FMCGs: Dearth of skilled labour

Both FICCI report and the industry insiders say so.

Food is the biggest consumption category in India with a market size of USD 181 billion. It amounts to 21 per cent of India’s GDP and constitutes the largest share of wallet of the Indian consumer; about 31 per cent. However, it has been found in a survey conducted by FICCI that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the industry.


Current scenario


The study reveals that the industry will show tremendous increase in the demand of skilled labour in the coming five years. Product managers and engineers demand would increase by 100 per cent in 2015 to 13,05,304 from 2010 figures of 9, 53,876. Quality control and R&D specialist requirements would see an increase of over 95 per cent; supply chain and logistics managers requirement will see a rise of 63 per cent and there would also be a huge requirement of floor supervisors, technicians and mechanics which could increase by 70 per cent by 2015.


Agreeing to this Nitasha Mehta, VP HR & Training at Nirula's says “Because of the changing economic scenario, India is increasingly becoming a hot bed for the service industry. There is an opportunity for various service providers within the food industry to match the complex customer’s demands. Therefore, today we have all the big foreign brands competing with the established and new Indian brands. Every brand in the food industry has a share in the space. The quick pace in the growth of food industry is creating an impact on the supply of skilled manpower and suddenly there is a shortage in the availability of the requisite skill sets.”


The setback


The scarcity of these people is a problem. But why? It is due to less innovation in the learning and training process as the years go by and the technology keeps on getting new by every second. “India with its population does not have man-power scarcity. However, there is quite a sizable gap in quality of skill sets that are required by the food industry. Students though excel in academics, but are not updated with the soft skills and other key attributes and competencies that are a must for success in the food and beverage industry” says Sandip Maithal, Director – People Resources, McDonald’s India (North & East). Even though there is no manpower crunch, these factors make it difficult to find the right people ready for the industry.


In the research 35 per cent of the respondents were not satisfied with the course curriculum provided by the teaching institutes; 9 per cent of people are unsure of the course even if needed and 79 per cent of countries waste up to USD 1 billion for training their already trained staff on cutting edge technology, innovations and futuristic perspective and also how to focus on R & D which help in the development of the food and beverages sector.


The solution


How can we attract more people to work in this industry? What about the industry requirements? How do we fulfil those requirements? The solution to these questions in today’s scenario according to Mehta is “To aggressively train the young talent so as to reinforce and equip them with the requisite skill sets and this requires formalisation of a strong USP in the form of a dynamic career plan for them to be attracted to the opportunities created by this sector.”


The one component that is very important for this industry to grow is to provide the right education on which Maithal opines “I feel that this situation demands that academic institutions evolve integrated programs where there is significant emphasis on building soft skills, key attributes and competencies. This could also be achieved through meaningful and outcome focused interface between the academic institutes and the industry.”


Practical learning


With the emergence of multinationals in India, there is an increasing awareness and a need to align with the new technology in the food industry. Indian players today have felt the need for new economic dynamics and are forced to use new technology to have better operation. “Organisations are seriously evolving and implementing training strategy to fill the existing gaps in context to knowledge and awareness around the new efficient processes and technology leading to cost optimisation and enhanced efficiencies,” says Mehta. Our question is how is it done? Answering this question and also blaming the Indian education system Maithal says, “Institutes still fail to prepare students from vocation perspective, the issue exists largely due to high cost of infrastructure required and high cost of hiring faculties with significant industry experience. Most institutions lack necessary equipments, they have limited training programs like simulations or industrial tours for students and all these add up to the situation that currently exists in our country of limited people.” Our education system is still evolving but still it needs to grow on a much faster pace. Even the people of the industry should rise on this occasion and lend a helping hand.


Profiling workers


What is the mandatory criterion that one should have to be a part of the food industry? “The foremost criterion for a candidate is to choose food industry profession as a career and not as an alternative. This industry is driven by science, people with strong cognitive abilities, flair for science; patience and strong desire to learn would succeed very well in the industry.” And it’s true for all profiles, be it production managers & engineers, quality control and R&D specialists, supply chain & logistics.


Mehta adds, “The foremost criterion for anyone in the food industry irrespective of a role is to be customer-focused. The other significant skill sets that people need to possess should be industry knowledge, process knowledge, adaptability to fast and changing environment, innovation and enthusiasm.” A mix of all these characteristics and you are ready to be part of the food industry!


The recommendations are to have a better course curriculum, more force on technical knowledge for better innovations, good infrastructure and help from industry leaders. These will result in creating much skilled professionals for the food industry and will result in a win-win situation for all.


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