large component of the workforce will be studying while being employed.
• Learning by doing – Practical experience is imperative to pick up many skills that cannot be taught theoretically through textbooks or even in classrooms.
• Learning by modularity – An opening balance of graduation, postgraduation, diplomas etc. are crucial to build upon.
• Learning by flexible delivery – On-job classroom, On-campus classroom, online classroom, Onsite classroom are essential to facilitate continues skilling of the workforce.
• Finally, striking a balance between cost, quality, and scale in a country like India with a vast population and varying socio-economic conditions. For instance, if cost is raised, quantity falls. If cost is lowered, quality may fall too. Optimizing cost, quality and quantity is an important principle.

Sri Sabharwal underscored the two-pronged role of a higher education institution like Chanakya University. First, the signalling value of Chanakya University as aiding the transformation of human capital over the next 25 years and as being an institution that is fundamentally ‘Indian’ in its spirit. He forewarns that to be modern is not synonymous with being Western. Hence, the university’s vision to impart quality education keeping the Indian zeitgeist at its core is the need of the hour. The second most important role is of Chanakya University as the ultimate ‘custodian’ of knowledge and wisdom. A university is not built overnight. The university belongs to none but the future generations. The administration, the faculty members are but safe custodians who protect and nourish it further only to be bequeathed by future generations.

The interaction concluded with a Question Answer session with Staff. Pertinent questions were raised by members of the audience that led to valuable discussions.