A Fresh Start – Rural Job Seekers Find a Brighter Future
Monday, September 14, 2009
To get a sense of India’s rural-urban union, drop in on a McDonald’s restaurant in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where hungry customers scan the brightly lit menu panel above the counter and line up to place orders. The eatery, nestled in a busy shopping mall in downtown Hyderabad, is unique: Most of the youngsters flipping burgers and taking orders are not city slickers, but employees recruited from India’s rural belly.
Take college dropout K. Bhargavi, 23, whose widowed mother runs a roadside sweet shop about 90 miles away, in Warangal, a district known for its granite quarries. The young McDonald’s staffer had never ventured out of her village until just over a year ago, but now earns US$100 a month for nine-hour daily shifts at the golden arches — an increase from the US$34 she made keeping accounts for self-help groups back home. Bhargavi wants to save enough money to go back to school in two years and then settle down in an arranged marriage. “I am happy I came here,” she says. “I can now plan my life.”
For people like Bhargavi, there is no economic downturn, because they are being snapped up by India Inc. Rural recruits account for 70% of the employees at McDonald’s restaurants in southern India today. Other big rural recruiters range from international firms such as IBM, Adidas and Vodafone to home-grown ones like telecoms giant Bharti Airtel, private-sector bank HDFC, and retailers Pantaloon and Aditya Birla Group. These companies are increasingly relying on rural India to staff their front and back offices in urban and semi-urban towns, but what’s unusual about this rural regiment is that they are not just trained, but also placed in their jobs by a public-private partnership called the Employment Generation & Marketing Mission (EGMM), headquartered in Hyderabad. The EGMM takes responsibility for the short-term training, while ensuring employment for each of its young job-seekers.