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Newspaper report says ‘the budget for organising Sangai Festivel 2017 was Rs. 7 (seven) crores’. Since the amount spent for the festival was huge and the fund was allocated from public money, it does make sense for any Indian citizen to ask the simple query – ‘Is Rs. 7 crores worth spending on the Sangai festival annually, and what does Manipur’s public gain or lose by having the festival?’ The best approach to answer this question is through having ‘a Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool’ that provides an objective and scientific analysis of the impact of each edition of the Sangai Festival. This approach will ensure every Indian citizen (esp. a Manipuri resident) to have a holistic perspective on the purpose of having the ‘Sangai Festival’ without the influence of any ‘political rhetoric’ and ‘biased views’ (which may been created because of the interests of few personals or groups associated with organizing the festival).

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As a baseline, analysis of the impact study can be done under two scenarios – ‘with the festival’ and ‘without the festival’. In simple terms, these two scenarios means ‘Where could have we spent that Rs. 7 crores in case we didn’t have the festival and still achieve similar/better outcomes for Manipur’s public by having another project/programme instead?’ or ‘How best was Rs. 7 crores spent by conducting which specific activities as part of the festival, and how far those activities enabled realizing the essential impact factors as envisaged under overall objectives of having the festival?’. The word ‘tourism’, as per the Oxford’s English Dictionary, means ‘the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest’, and the specialized agency of the United Nations ‘World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) professes the simple definition of ‘sustainable tourism’ as ‘the tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities’. These two meanings highlight that tourism involves ‘management of certain activities involving money in a commercial setting’ and tourism activities ought to be made ‘sustainable’ for long term benefits especially for the local community’.

Compared to last editions of the Sangai Festival, there are few changes in the approach of how the Sangai Festival 2017 was organized, such as ‘new events at more venues (incl. those outside the usual venues within the Imphal municipal areas)’, ‘The SangaiRun to promote Loktak Lake and the Keibul Lamjao National Park’, ‘efficient usage of promotional means (incl. YouTube videos, dedicated websites, online ticketing system, publication on national print media, discussion on radio as well as TV showrooms, special invites to national and international delegates), ‘having the North East Development Summit at Imphal during the Sangai festival period and inviting the Hon’ble President of India to open the Summit’s ceremony’. It was laudable gesture that Her Excellency ‘the Governor of Manipur’ also adorned dress costumes of various ethnic groups in Manipur on various Sangai Festival events and hold heartedly championed those events. Visitors from outside Manipur (nationally and internationally) and local visitors to the event venues gave positive feedbacks about the activities of the Sangai Festival 2017 as well as possible improvements to the festival in future and limitations of the current 2017 festival. At the closing phase of the 2017 festival, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur also made an announcement regarding the intent of including more venues located in hill districts in the next Sangai Festival 2018 (such as cherry blossoms and flower festivals of Mao in Senapati district).

The Manipur State Government ought to engage a consultancy firm/institution that specializes in delivering impact studies of major projects/programmes by deploying economic and social research methodologies. Similar examples of such impact study report can be availed by searching ‘Olympic Games Impact Study’ on ‘Google Search engine’ (e.g. Pre-Games Report and Post-Games Report from the Economic & Social Research Council, UK). Such impact study report shows ingredients of what an impact study framework tool comprises. For a sustainable Tourism in Manipur, the Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool ought to be developed by identifying ‘pre-defined impact indicators’ spread across three internationally recognized areas of sustainable development – economic, socio-cultural and environmental. These indicators can be categorized into mandatory and optional, and each indicator ought to have a context (i.e. the area/topic of measurement) and an event indicator (i.e. the trigger / measuring factor). The period to be considered for measuring impact can be of three phases: Pre-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months prior to the particular Sangai Festival), During-the-Event, and the Post-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months after the particular Sangai Festival), and the duration of each phase may be considered appropriately.

Few possible indicators of the SFI under the economic agenda may be ‘employment by economic activity related to the festival’, ‘Tourist stay in private guest houses, and accommodation occupancy rate in local hotels’, ‘traffic at airport and bus/taxi terminals’, ‘size and number of not-for-profit/companies involved in the festival’, ‘nature of public spending during the festival and debts/expenses incurred by the State Government as part of the festival’, and ‘income earning of local people (incl. Emas/mothers at Keithels/markets) and those in the non-organized sectors’. Possible indicators of the SFI under the environment agenda may be ‘vehicle air pollution and surge of vehicle traffic due to the festival’, ‘solid waste disposal and public hygiene quality’, ‘utilization of local community and private resources (incl. ‘community halls, or equipment for meetings or leisure centers’ for a hiring fee)’, ‘utilization of Government owned public resources (incl. vehicles, auditoriums)’. The Socio-cultural agenda for the SFI may include indicators such as ‘poverty and social upliftment because of the festival’, ‘crime rates during the festival’, ‘volunteers to the festival’, ‘opinion polls on the festival’, ‘participation of local, national and foreign tourists’. Such indicators can be pre-designed for the current Sangai Festival and be improved (i.e. deleted/inserted) based on inputs from future festivals. By having a scoring system which is factually based on relevant data, we can have a holistic perspective of whether a particular Sangai Festival has been successful and up to what extent it has achieved the intended target points on each pre-defined indicator.

The Sangai Festival ought to bring about sustainable socio-economic development for the people of Manipur (esp. bringing positive impact to those at the bottom of the Pyramid in terms of economic parity and social inclusion). Infrastructures created as part of the Sangai Festival ought to be of multipurpose utility beyond the festival period by public and the event venues may be planned across various districts of Manipur State so as to leave behind valuable infrastructures for the local communities after the conclusion of the Sangai Festival of a particular year. This approach will support the socio-economic development agenda of the State Government, in addition to the intended tourism development agenda through the Sangai Festival. The Sangai Festival ought to have provisions of including the possible services of local population (i.e. private individuals as well as local clubs) so as to bring about socio-economic benefits to the local community in addition to those officially sub-contracted business people and corporate firms for the Sangai Festival. Active participation of local transport associations (of buses, wingers, auto-rickshaws) and private tour operators (incl. event organizers of various cultural and sports activities) ought to be provisioned in the plan for the Sangai Festival so that the ultimate benefits will be passed on to the public at large instead of few contractors associated to the Sangai Festival. What really is essential regarding the hoisting of such ‘Sangai Festival’ is to have an absolute clarity of ‘what the overall objectives are and the extent of festival’s scope’, because it is not a common sense approach to spend the large sum of Rs 7 crores to entertain ourselves for few days at the opportunity cost of investing the same amount on other valuable ventures such as ‘creating new coal-tarred roads, or new hospitals, or new school/college buildings, or new local micro-financing funds for uplifting poverty at villages’.

Indeed, the Sangai Festival can act as the platform for Manipuris (currently residing within Manipur and at various global cities) to get together and contribute towards the socio-economic development of the villages (and local communities) within Manipur, if we appropriately plan and execute the festival with a clear purpose to justify all possible opportunity costs. Otherwise, the festival will better serve the interest of few contractors and government officials (incl. ministers/MLAs) as compared to public at large in Manipur. Thus, it is essential that the state government creates an effective ‘Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI)’ framework tool sooner than later so that there is clarity and transparency in the purpose of conducting the annual Sangai Festival by spending large sum of public money which could been spent on other relevant projects for the people of Manipur.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur. For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

 

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smart-cityStarting from the basic principle is always sensible for any strategic planning process, as it helps to come up with directional guidance on how to approach issues when there’s chaotic abundance of info and wish lists to action on. What does it mean when we say the term ‘Smart City’? Before trying to find answers, it’s recommended to ask further follow-on questions to seek clarity on the topic; such as ‘whose the Smart City is for?’, ‘how much budget is for and given by whom to be spent by when?’, ‘Is the scope of the project only on infrastructure development, or extend to realignment of public/private administrative support services?’, ‘Is the focus of overall exercise only on new constructions to offer new services, or extends to restructuring of available resources for cost saving and effectiveness?’, ‘what priority problems and wish lists are to be addressed within the scope as compared to aiming for everything?’. Collating a list of such strategic questions ought to be the first step to define scope for ‘Smart City’ project and then creating a table of checklist to guide the overall activities of finding appropriate operationally implementable solutions. If we imagine nothing exist in the first place, we can see ‘people’ and ‘means of transport’ as the base ingredients in any geographical location. In short, ‘Smart City’ project maybe considered as means to facilitate the flow of people and vehicles in the city.

From the infrastructural and people’s commuting aspect, ‘Imphal Municipal Region (IMR)’ is the only city zone in the entire Manipur state wherein the majority of travel and resource utilization seem to be occurring. So, it may make sense to aim to transform IMR into a smart city, by considering how people from other towns/villages commute/correlate to IMR for their ease of access and convenience. Public Transport System (PTS) ought to be the first priority theme in this smart city project in two levels of focus – (1) for within the city commuting, (2) for connectivity to other connected towns/villages. Through this ‘Smart City project for Imphal’, we can also enable growth and development opportunities in other towns/villages; thereby delivering a better ‘value of money’ impact. PTS may be considered as the motherboard wherein all the other projects are plugged into making the entire device-setup alive and functioning appropriately. Accordingly, allocation of fund in the ‘Imphal Smart City’ project budget ought to be ‘60% to PTS and 40% to individual mini-projects’ as a rule of thumb.

 

After having conducted a population count in each zone within the Imphal Municipal area and also devising a simulated commuting model for a weekly-slot throughout a year cycle, we can come up with a reasonable understanding of how the Imphal city is functioning on a holistic view. We can identify what private / public service facility already exists at which spot on the map of Imphal city; such as hospitals, schools/colleges, Govt offices, police stations, fire services, markets, airport, upcoming train station, courts, public venues. State government ought to form a company or corporation to operate a public transport service meant ‘for within the IMR’. This initiative will enable (1) reduction in use of small private vehicles within the city limits, (2) reduction in pollution and noise limits, (3) ease of access to every corners of the city and 24×7 means of travel within the city limits through PTS. Feasibility study of how the ‘commuting model’ may look like for ‘within the city’ may be conducted by hiring specialist town planners and also referring to other small and large cities in the world. Due-attention to the nature of commercial transport services within the PTS needs to be understood too; such as routes of goods carrying trucks, crossover on the ‘transport services to carry goods’ meant for the purpose of large-scale business and individual family usages.

 

Progress of a city will be known ‘not by the number of private vehicles run by individuals in the city, but by the number of individuals using public transport services’. After having evaluated on the simulated commuting computer model, road networks within the Imphal city need to be reorganized; such as – (1) effective usage of ‘semi-low-floor’ buses funded earlier under JnNURN fund from central Govt, (2) effective traffic flow routes for various types of vehicles within the City, with priority focus to emergency services and ‘individual shoppers and sellers at Imphal markets’, (3) congestion/emission charge levied to private vehicles within the Imphal market areas, (4) 24×7 transport facilities to every spots within the city map and thereby creating appropriate traffic control-light systems, bus stands and terminals, solar-powered lighting on public roads, emergency phone-booth and medical care spots on the routes, waste disposal bins and toilets on the routes, (5) mandatory process in place to plan any route diversion / roadblocks prior to any upcoming Govt/public events or after any sudden accidents/constructions on the route, and thereby appropriate advertisement of roadblocks (on social media, newspapers, city-travel apps).

 

To be precise, Imphal City is more important to ‘people living in other villages/towns’ of Manipur than those living within the Imphal Municipal Region (IMR); and the main reason being non-availability / defunct nature of modern means of livelihood elsewhere within Manipur State. Many individuals from other towns/villages commute to IMR for accessing almost every aspect of modern means of livelihood (e.g. hospitals, schools/college, Govt offices, and markets). On the ‘Smart City project for Imphal’, the planners ought to consider how best can the drop-in and drop-out points wherein ‘people, vehicles and access demand for modern livelihood services from other villages/towns connected to IMR’ can be addressed effectively. Priority focus of state Govt needs to be more on improving road infrastructure in other village/towns, so that people can at least commute to IMR daily. State Govt ought to create another dedicated company or corporation to deal with transport services ‘in and out of Imphal city’; since purpose and needs of such transport services are distinctively different from that of ‘within Imphal city’ focus. Private parties (i.e. owners and associations of buses, taxis, auto rickshaw) must be partnered for delivery of this portion of public transport system on a 24×7 basis, since state Govt may not have sufficient manpower and financial resources to provide transport services to the last-mile connectivity concept (outside the IMR limits).

 

Making the best appropriate usage of available fund in the most simplified approach for larger benefit of people in Manipur is the most reasonable idea on ‘Imphal Smart City’ project. Also, how other funding schemes (of state and central governments) can be channelized to this project can be evaluated. Just trying to copy solutions used in other cities of the world (on this concept of ‘smart city’) will make less sense for us, unless we start to focus first on the basic needs for our local scenarios first. The demography and income/knowledge level of people living in Manipur is different from other cities of the world, and we have our own ways of living and making a living. We should aim to avoid new failure cases of various large scale infrastructural projects in Manipur state (e.g. similar to ‘Flyover construction at Imphal City’). Before reinventing new wheels, let’s check what/how we can make use of the available resources in a more effective and efficient ways. Also, let’s aim first to invest the new fund for smart city project to streamline the already available service delivery systems, and then, let’s recreate something totally new, only in case of a genuine need to overhaul the system/structure portion on its entirety. Thus, let’s think of the people first and make the city, rather than aiming to create the city first and fit the people later.

 

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

 

Manipur State Govt firmly believes that promoting tourism into Manipur can bring about socio-economic development of the state. The Central Govt (esp. Ministry of tourism, and North Eastern Council under Ministry of Development of North Eastern Regions) has been also supporting the State Govt by providing huge funding assistance for tourism related projects. Main activity on this regard is to organise annual tourism festival titled ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in the month of November (21-30). sangai-loktak-articleThe expenditure for 2014 event was about Rs 2.5-3.0 crores and the cost of 2015 event may be Rs. 3.0-5.0 crores. Since large sum of public money (collected through taxes) has been spent for conducting this festival by the State Govt, it is appropriate to ask and rather be made a mandatory task for State Govt to evaluate economic appraisal of the festival project along with a social impact analysis. Such an evaluation report must be produced by the State Govt as ‘white paper’ periodically to access ‘pros and cons / impact’ of every Manipur Sangai Festival being conducted.

Any course of discussion on ‘whether current format of the festival is appropriate and what programs should be added/removed, or there is another possible way of conducting the festival in an entirely different approach’ ought to be guided by the basic principle that “Manipur Sangai Festival has been devised to promote Manipur globally for its tourism potentials and by doing so, bring about socio-economic development to the local population within Manipur State”. Also, we need to be clear with our adopted strategy on this festival – ‘Is the spending on the Manipur Sangai Festival an investment or just mere expenditure; i.e. are we creating a sustainable capacity building system for the local economy, or are we just enjoying ourselves by spending huge sum of money for few days in the name of tourism promotion?’. This article rather focuses on an alternative way of conducting the festival than being a critic to the current festival format.

There is an analogy topic that we can correlate to: ‘how Olympic Games are conducted in various countries on rotation, or how National Games are conducted in various states of India on rotation’. The host country for Olympic Games (or the host state for National Games in India) aims to make the maximum benefits from having the sports event in their country (or their state, in case of National Games) through creating new infrastructures (e.g. roads, bridges, markets, houses, water/electricity/gas supply facilities), new engagement frameworks (e.g. coordination among various ministries of the Govt for public order and utility services supply, involving public and private organizations, including students and staffs from schools/universities, sharing public support tasks with local municipal bodies), and new promotional means (e.g. extensive marketing to increase visits by tourists during the sports event and also later on for the following months/years). Thus, there are always some diverse options in every planning on where/how to spend a huge sum of money for executing a big event. Our focus for Manipur Sangai Festival also ought to think from this perspective of ‘How best is the way to spend the allocated budget for the festival (e.g. Rs. 5 Crores) into what activities for short term and long term gains to people and land of Manipur?’

The name ‘Sangai’ has been chosen to represent the annual Manipur tourism festival by the State Govt; maybe because this title has global appeal due to the relevance of endangered ‘Sangai’ species to global audience. How about we try to imagine this scenario for the sake of analysis – What if ‘we choose to conduct this Manipur tourism festival with special focus around the villages/towns where this special deer is located (i.e. those around Keibul Lamjao National Park and Loktak Lake)’!

Often, there is this query of ‘Should development come first, or should security (i.e. better law and order) come first before anything else (including tourism activities)?’ In addition to just conducting a tourism festival to promote tourism potential, Manipur State Govt has the duty to develop infrastructure and enhance living standard of villages/towns within Manipur. So, how about hitting two targets with just one arrow? – By planning the Manipur Sangai Festival around villages/towns of Keibul Lamjao and Loktak Lake; such as, by having more event venues, involving local people/organisations, delegating tasks to staffs at Govt offices (schools/colleges and other Govt departments) and administrative officials at various sub-divisions/gram-panchayats, and a series of well-created programs in those villages/towns.

The tourism festival ought to be more of people’s event rather than just being an event for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt. There is no ‘actual high risks of security’ scenario for having tourism programs and event venues in villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao, and rather it may be just a myth that there is no security outside the state capital; or, maybe it is just a sign of being laziness for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt to visit places outside the Imphal Municipal Council areas. Since the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ is for promoting tourism potentials of the whole state, tourism events can be still conducted at those already chosen venues of the Imphal Municipal areas; yet the central focus can be given to “villages/towns around Sangai’s home”. Such an approach will facilitate in (1) creating new businesses by private entrepreneurs in these villages/towns, (2) providing better roads and modern utility services (electricity, water, medical) which have been neglected for years, (3) exchanging of ideas and modern knowhow between people of city and villages/towns. In due course of time, we can see villages/towns (such as Thanga, Ithing, Karang, Moirang, Moirang Khunou, Kairenphabi, Kumbi, Ithai, Wangu, Nongmaikhong, Khordak, Tera Khunou, Laphupat, Phoubachao, Komlakhong, Uchiwa, Mayang Imphal, Toubul, Kwashiphai, Nachou, Bishenpur, Oinam, Nambol, Yaingangpokpi, Wangoi, Tentha, Wabagai, Hiyanglam, Ningthoukhong) developing in a faster pace on par with Imphal Municipal areas.

Various independent events being conducted in Manipur till date can be included as special programs to the list of programs in the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ for the benefit of local people of villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao (rather than facilitating profit earnings to few individuals who owns large restaurants or hotels or tour operators); such as Fish sales festival, Pineapple sales festival, Handicraft/Handloom product sales festival, sports festival, Save Loktak event, Save Sangai Event, Food festival. Tour routes to enjoy such variety of mini-festival events during the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ can be created through these villages/towns for local tourists as well as national and international tourists. Various developmental schemes of the State Govt and Central Govt can be redirected towards organizing ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in these villages/towns under advanced and proper coordinated planning; such as (1) development of roads and cleanliness drive by villagers/NGOs through NREGA (Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act), (2) various development funds under Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, and Department of MAHUD (Municipal Administration, Housing & Urban Development), (3) enterprise support funds from central ministry of MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Department of Commerce & Industry, (4) promotion of local culture under Department of Art and Culture, (5) developing of local agribusinesses under Department of Agriculture, and Department of Fisheries, (6) preserving ecology and biodiversity under Department of Forest and Environment.

If we conduct ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in such an approach, percentage of having more inclusive participation from public (individuals and organisations) may be higher. Benefits out of the annual tourism festival are likely to be more sustainable, and a long lasting social impact may be delivered to the local population and land within Manipur state. Thus, we need to explore other ways of conducting Tourism festivals that make the best usage of available financial and manpower resources.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

Globalisation and exchange of cultures have brought changes to our social family customs and ways of living. Since change and need for adaptation is inevitable, we ought to approach proactively how we can bridge the new dreams of younger generations to the traditions so far being followed by elder generations in our locality. An occasional health-check on ‘dynamics of marriage and family relationships’ is worth undertaking to gauge expectations and realities within our society.

family-education-failed

It’s worth acknowledging the presence of various social value systems – broadly between ‘Western social value system’ and ‘Eastern social value system’. Western value focuses on individuality (i.e. rights and needs of individual), while Eastern value focuses on group (i.e. rights and needs of family/community). Interestingly, many words we often used in our Eastern social lives are interpreted differently to people in the West. For example (In the West), ‘family’ means ‘husband and wife and kids till those kids become of legal age (18yrs)’, ‘home’ means the house one bought by self and loved to live in, ‘empowerment’ means ‘My rights is supreme’, etc. Contents of modern education system tends to inclined more towards to western social value system since the western countries are considered as ‘developed nations’. We ought to be careful about what we are professing through our education system to ourselves and our younger generation when it is about social value system.

The dynamics of family structure in our society has changed with the growing trend of educated girls, financially empowered women, salaried office going women, city-jobs in formalized private companies, internet and media, etc. Such change has brought both friction and advancement to the ‘institution of marriage’ and ‘family relationships’. Rather than arguing and fighting like ‘I’m always right based on education one has had or experiences from living in another city/country’, everyone needs to consider the impact of such change in family structure to oneself and our societal value system. We’ve to choose the best blend of values from both the West and the East, which is relevant to our local environment.

Luckily, we still consider ‘Marriage as something spiritual rather than just a contract signed between a woman and man as in the Western value system’. Our families comprise of everything and everyone related to us (esp. grandparent, parent, husband-wife, kids, and grand-kids). Since married women are now working in offices or running businesses (along side men), we ought to consider sharing household works between husband and wife (and among all family members). Running a home and meeting various family obligations require full-time attention from both husband and wife (including support of in-laws). Modern women have got own dreams to achieve and ‘husband and new family’ needs to consider their aspirations too. Yet, women empowerment must not be at the cost of men’s indignity or breakup of earlier family relationships (with in-laws). Young married couple ought to discuss openly with each other about the roles to be taken in the new family and be diplomatic while dealing with in-laws. Every parents love and care their wards, and family relationship issues (if any) may be just about the need to sort out how to channelize the ‘love and care’ between the young couple and in-laws in an appropriate and understandable medium.

Raising kids by working husband and wife isn’t an easy task, considering the time and effort needed to manage the kids as well as running the household activities. Kids are not something that husband/wife can program to do as instructed. Just spending money for the kids and providing things demanded by kids may not raise a child with better personality and secure future. Living separately or living with in-laws has both plus and minus points to the newly married couple. Residing in another city by the young couple (far away from in-laws) for making a living through jobs may provide ‘individual freedom (from in-laws), but may be risking the couple’s own marriage (with none to calm down when differences may arise between husband and wife), or be risking future of couple’s children (with none to give proper attention to kids while kids are growing up under the influence of bad habits or surrounding influences). Presence of grandparents and relatives can have good impacts on the raising of kids, while young couples are busy making career and a living.

Dumping of parents by married couple (for want of independence to decide what/how the couple wishes to lead their lives) isn’t a sign of modern excellence or advancement in humanity. We are called humans and not animals; because we maintain some dignity and care for our parents, grandparents and kids. Similarly, marriage ought to be considered something more than just live-in of a man or woman and breed kids; because, that type of attitude is done more or less by animals in jungles too. Career making and working hard to make earning for better future may be essential to both man and woman, but, what matters most is having the blessing of love ones around us when making a living or wining something in own life.

We may even agree that we are living better and smarter than those generations of our elders. We may flaunt our degrees and job designations to prove our intelligence. But, on some things such as knowledge about family relationships and marriage (i.e. wisdom of life and living), our elders are quite advanced to the young couples as they’ve experienced it already. Change of century or year doesn’t change various aspects on family relationships and marriage. Thus, our modern education may not teach everything that is needed for a happy family and cohesive social livelihood. Let’s respect and regard our parents and grandparents in the matter of wisdom of life and living. Let’s remind ourselves that ‘To live is the first need, while to gain knowledge or to work and earn is just to make the living’.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

Realities of life start to bite us when we are around 25-35yrs of age. We begin to look at our lives with more seriousness about the past and the future. By now, we acknowledge two facts – (1) Money (through a salaried job or an earning source) is crucial for living. Having a good philosophy for humanity and a non-income earning hobby aren’t enough in life. (2) Our parents are not young anymore and we need to offer our support at their old age. This is more important because, we need act as role models to our kids (or future kids) by showing care and love for parents. Thus, we are struck by the most challenging dilemma around 25-35yrs of age – ‘shall I return back to Manipur, but how?’returning_home_airport_01In search of opportunities to study in prestigious colleges/universities and work in jobs after our studies, we have left Manipur during our teenage period. By the age of 22-35yrs, we are working in a relevant professional career and residing at a developed city of India outside Manipur state or in a foreign country. Also, we are likely to been married by then and have already started a small family with own kids.

One popular option used by most non-resident Manipuris to return back to Manipur (irrespective of current profession or years of job experiences) is to try for Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (MCSCC) exam conducted by Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC). It’s not sure whether most MCSCC exam aspirants actually know what type of work or life style one has to live once selected in that exam and begin to serve in various administrative departments of the Manipur government. Also, it’s not sure what happens to those years of work experiences, technical skills acquired and professional education undertaken in the past by those non-resident Manipuris after becoming high ranking administrative officers. Maybe, MCSCC exam is the most targeted choice because of the status of MCS/MPS officials in society and the income earning possibilities within the state among available jobs.

Another popular option used by non-resident Manipuris (with an average academic, especially among boys) is to try for a job in Manipur Police services (such as Assistant Sub-Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Indian Reserve Battalion Sepoy, Commando Sepoy). Prior job experiences and graduation degree of individuals are also less relevant while applying to the services of Police. What most educated Manipuris living outside Manipur expect when shifting to Manipur is a reasonable salary from a job (or an income source) and maintaining a reasonable social status within Manipur. Also, most non-resident Manipuris love to aim for the job of a teacher in school or a lecturer in college in Manipur. Thus, many non-resident Manipuris depends on government provided jobs to return back to Manipur and many of us haven’t yet tried to explore about any other options to come back to Manipur.

Some of the reasons why most non-resident Manipuris could not realize their wish to return back to Manipur are – (1) non-availability of directly similar jobs in their professions in Manipur, (2) availability of few jobs in some relevant professions, but needing to bribe officials and ministers to get those jobs, (3) being too late in one’s age to shift to Manipur (because of having grownup kids who were already adjusted to the outside social environments, or inability to just leave the jobs as monthly salaries fulfilled family maintenance, or their parents had already died and no close relatives lived in Manipur now), (4) not earned enough money and not gained appropriate business acumen with risk-taking attitude to start businesses in Manipur.

Some of the possible opportunities in Manipur that non-resident Manipuris can try to shift back to Manipur are – (1) starting a business in tourism/hospitality sector (such as running a restaurant, hotel accommodation, travel transport services, cultural tour programs), (2) starting a locally relevant agro-business (such as rearing of pigs/chickens, egg production, milk production, cultivation of pineapple, sales of dried fruits, potato farming), (3) starting a trading business on off-the-shelf goods (such as electronic items, bedding-clothing items, woods and furniture), (4) starting an advertising and marketing agency (such as sales and promotion of local products, non-news related publication and design activities, general website design activities), (5) starting advisory services (such as educational consultants to admit students from Manipur to various colleges in other Indian states, income-tax/business setup services to local enterprises, export-import setup services to local entrepreneurs, investment in stocks and real estates located in other cities of India, funding grant application to various government and private bodies for projects of local enterprises). The other possibility is to try to expand the business one already owns in other cities of India or abroad to Manipur, or to try to expand new offices in Manipur for the company wherein one currently works at senior management position in other cities of India or abroad.

The key challenge to returning back to Manipur by most non-resident Manipuris is that they haven’t acquired relevant skills, life experiences and risk taking willpower to venture into the career opportunities feasible within Manipur. Also, they may not have enough cash to invest the required start-up fund and most importantly, they may not have known appropriate advisory contacts to support them during the transition phase from ‘where they are currently living’ to ‘within Manipur’. One must motivate self to learn transferable skills while at work in various jobs at other cities of India; such as (1) business acumen on how to deal with finances and resources, (2) people management below and above the current job position, (3) relationship building with peers and non-peers, (4) calculated risk taking and self-starting attitude, (5) networking with relevant professionals and individuals in the interested industry/social domain, (6) awareness on government policies and funding supports in interest areas, (7) self simulation of draft ideas by making occasional visits in Manipur and execution of prototype projects, (8) learning to work in teams to achieve personal project objectives, and yet led by self. Its worth to remind ourselves that – ‘Employees tend to remain lifelong as employees or salaried persons, while entrepreneurs of own businesses tend to aim big to grow as one wishes and leave behind the businesses/wealth-earnings to their family on retirement’. In most state/central government jobs within Manipur, one may find self being stuck for life apart from just waiting for the monthly salary. Also possibly, he/she may not like the work environment and job roles, but, there is no other alternative job to quit and thereby no other means of livelihood.

If a non-resident Manipuri wishes to return back to Manipur someday, one should start saving money from early stage of life and start planning how one can invest own time/money in Manipur. As an example: by building homes at our respective town/village in Manipur in a way that some rooms/floors can be let out to tourists for a short stay, we can even earn some income and also contribute to tourism growth to the local town/village. Thus, if we are ready to write MCSCC exam and become MCS/MPS officer after having done entirely different jobs for years in industry and completed highly technical academic studies in the past, why not we dare to dream even bigger like creating own business firms by using the intelligent brain, life experiences, and willpower we’ve got. Earlier the actual realistic planning on ‘how to return back to Manipur’, higher is the success rate of returning; otherwise the person is daydreaming and wasting own time/effort.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

How serious is unemployment issue in Manipur state now and how this issue relates to Higher Education (HE) institutions in the state? Also, at what level in the ‘priority list to tackle first’, the state govt considers these two issues; thereby deciding the financial budget allocation and timely execution through a strategic planning approach? HE_unemployment_01We may need to review all available policies, support systems and prevailing operating scenarios of HE institutes and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) within Manipur state in order to come up with a rather holistic integrated support system. Current socio-economic chaos in Manipur state may be transformed into opportunities if we are able to find means to create employment for youth in relevant industry sectors, and knowledge transfer from HE institutions to youth and local enterprises by enabling them to lead the society.

Currently, HE policy of state govt seems to focus entirely on (1) building and refurbishing physical infrastructure, (2) hiring and supervising academic staffs, (3) scholarships for students to study outside Manipur (rather than capacity building within the state). Also, state govt seems to focus on another parallel educational policy i.e. imparting vocational school (10th or 12th) level training to youths of Manipur either by sending the students outside Manipur or allowing training companies from outside Manipur to deliver short-term courses for local students within the state. State govt has thus started pumping in more funds to the above areas and hopes to bring about quality as well as quantitative improvements within Manipur. But, the interesting question is ‘Is this current approach really working towards improving HE sector within Manipur?’, or ‘what are the impacts achieved so far toward local economy and graduate employability?’, and ‘is there anything else that state govt missed to consider in the current HE policy?’

Most HE sector issues reported in the local media are of institutional related – such as regularization of ad-hoc lecturers in colleges, mismanagement of scholarship funds meant for students, lack of classrooms and equipments to support teaching, cases of students and academics indulging in malpractices in examinations, lack of principals and qualified lecturers in specific colleges, non attendance of staffs in colleges, less or no students getting admitted to study in various degree courses at specific colleges, etc. Yet, none has seriously looked into the issue of employability for graduates out of colleges and universities within Manipur, and the scarcity of non-govt jobs availability within Manipur.

The HE sector policy of govt rather ought to aim at providing 3 key priority needs at each individual college within Manipur – (1) Infrastructure development for creating ‘Centres of Excellence’ oriented to specifically chosen domain knowledge of local/global relevance, (2) Administrative support staffs having expertise in running HE institutions at world class level, (3) Professional support staffs having expertise in career grooming and local enterprise development support for graduates. State govt’s funding budget in the above three areas may be 50-75% of the overall HE sector allocation. This approach may help in turning around the brain drain scenario of Manipur state i.e. Manipuri students going outside the state to study degree courses and high quality Manipuri professionals leaving the state to teach/work in HE institutions of other states. Thus, chance for quality as well as quantity improvement in HE sector can be seen within Manipur state.

Govt’s policy of introducing vocational school level (10th or 12th std) training courses seems to give conflicting message to the students, as it hints as if the degree level courses provided in various colleges within Manipur are useless to the local job environment. Also, most parents may not wish their wards to choose vocational school level course as compared to degree level courses. A vocational student may learn skills to get a low-level job (though maybe of highly advanced technology) within Manipur or outside the state, but career growth for such vocational students is bound to be of low level in any organizational hierarchy. It’s because they are of skill-based training rather than domain knowledge-based learning unlike in the case of graduate courses.

The graduate courses currently opened in various colleges within Manipur are of traditional nature which is about learning basic science, or arts, or commerce. The applicability of such traditional degree course to the needs of current industry jobs elsewhere or any relevant jobs within local Manipur environment is very hard to find. Either course contents of degree courses ought to be adapted to application oriented learning modules, or new local industry relevant degree courses need to be introduced freshly to all the colleges within Manipur. Again, if govt is trying to retrain youths especially college graduates after having studied 3yrs at one of the colleges in Manipur into another school level vocational training courses, then, it will mean that college students have not only wasted three years of their lifetime in colleges but also govt has wasted crores of Indian Rupee in running ‘white elephant’ colleges in Manipur.

Graduate related issues of HE sector are also relevant to the local enterprises within Manipur, because high technology intensive industrial growth will define availability of jobs which is of graduate level (rather than school level or vocational skills level). State govt needs to consider availability of skilled manpower and capable enterprises in each relevant industry sector before forming growth supporting industrial policies in those sectors. HE sector not only provides skilled manpower for the industry, but also, creates research outputs that support industrial applications and products through R&D activities of academics and scientist in HE institutions. Thus, industrial policies of govt correlates strongly with the HE sector policies. Such strong relationship between academics in HE institutions and industry companies are visible in most developed countries (UK, Germany, France, USA, etc).

Relevant state govt department may create funding pots for SMEs that provides funding support to allow employees to study graduate level professional courses and training programmes in HE institutions within Manipur. Each HE institutions may be encouraged to create a centre of excellence via funding from relevant state govt department to help SMEs in that industry sector. Thus, such approach will brings about enterprise oriented HE policies and creation of more jobs in the local economy because of active participation of SMEs in HE policy formation.

We are yet to fill the gap in policies governing supporting HE sector and growth of SMEs in various industry sectors within Manipur. Hence, in spite of funding heavily on HE sector, Manipuri students are leaving after school education to study outside the state. Also, we can’t see any visible industrial growth in various sectors in spite of heavy funding by the state govt, since we don’t have the requisite industrial manpower locally and professionally working mindset culture in the local enterprises. Thus, it is the right time we tackle both the issues of youth employability and industrial growth by creating an integrated support system within Manipur.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

employability_personality-development_01Professional degree awarding colleges/universities take pride on speaking about their students in terms of ‘Placement record percentage’, ‘Highest salary offer for Job’, and ‘Partner companies from industry’; but rarely speak about ‘employability’ and ‘personality development’ of students. ‘Placement cell’ in most engineering colleges acts more like a recruitment consultancy company providing ‘job search’ services to students. So, (1) how different is the term ‘Placement’ from ‘Employability’, (2) which one of the two above terms should the management board of engineering colleges give more focus, (3) what parameters distinguish professional degree courses from basic general degree courses, and (4) what add-on skills apart from scoring high in academic semester papers ought to be learned by engineering students before graduation?

News media often talks about poor quality of graduates coming out of engineering colleges in India. Industry also cites that majority of graduating students do not possess clarity on engineering concepts and are not up to the basic level of employability skills. Both the technical education accreditation body ‘AICTE’ and respective management board of engineering colleges seem to focus more on academic contents plus infrastructure provision provided and at times on academic staff profiles, than personality development aspect needed for students to be an ‘Engineer’. ‘Placement service’ is about supporting students to get recruited by visiting companies at the college/university campus, and thus, focus for ‘placement cell’ in engineering college is rather on quick-fix approach to satisfy basic entry requirements mandated by recruiting companies on the attending engineering students to their placement process such as percentage score in semester exams, previous scores in school and higher secondary school levels, aptitude test conducted by the company, technical and HR interviews of the company, test on specific technical areas (e.g. programming language, technology domain). Hence, placement preparation activities by engineering students are portrayed as if an entirely different unrelated activity during the engineering study program from the ethos of learning semester papers.

‘Employability’ refers to enabling the student employable i.e. qualified and ready to work. Thus, it hints to grooming the student on three key aspects – (1) mindset/behavior attached to that specific engineering profession, (2) background knowledge and skills need to execute tasks in that specific profession, (3) awareness of industry culture and career growth patterns in that specific profession. Format and academic content of engineering degree programs in various colleges/universities are accredited by AICTE for maintaining quality. Some practical oriented skill training modules are inserted to the course program structure by respective engineering colleges (and universities where they are affiliated to) in order to accommodate practical reasoning skills onto theoretical concepts. Still, most engineering degrees are rather focused on ‘academic reasoning’ and ‘basic technical skills’, thereby lacking a sense to impart common sense skills/knowledge of actual industry requirements on engineering graduates. Employability services (if provided) ought to aim the much needed outcome of ‘what’s exactly expected of an engineering graduate by the current industry’ not just by focusing on ‘placement activities’ aspect.

It isn’t the mandate of any university (or college) to guarantee a job to students, though universities/colleges may advertise their student placement record to attract prospective students. Employability services are valued-added facilities provided to students that aim to connect the two mindsets of academic world and real industry world. Many engineering students (and few professionals even after working in industry for years) often get doubts ‘what that engineering job is about?’ and ‘is that profession really meant for him/her?’. Unlike basic general degree courses, professional degree courses ought to intend to create a professional out of a student at the end of that course program. Studying basic general degree courses is about curiosity to explore the knowledge aspect on a specific domain, whereas studying a professional degree is about applying the knowledge of understanding a specific domain onto some applied activities/outputs. Thus, imparting professional spirit much needed by the actual industry in addition to providing the academic knowledge and reasoning skills is very crucial for professional degree programs.

Engineering colleges/universities should provide equal focus to ‘employability agenda’ on par with ‘academic excellence agenda’. The Management of those institutions currently focus heavily on planning the successful conducting of ‘admission process for newly joining engineering students’, ‘semester classes by leading academic staffs’, ‘periodic examination for students’, ‘timely declaration of exam results and conformance to academic calendar for various curricular activities’, ‘living supports during the course of study and accommodation services at hostels’, etc. Moreover, in India, these engineering colleges/universities emphasize more on bachelor degree education and feed degree graduates to various companies at entry level engineering jobs, thereby sidelining priority on post-graduation (Master and PhD) levels esp. R&D activities and technological innovation. Some cash-rich engineering colleges/universities (including eminent management groups) do provide non-academic services such as ‘placement cell’, ‘social/local impact clubs’, ‘sports/entertainment facilities’ and ‘alumni engagement cell’.

A lot more needs to be done on ‘Employability’ agenda by engineering colleges/universities, if the intention of these institutions is to create a professional out of an engineering student and not just an engineering graduate with a degree similar to a basic general science degree. The term ‘engineering’ itself means ‘practical application of science to commerce or industry’. Employability is also about inspiring ‘enterprise’ agenda among engineering graduates so as to aim to setup startup technology companies. Academic excellence can be easily guaranteed by respective engineering college/university since that is the core purpose for setting up those institutions. The discussion needed now is how to impart the ‘value-added services’ under ‘Employability agenda’ to engineering graduates. This employability topic is even more important to those engineering colleges/universities located in Indian states wherein there is less ongoing economic development activities and minimum/nil industry presence. Colleges/universities providing general degree programs may produce ‘graduates who can think and come up with new conceptual ideas’, but professional colleges providing professional degree programs must produce ‘graduates who can apply thoughts to reality as products/services’. Thus, providing ‘placement services’ isn’t sufficient enough for students in those engineering colleges/universities located at less industrial activity regions; rather these students need to be imparted with skills of technology entrepreneurship and how to survive in startup jobs without opting to get placed as engineers in some companies.

Key add-on skills/activities that engineering graduates should aim to acquire or get involved during the 4-years degree program (with/without the support of management of respective institutions) are:

(1) Co-curricular activities – to identify relevance of academic contents being studied to the real technological world; e.g. attending professionals’ technical conferences, project workshops, research journal paper presentations, hands-on skills training on technical areas

(2) Extra-curricular activities – to build social behavioral personality needed in the industry/society; e.g. joining debating clubs/competition, sports and fitness clubs/competitions, cultural programs/events, managing groups/clubs of interest, organizing team/group activities

(3) Job/career oriented skills – to build professional personality needed in the industry; e.g. Speaking (on stage, during interviews, among team/group), Dressing (during casual or business/official meetings), Presentation (as PowerPoint slides, without any technical tools to present, style/tone of expression in front of peers/seniors/externals/juniors), Writing (in blogs, journal articles, newspaper columns, as official letter, emailing format), Team-work (during group discussion/meeting, problem solving in tight project schedules, tasks delegation among a group), Corporate skills (speaking other foreign/regional languages, programming/technical skills, industry news update, connection to working professionals in relevant industry sector)

Finally, engineering institutions ought to start thinking on how to provide the above add-on skills to their engineering graduates during the course of 4 years degree program, on top of, just acting as the recruitment agency for companies through their placement cell.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com