The M & A Story : Business Moves with Gouri Athale

For News reporters, Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As) are the stuff headlines are made of: breaking such sotries doesn’t hurt when it comes to their promotions and raises, either. But there is a human cost to such M&As, or the sector consolidation which comes in its wake. And that human cost refers to job losses as companies merge with a consequent consolidation of jobs and someone bites the dust.

A recent news item on the possible job losses that could happen if the telecom sector goes ahead and consolidates got me thinking. According to this news report, nearly one-third of all jobs, direct and indirect, in the companies looking to merge could be lost. The Indian telecom industry employs some 3 lakh people, directly and indirectly. Just think what this could mean: one-third could be out in the next 12-18 months, if the mergers being talked about actually happen.

And what happens when automation and all the other stuff happens, making humans if not completely but even partially, redundant? More job losses even as our population numbers increase. Where are we to go, in this dismal state of affairs? Self-employment? But all of us aren’t equipped for that; we don’t all of us have skills to make a go of it. And even those who are self-employed face tough markets, starting with selling, distribution, marketing…. After first having made whatever goods or developed some service they think the market needs.

This refers only to the educated, or at least those with paper qualifications. After all, children of Class VI and VII are not able to read at Class IV levels so what is to happen to them when they graduate? Industry bodies have long lamented that under 20 per cent of graduate engineers are employable from day one.

This dismal note sounds worse coming so soon after the love celebrated on Valentine’s Day. It shows why everyone wants a government job: lifetime employment and job security to which is added the icing of a pension. No wonder that the army’s recruitment drive had so many young men camping all over the streets leading to the recruitment office.

If you talk to the person who runs a tiny, small or mid-sized business, the first thing he says is how difficult it is to get manpower. He isn’t even talking of trained manpower: that training he will provide, he says, but getting the people willing to work on the shopfloor, using their hands…. almost impossible to get the people to come in every day, six days of the week.

So what’s the solution? There isn’t one unless we as a society learn to respect people who work with their hands, the manual labour. Everyone was never meant to sit in an office, preferably air-conditioned, and work at the computer.

The thing with the Information Technology sector is that they have worked on the out-sourcing model for so long and the attraction of going, perhaps even staying permanently, abroad has meant that India has not really benefitted from this sector. Given the external situation, this could change and the Indian market would have to be addressed but then the big guys of the IT sector need to focus on digitising India.

Digitisation, as most of us have found, does away with discretionary powers of the`authorities’ be that the peon, clerk or the officer. And that is what we all want: the removal of discretion and the uniform following of rules and procedures. That could create its own eco-system and create an atmosphere that is not so glum and despondent. But we’ll have to wait a bit for that: everything has to come from abroad for us to learn, including the barriers being up by the developed countries and companies focusing on India.

 

Gouri Agtey Athale

Gouri Agtey Athale

Gouri Agtey Athale has been tracking Pune and its events for over three decades as a premier business journalist. She was till recently the Asst. Editor ( Pune Market ) for The Economic Times.
Gouri Agtey Athale

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