It is a general principle of economics that demand greater than supply leads to increase in prices. However, the lack of supply need not just be shortage of the product in question, it can also mean bottlenecks in the supply chain. These are easier to clear in the case of supply of goods, but more difficult if it is in the case of services. The lack of plumbers, electricians, technicians, etc., can cause a distortion in the sale of such services. Since there is a limit to how much the service price can be raised, the few handymen available do not exactly benefit in terms of earnings. The situation is made worse if the quality of service is not up to the mark. People, where possible, would prefer to buy a new product rather than have it repaired, even in India where they are loath to throw anything away. The solution, of course, lies in increasing the number of technicians available.
India’s burgeoning middle class is a reservoir of unfulfilled demand in this regard. In many cities across the country, skilled personnel have to be imported from other states. Go to a construction site and see how many outside ‘experts’ are present for particular tasks locals are incapable of doing. The problem lies in the fact that many of these skills are learned within the family, or in a local area – these are not provided at institutions set up for the purpose. The traditional ITIs set up for this purpose often have outdated curricula and equipment. Worse, these are not accessible to the section of society that would benefit most – the traditional working class.
The present government is paying attention to these shortcomings by providing skills training in unconventional ways, but without a general awareness of the opportunities available, potential beneficiaries are unlikely to become involved. In the present context, start-ups have come to mean those in the high technology sectors, but the fact is there are also many possibilities for skill-centric enterprises to blossom at the micro and small industries level. The transition from skilled worker to ‘thekedar’ does take place but, again, in not enough numbers. There is need to put together templates at every level for this to be made possible. It cannot happen overnight but the effort must begin. All the trusts and foundations that work in the social sector must take this up as a cause – providing up to date traditional skills, and then, the business template to make these profitable. Over time, the processes will become clearer, providing the desired results to society and the economy.