How the Disciple Became the Guru

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In the ’90s, India’s Information Technology (IT) industry learned to compensate for the country’s weak infrastructure and developed competencies that helped it become a top global player. Now several industries, including IT, have learned to overcome another major deficiency: India’s education system. They have adapted and perfected western practices in workforce training and development, and now take workers with poor education and weak technical skills and turn them into highly productive technical specialists and managers able to compete on the world stage.

This paper is based on detailed interviews with the CEOs, HR executives, R&D managers, and employees of 24 leading companies in rapidly growing sectors in India. We present an overview of their best practices in recruiting, training, managerial development, and employee retention. We conclude that out of necessity – because of educational weaknesses; skills shortages; competition for top talent; turnover; and rising salaries – leading businesses in India have developed highly advanced, innovative practices and that these are allowing industries in India to become globally competitive and grow rapidly.

The lesson that the U.S. and other countries facing increased global competition can learn is that workforce training and development may be essential to maintaining a competitive edge.