Import bill for oil itself is a serious issue in the context of not just balance of payment, but also in terms of energy security and large import of electronics surpassing even oil imports, is a serious issue in terms of balance of payments
Hyderabad: Voicing concern over the growing import bill of electronic products, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) member Anil Kakodkar on Friday said such massive import is not good from the strategic point of view, reports PTI.
"While we have benefitted from the open door policy that we have followed for imported products, we should also realise that we have become that much more vulnerable. It is now well-known that India's import bill for electronic products would exceed that for oil and hydrocarbons," Kakodkar said, after launching a 'Programmable Logic Controller' (PLC) developed by the Electronics Corp of India Ltd (ECIL).
"This does not speak well. Because, import bill for oil itself is a serious issue in the context of not just balance of payment, but also in terms of energy security. Such large import of electronics surpassing even oil imports, is a serious issue in terms of balance of payments. But I think it is a huge issue in terms of security of Indian cyber space," he said.
He said dependence of individuals, as well as of the nation, had increased upon imports. An awareness needs to be brought about on these issues.
Talking to reporters later, Kakodkar favoured certain degree of protectionism to indigenous development. "Because you ask somebody to come out with a new product and compete with something which is already in the market. That itself is a market barrier for new devleopment. It is very clear also that creates a lot of vulnerability."
"In some countries abroad, there are rules saying in the strategic area, everything you source has to be of local origin. They go through lot of audits to make sure whether there has been a breach on that policy. According to me, this is perfectly logical," he said.
Asked where does the problem lie for the import bill in electronics being so high even after so many years of independence, he said there is no point in blaming the government and a "cultural correction" is needed amongst all.
Saying that it applied to several other sectors like power and steel and not just electronics, he felt that a feeling of Indianness and strong linkages among R and D, commercialisation and human resource development to develop the required capabilities.
Appreciating the ECIL, a PSU company, for bringing out security products in IT area, he said the journey should eventually lead to national capability of total solutions in terms of ICT requirements at least in strategically important domains.
Maintaining that the awareness to convert laboratory development into a commercial product "has not sunk in" in the scientific community in the country, he felt that it is one of the reasons for not being "so successful in translating all our R and D into commercially robust products".
YS Mayya, CMD, ECIL stated that the corporation will be targeting the PLCs at strategic sectors of atomic energy, defence, aerospace and homeland security where safety and security cannot be compromised.
Currently Indian market is dominated by foreign brands which, due to commercial reasons, does not expose their designs and software for full verification. There have been problems of denials and end-user restrictions in past, he added
Speaking at a Moneylife Foundation seminar, IRDA chairman J Hari Narayan said that the need for various implants is real and it has to be addressed as disability can happen due to accidents, medical condition or at birth
In most cases, medical treatment under insurance does not cover prosthetics/artificial limb, when in fact, this is absolutely essential for an amputee to live a normal life. Col (retd) Satish Mallik, a Kargil war veteran and amputee himself, brought this to the attention of the insurance regulator at a special meeting organised by Moneylife Foundation on 16th May. Col Mallik and Lt Col Prakash represented The Challenging Ones, a not-for-profit organisation that encourages and helps amputees not only to lead a normal life, but look beyond and participate in sports and other activities.
Col Mallik said, "There is need to cover repair and replacement of a prosthesis, if this is deemed appropriate by the insured's treating physician/prosthetist". He said that at present, only few mediclaim policies cover prosthetics and out of them only Max Bupa covers up to the sum insured. While the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) does give limited facility for fresh amputees, some group plans cover prosthetics for even existing amputees. "Individual mediclaim should cover fresh amputee and possibly existing amputees too", he requested.
Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) chairman J Hari Narayan immediately acknowledged the need for mediclaim to cover prosthesis. He said, "The need for various implants is real and it has to be addressed. Some mediclaim policies cover prosthesis and there is need for others to cover. We will advice companies about it. There is increasing need for various types of implants. Disability can happen due to accidents, medical condition or at birth. Prosthesis is essential part of the treatment for loss of limb. However, certain embellishments may be viewed as cosmetics and may not be covered and we too will not support it."
The Challenging Ones NGO gave a memorandum to the IRDA chairman requesting him to ensure that all insurance providers be mandated by regulations to offer mediclaim and accident cover policies to cover the cost of provision of prosthesis/ artificial limbs to the insured person, up to the sum insured and without any artificial cap.
The memorandum states that "The exclusions like war and war-like situations, natural calamity, act of terrorism may also be waived off to cover the provisions of Prosthetics under all medical/accidental insurance policies. This waiver may be given to the insurer on an enhanced/additional premium. Worldwide, in countries which have a market economy, insurance companies are mandated by regulations to provide prosthetic coverage under Medical/Accident insurance policies".
The Challenging Ones is a platform for the challengers (people call them physically challenged). It is a peer support group to hold hands of new amputees. It promotes sports for amputees.
Here is the memorandum written by Maj D P Singh and submitted by Col (retd) Satish Mallik and Lt Col Prakash of The Challenging Ones to the IRDA chairman:
They help CEOs cope with change enabling them to keep their ear on the ground
As leaders move up the ladder, they have fewer touch points within the organisation with staff at junior/senior level. They can lose touch with the reality. In professionally-managed organisations, this risk for a CEO (chief executive officer) is somewhat mitigated because there are people senior levels who report to the CEO or CMD (chairman and managing director) with whom there are lots of interactions by way of group meetings, leadership workshops, etc. But what about those firms that are founded by entrepreneurs where besides the main person who is at the helm of the affairs there are only one or two senior persons reporting directly to him and having direct access to him? This is actually a trap and before they realise this, many CEOs end up creating an environment in which not many employees can freely approach them. Before too long, the CEOs realise that it is lonely at the top.
These types of corporate situations have created a new breed of HR consultants called “executive coaches” who mentor and train such top-level leaders. Generally, executive coaches are senior-level leaders who help the CEOs cope with change enabling them to keep their ear on the ground. They try to help the CEOs eschew the normal tendency of insisting on what they want to listen rather than what they need to listen. In a corporate environment, many senior-level leaders tend to become chary about sharing unpleasant information with the top boss. This means that the CEO does not have a true picture. So, in such a situation, it is only such “executive coaches” who can help the CEO address his shortcomings in a constructive manner and work towards correcting the gaps.
Ironically, years ago, a role that was quite popular in corporate circles was that of an Executive Assistant (EA). Though an EA could not be called a mentor or a coach, he was an important resource for the CEO. Sadly, over the years, many corporates misused that position, completely obliterating and totally blurring the distinction between an Executive Assistant and an executive secretary. This eventually made many prospective candidates wary of such type of strategic roles.
Ideally, a real EA has the shadow authority of the CEO and can be a key resource in the organisation. However, there were reports of candidates who joined as EA being asked to do travel and hotel bookings, type letters, attend to screening calls and carry out similar such secretarial work.
With easy access to people at lower hierarchical levels, the EA would have been in a much better position to keep the CEO/CMD informed about the situation on the ground. He was also someone who acted as the sounding board for the CEO. The EA, to some extent, had roles similar to that of an executive coach, but at a junior level. He was someone who was encouraged to use a creative approach to resolve problems.
Political environment in organisations led such people appointed as Executive Assistants to become “tale carriers” instead of “information providers”. It takes two to clap and so one would also equally blame the leader for encouraging such tendencies. There are also ethical issues involved as there can be misuse of authority.
It is so very difficult to locate a candidate to fit in the role of an EA who has the highest standards of integrity and moral character. It is only references from past employers/ bosses/ customers that act as a viable tool to make an informed decision while recruiting such candidates. If the EA’s role had been given the respect it deserved, then CEOs would have had someone who was dependable and resourceful in taking strategic decisions.
The EA’s role was also considered as a springboard for moving onto other business roles and this was the key attraction. Sadly, the strategies changed and today there are very few ‘real’ Executive Assistant roles in the job market. Even for such job roles, there are not many takers for the simple reason that the job market has not been able to re build credibility for such positions.
Enter Executive Coaches
The demise of the EA’s role has now led to new concepts in HR consulting. Executive coaches are one such breed. There are management gurus like Robin Sharma, Deepak Chopra, Shiv Khera and spiritual gurus like the Bangalore-based Swami Sukhabodananda who train and mentor senior-level leaders at specially organised workshops. There are some others who call themselves as “thought leaders” and help the CEO gain a clear business perspective through unconventional means.
This is a healthy trend. For one, as these consultants are not part of the organisation, you can expect them to be unbiased and constructive in their approach. That apart, people who have retired from HR/strategy function can be gainfully employed by such CEOs for sharing the wisdom that they have gained over the years. But for all these mentoring/coaching efforts to succeed, it is important that CEOs improve their listening skills, give the consultants the respect that they deserve and make informed decisions based on the advice given. Eventually, it is the CEO’s call. There is no compulsion on the CEO to follow each and every advice given by the coaches. But rejection of an idea suggested by the coach must have a valid reason.
I have observed that this model of individual coaching/mentoring is far better than the other popular model of “strategy consultation” especially when it relates to coaching the CEO. This is because the strategy teams develop an attitude, taking advantage of their proximity to the CEO and before long they alienate the employees. In most organisations, the so-called strategy consultants are perceived as ‘butchers’—all out to reduce the head count. There may be exceptions to this rule, but it is an open secret that anything remotely related to strategy is now widely perceived as a means to slash jobs. It has become a corporate practice to hire more than necessary during good times and then launch a head count reduction exercise when the going is tough.
Last but not the least, the decision to engage such coaches must be taken at early stages and not when the damage is already done. Coaches/mentors can enable the CEO/CMD to look at a situation with the objectivity that is needed. At the end of the day, it is not about business alone. It is also about addressing the social needs of the CEO.