Over the past seven years, since I stepped out of college, I have realised that here in India, at least, the most important requirement for being selected for any job is 'good communication skills'. It does not really matter if the position in question is Rocket Scientist or Software Developer or Business Manager or Salesperson. The chief criterion remains the same.
It does not really matter if a candidate for the position of Rocket Scientist knows little about Rocket Science or if the one who wishes to be selected as a Software Developer is not too well versed with the tools of his or her trade or if the aspiring Business Manager does not know too much about Business Management or if the one who wishes to become a Salesperson for a B2B (business-to-business) IT (information technology) solution has sold only carpets in the past, as long as they all have 'good communication skills'.
The question now arises as to how do companies identify those with 'good communication skills'. It is quite simple really. Any one who uses two hundred words where twenty would suffice, with a fancy term, a 'buzz-word' thrown in here and there, is obviously 'the one' (a la the Matrix series!). It is almost needless to add that the ability to make a mountain out of a molehill encompasses the capacity to lie through one's teeth.
Later, these people are described as 'dynamic', 'proactive', 'go-getters', etc., and move up the corporate ladder, less on the basis of any concrete results they might have been able to achieve during their tenure with the organisations employing them, than on account of the visually appealing Power Point presentations they prepare and, once again, knowing where to drop in a buzz-word during the course of glib talk that is passed off as corporate discussion.
Coming to think of it, at least some of this happens overseas, as well, and even has serious repercussions, as is evident from the dot-com bubble burst in the US, when millions of dollars went down the drain because the money-bags, also known as investors, poured funds wherever 'dynamic', 'proactive', 'go-getters' with 'good communication skills' asked them to, after being suitably impressed by the castles they built in the air through their fancy presentations.
Closer to home, the shenanigans of these 'star performers' have led to the cancellation of call-centre contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars by companies like Lehman Brothers, Capital One, and Web.com. Apple cancelled plans to out-source, even after having hired a few people in India.
It is for such reasons, I believe, that Daimler-Chrysler expected their Mercedes Benz cars to sell like hot cakes just because they were launching these in India and, therefore, making the cars available at a much lower price than the cost of importing these that any Indian desirous of owning a Mercedes Benz, earlier, had to bear. It took them a long time to realise that Indians purchase these cars for the prestige value (as a means of showing off their success and wealth, in layman's language). It was then that they introduced the expensive S-class and Maybach cars and, soon thereafter, started making profits.
Similarly, I recall that the armchair-hunters who occupied senior-level management positions in Satyam Infoway decided to give away free coupons for internet access at the company's i-way cyber cafes, many moons ago, based on the premise that this would help increase the market-size by bringing in more first-time customers, who would then get hooked on to the internet surfing experience and hence bring in more business for the company, in a country where very few people own computers and still fewer have internet connections at home. On account of not being in touch with the situation on the ground, they did not realise that small, 'mom-and-pop' businesses operating as cyber-cafes were already providing internet-access at about half the rates of i-way at similar bandwidths and, more importantly, also allowed users to download or upload data from storage media like floppy discs, compact discs, flash drives, etc., which the i-way cafes did not. This was, obviously, not the only reason for the company getting into hot water at a later stage, but definitely symptomatic of the larger malaise that it was afflicted with.
Why then, you may ask, is the Indian economy doing so well, despite the 'dynamic', 'proactive', 'go-getters' with 'good communication skills'? I suspect the major advantage that India has in the services sector and, especially, IT Enabled Services, at present, is cost. The growth of services, obviously, has a salutary effect on all other major sections of the economy. As other countries like China beat India at costs, as they surely will, I believe, in the coming years, when they manage to build up sufficient numbers in terms of an English-speaking work-force, the scenario should change dramatically. China, of course, has a far more disciplined and hard-working manpower.
Meanwhile, another company that appears to have succumbed to the charms of 'dynamic', 'proactive', 'go-getters' with 'good communication skills' is Google Inc.! It is not Google's fault, perhaps. Whichever company comes to this part of the world, employs this kind of people at the senior level, who, in turn, go on to employ similar folk at a level junior to them and the chain-reaction continues, until the whole place is teeming with them.
Now, let us examine a very interesting aspect of all that the 'different kettle of fish' have done for Google. In order to make its search-engine even more useful, Google has region- or country-specific home-pages. Any of these pages, I suppose, gives precedence to pages from the particular country or region it serves, while displaying the search-results. This is, obviously, a brilliant idea and one that I would like to congratulate Google for. What is even more brilliant is that each of the country-specific pages provides several alternate interfaces, in different local languages. For instance, the page specific to India has alternate interfaces available in Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil, while the page specific to Pakistan can also be accessed in Punjabi and Urdu, besides English.
Punjab is one of the largest provinces of Pakistan and I am sure that Pakistani Punjabis would indeed have enjoyed using the Google search home-page in their own language, only if they could read it! The text on the Google Pakistan page in Punjabi has been written in the Gurmukhi script, which most Punjabis in the Pakistani part of Punjab can not read (except, perhaps, some members of the small Sikh community there). Most of them read and write the Punjabi language in the Shahmukhi script.
Incidentally, Punjabis in the Indian part of Punjab do read and write the Punjabi language in the Gurmukhi script. So, Google could very well have provided the Gurmukhi interface on its India-specific page, but did not, in spite of the fact that Punjabis form a sizeable percentage of internet-users in India.
Therefore, the bright folk that Google has employed in South Asia have left their indelible stamp on the respective Google search pages for India and Pakistan and Google owes an apology to Punjabis on both sides of the Indo-Pak border.
Update: February 22, 2009. The Gurmukhi interface has recently been made available on Google's page specific to India, even as it had been removed a long time ago from the page specific to Pakistan. Nothing is known regarding any apologies or the possibility of a Shahmukhi interface being made available for Pakistani Punjabis.