India seeks Kiwi hands for skills development

Venkat Raman – 

Speaking to a cross-section of the Indian Diaspora more than five years ago, the then Minister of Human Resources Development in India, said that New Zealand education providers including Universities and tertiary institutions should set up presence in his country, rather than luring students here.

He said that India needs 5000 more colleges and 50 new universities over the 20 years to meet the growing demand for education. He also said that there was a pronounced need to change the pace of education, and the vehicle used for its delivery.

Ruffled feathers

“There is plenty of work to do in terms of training teachers, smart and innovative methods of promoting courses and programmes and widening the scope of distance learning. We must introduce modern but indigenous methods including the use of graphics, interactive coaching.

“New Zealand needs the market for its courses and programmes and India can provide it, within India. This should be considered as a new model of cooperation,” he said.

That speech, made on April 11, 2010 at a meeting held at Stamford Plaza Auckland, ruffled a few feathers and even angered many.

Repeat Appeal

There was a similar tone in the speech that some of us heard from Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State (Independent Charge) covering Parliamentary Affairs, Minority Affairs, Skills Development & Entrepreneurship, who was on an official visit with a delegation of parliamentarians and bureaucrats to New Zealand.

The dinner meeting, held at India Gate Restaurant in Auckland on June 2, was organised jointly by the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) and the New Zealand India Friendship Association (NZIFA), the first of its type since the latter was formed more than a year ago.

“We are a country of more than 1.2 people but only 3% of our population is skilled, compared to Korea (where 96% are skilled), Japan (80%), Germany (72%), United Kingdom (69% and China (29%). We have for decades concentrated on education, without realising the importance of training our people to become skilled workers and skilled professionals. The BJP government is determined to correct this drawback and has therefore created a new ministry for Skills Development,” he said.

Training significant

Mr Rudy said that training formed the single most important pre-requisite for economic development and self-sufficiency. The Indian economy is slated to maintain average growth of 7.4% on annualised basis (as seen in the two recent quarters), higher than that of China.

“Our immediate target is to lift the share of the manufacturing sector from 12% (of GDP) to 20% over the next few year, which can be achieved through high standards of skills training. We look up to New Zealand for help,” he said.

Admitting that India’s engagement with New Zealand has been minimal (with no more than $1 billion in two-way trade), Mr Rudy said his government was eager to make amendments. He said that such engagement (with all friendly countries) would be based on three chapters, namely Legislature, Inclusiveness and International Diplomacy.

Technical Partnership

“New Zealand is becoming a popular destination for our students, businesspersons, investors and tourists. We have a partnership in defence and we now invite your government and people to join hands with us in improving the skills of Indians,” he said.

Indian High Commissioner Ravi Thapar said that India and the Indian government were keen to foster better relations with New Zealand and that the objectives can be achieved through better understanding of each other’s needs, abilities and priorities.

“We invite New Zealand to be an effective ‘Technical Partner,’ which would provide ample opportunities to New Zealand companies, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to lift the level of engagement for the benefit of all,” he said.

Growing potential

Former INZBC Chairman Wenceslaus Anthony spoke of the huge and growing market potential in India, saying that some businesses may be ‘battling to do with business with India.

“Many of the big corporate entities across the world have established their presence in India. New Zealand businesses should also take that extra step,” he said and asked, “Are businesses in New Zealand prepared to take up this challenge?”

Speaking for INZBC and NZIFA, Mr Anthony said that the two organisations want to be a part of Prime Minister John Key and the New Zealand government to double exports to India in the next ten years.

“We cannot go far selling to ourselves of only around 4.5 million population. The long-term growth prospects of New Zealand will depend on how well we are able to fine tune our response to trends, such as rapidly increasing demand for higher value consumer products from Asia’s growing economies and India would be a great focus with about 1.2 billion population. We need more New Zealand companies looking at India with the right attitude and ambition,” he said.

Exciting plans

Earlier, Westpac SME Lead Damian Sharkey said that New Zealand and India had begun to discover each other and that the development plans of India were truly amazing.

“New Zealand must seek active partnership in these development plans,” he said.

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