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It’s raining jobs in rural India, thanks to retail boom

J. Padmapriya

Saturday 2 October 2004, by PADMAPRIYA*J.

HYDERABAD: FMCG and finance companies appear to be swaying to the tunes of “Mera gaon, mera desh”. Rural demand may be still controlled by weather gods, but corporate India is leaving no stone unturned in upping distribution equity.

Not surprisingly, it is raining jobs in village clusters, tier-II and III towns as corporates want to shower rural India with soaps, biscuits, kisan credit cards, insurance and online trade information.

HR consultants say creation of infrastructure like rural roads, IT initiatives and corporate India’s rural focus has started throwing up jobs in non-urban areas and this segment has got a huge potential for temporary or contract staffing. Jobs are being created in secondary locations mainly in sectors like FMCG, banking and insurance and telecom.

For most FMCG, insurance and finance companies, the urban market has saturated. We are doing lots of work in permanent and temporary staffing in smaller locations. That is the reason we have opened up centres across the country to service job requirements in non-urban centres. Our regional expansion is also to get candidates for the growing BPO market,” says Ma Foi executive director, E Balaji.

Ma Foi estimates that its rural temporary staffing numbers will grow from 1,500 to 5,000 in a couple of years. Ma Foi is also looking at expanding its reach from placing personnel in 452 locations to 1,000 locations. The company has on its rolls nearly 8,000 associates who are working on client sites as temp employees.

Teamlease managing director Ashok Reddy says, “We do have a presence of handling temporary requirements for companies looking to foray into rural areas. The need is a one-time push to market development in the case of FMCG, retail and finance sectors. Companies involved in agri-inputs and fertilisers need temporary employees, as the nature of business is very seasonal. Employment numbers are evolving and we do see a huge future potential in rural sector.”

There is lots of action in rural areas with NGOs, educational bodies and hard-core corporates doing their bit to create infrastructure, both tangible and intangible.

Ma Foi’s MD K Pandia Rajan says, “There are efforts at providing urban infrastructure in rural areas. Projects like IIT-developed SARI, which aim to provide internet access via 1,000 connections in 350 villages in Madurai, go a long way in creating rural IT infrastructure.”

Each village has recruited a village technology officer. We foresee that such IT infrastructure in rural areas will bring low-end, data entry kind of outsourcing jobs in the future to the village level. Knowledge of English language does not figure very high as a requirement. Salaries for rural jobs could be up to Rs 3,000 per month.”

On the corporate side, Hindustan Lever’s Project Shakti has 540 exclusive sales promoters in four states and the self help group-driven model is proposed to be extended to other areas. Industry sources said, other FMCG majors like Dabur and P&G are also upping their ante on rural penetration. ITC plans to cover 1 lakh villages through its e-choupal network by ’10. ITC e-choupal, an online initiative that gives information of crops to farmers, is now present in over 4,000 village clusters.


in "The Economic Times", Saturday, October 2, 2004.

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