A de-globalizing world in the wake of Brexit holds new challenges
“And time yet for a hundred indecisions. And for a hundred visions and revisions.” – T.S. Eliot
And time yet to revel in a plentiful monsoon, never mind that food prices continue to rise and tomatoes now cost more than Rs 100 a kilo. There have been several good government decisions in the past few weeks. Reforms in the beleaguered textile and garment sector will potentially trigger thousands of new jobs and breathe life into flagging exports. Pay rises for millions of government employees and pensioners will be very generous, and spur domestic spending. A new mineral-exploration policy will bring in more investors and revenue. Foreign direct investment (FDI) rules have been loosened further and are now among the best in the world. The taxman will go after domestic black money with a vengeance after a September 30 deadline.
If you were looking down from a great height, you might think that there is a forest of elbows sticking up from our peninsula, but that is just us patting ourselves on our backs.
There is nothing wrong in feel-good-ism. Heaven knows we needed it this week after the Brexit vote. It buoyed us: the stock markets did not crash nor the rupee crumble for fear of a Rajan-less Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or a Britain cast asunder from the Continent.
Why then the nagging feeling that all is not hunky-dory twenty-five months after this government took charge? The authoritative Deutsche Börse MNI Consumer Sentiment indicator for India was at 111.70 last month, a five-year low; it stood at 133.70 in November 2011. The MNI Business Sentiment Indicator, which surveys BSE-listed companies, is at its lowest since December 2015 and stood at 61.8 in May. The RBI’s rate cut in April failed to buck up business morale.
India is ranked No.3 in the world in corruption-linked fraud. An RBI report earlier this week said gross non-performing advances among India’s banks had risen to 7.6 per cent at end-March from 5.1 per cent at end-September 2015, and could rise to 8.5 per cent by March 2017. Stressed loans at state-owned banks rose to 14.5 per cent. “As per the banking stability indicator, risks to the banking sector increased significantly during the second half of 2015/16 due to deteriorating asset quality and lower profitability,” the central bank said.
The momentum of reforms continues at a steady pace, but will India be able to draw upon its huge population and mammoth internal markets to withstand the gales buffeting the global economy? The UK’s Brexit vote is merely one more squawk from a heart-lung machine that signals a multiple organ failure, and we need to look beyond the here and now of stock indices or whether or not Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya will now find it cheaper to hide out in Britain because of the weakened pound.
What does Brexit presage for India? The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was widely perceived as a right-wing nationalist party when it won power, although it confounded that label with this year’s decidedly socialist budget. At the same time, led by the peripatetic Narendra Modi, the BJP government is doggedly pursuing a global agenda that seeks greater trade, investment and strategic engagement.
This is in sharp contrast to the isolationist and nationalist ideologies that are on the ascendant worldwide. Few will remember that Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who probably gained the most from the UK’s EU referendum, won a stunning upset in the European Parliament elections on the same day in 2014 that Modi was sworn into office. On Tuesday, Farage was jeered and booed as he made a taunting speech to the European Parliament, saying “…the little people…rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics and they said actually, we want our country back, we want our fishing waters back, we want our borders back”.
Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump seems set to be swept to an overpowering Republican nomination in less than three weeks on the back of his ‘America first’ beast. Both Farage and Trump are strongly anti-immigration and have an inverted view of foreign relations. Trump was delighted about Brexit: “Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first.”
This drift towards a devil-may-care insularity does not bode well for India, which needs a more open global market if it is to achieve double-digit economic growth. World trade has been crawling upward for five years now at less than three per cent annually. It is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Possibly the only way India can become richer is by creating tens of millions of new jobs. This is a tough call when exports are comatose and manufacturing is in feeble recovery.
Raghuram Rajan put this well in a December 2014 speech: “We are more dependent on the global economy than we think. That it is growing more slowly, and is more inward looking, than in the past means that we have to look to regional and domestic demand for our growth – to make in India primarily for India.”
Will this happen quickly enough? Last week’s announcement of even more liberalisation in FDI rules will hopefully boost manufacturing. There is no question that FDI has risen sharply. Gross FDI inflows rose from $36 billion in 2013/14, the year before Modi took power, to $45 billion in 2014/15 and $55.45 billion in 2015/16. But this was by no means a quantum leap. During the United Progressive Alliance’s decade in office, gross FDI inflows rose from $6 billion in 2004/05 to as high as $46.6 billion in 2011/12.
But these figures pale in comparison with FDI flows into China. World Bank data show that foreign investment in China totalled $289 billion in 2014. In the first five months of 2016 alone, FDI into China totalled $54.2 billion, even while the country’s economy visibly slowed.
How important is FDI in a developing economy? Looked at from another perspective, FDI into China equalled 2.8% of its GDP but only 1.7% of India’s GDP in 2014. In another comparison, FDI in Indonesia totalled $29.3 billion in 2015 and equalled about 3% of its GDP. More investment will certainly create more jobs, but before India gets too excited about rising to 130 out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, it might be worth remembering that China is at 84, and Indonesia at 109, on that same scale. So there is a long way to go.
Perhaps the way to go is shopping at midnight. One of the decisions Modi and his cabinet took this week was an amendment to the Shops and Establishments Act that will permit cinemas, restaurants, malls and even banks to stay open all night. At least there will be less traffic then.
Getting rejected for a job you really wanted is one of the worst parts of job searching. But if you handle the rejection well, you can get something useful out of the disappointment. Here's how.
1. Don't get angry. There's no point in getting angry or taking a job rejection personally. You might think that you were perfect for the job and resent the employer for not seeing it, or even feel angry that you spent your time interviewing. But rejection comes with the territory when you're hunting for a job, and in a market like this one, even highly qualified candidates get rejected because there's often someone who is simply a better match for the position. Getting angry will only make it harder for you to continue with your search in good spirits—and can turn into bitterness, which can scare off future employers.
2. Thank your interviewer for their time. Saying thank-you might be the last thing you feel like doing, but send a gracious note thanking the interviewer for her time. Say that you enjoyed meeting her and getting to learn about her company, and ask that she keep you in mind if opportunities open up in the future. Why? Well, first, being polite is never a bad thing to do … but also, stories abound of people whose gracious responses to rejection led to them getting the job when the employer's first-choice candidate didn't work out, or being contacted about new openings later on.
3. Ask the hiring manager to give you feedback on how you could be a stronger candidate. This won't always yield useful information—some employers have a policy of not giving feedback to rejected candidates—but sometimes it will, and you never know until you ask. To maximize your chances of a useful response, it's crucial that you don't sound like you're frustrated or, even worse, challenging the employer's decision. There's no faster way to make your interviewer shut down. You also don't want to sound like the request is a perfunctory email that you send to every interviewer; it needs to sound personal and engaging, so that your interviewer feels rapport with you and is more inclined to respond.
Again, this won't work every time. But it when it does, you can learn valuable information about how you can do better next time.
4. Stay in touch with the hiring manager. After being rejected, you might want nothing more than to wipe the memory of your interview from your mind and pretend the whole experience never happened—but don't. That hiring manager is now a business contact, and you should stay in touch. Connect on LinkedIn, check in now and then, send an article that you think she'd like. Don't be a pest, but don't let the relationship fade into nothing. She may be able to tell you about another opening some day, either at her company or with a contact.
I was applying for a sale job. The interviewer asked me if I had a phone.
Sure, I do.
Sell it to me. Convince me to buy your phone from you.
It was an older Nokia model, beaten up over the years. I took it out of my pocket. It didnt really had any selling points over newer smartphones.
Mmm... it has a flashlight button. And you could listen to FM radio on it if you found the right cable for that... mmm... it could also help you give the image of a rugged, active lifestyle...
My mind lit up.
Its tough as nails! I Challenge you to do this with any other phone! I said, throwing it against the wall.
The phone survived without a scratch. There was a small dent in the drywall.
I got the job INTERVIEW 2 :- I had been trying to get a job in finance for a few months and was having trouble. A Sociology major in college, I hadn't decided until after recruiting had passed during my Senior year that I wanted to work in Sales and Trading. After graduation, I moved to NYC to find a job in the industry, and ended up finding an internship on a trading floor in Boston and moved there for a few months. During that time, I continued to network to find a job in NYC because it's where I had dreamed of being.
Somewhere along the line, I managed to get the contact information for a Managing Partner (basically the highest rank you can hold) at one of the most selective banks in the world. Let's call that bank Soldman Gachs. I made several strikes from the beginning.
I sent him an email letting him know when I was available (any Friday), instead of asking him when it was convenient for him.
I did not tell him how I got his contact information.
I didn't hear back from him, so I followed up a few more times. Finally, his assistant responded and said I could come and meet with him. Early that morning I got on the Chinatown bus in Boston and went to NYC to meet with him. He cancelled at the last minute when I was already in the city.
This happened about 4 more times. No joke. On about the 5th Friday this had happened I decided to just show up anyway and act like I didn't know he cancelled.
I went to Soldman Gach's world headquarters, walked through the huge doors with a run in my pantyhose (long story) and stood in the massive lobby looking like the lost 22-year old mess that I was. I told the security guards who I was there to see. They picked up the phone for a second then let me through to the elevators (to this day I have no idea why), and I made my way to the fixed income trading floor upstairs.
When I walked into Mr. Managing Partner's office, he looked up and asked, "Are you that kid who won't stop emailing my assistant", and laughed. I answered yes and introduced myself, and he interrupted me and said "I'm busy, what do you want?" I felt so dumb and out of place at this point and knew I looked ridiculous. But, I was also standing in the personal office of one of the most powerful men on Wall Street, and I could see the trading floor through the glass walls and remembered why I was there. There was no choice but to just go for it at that point.
I told him I wanted to work on his trading floor, and that I'd be the best analyst he had if he gave me a shot. We talked for a few minutes, during which time he told me I needed to refine my initial correspondence practices because my first email to him sounded rude, a lesson which I took to heart. He asked me why I wanted to work in finance and if I would consider myself a risk-taker and what my favorite games were, and like a diligent interviewee I had answers to all of those things.
At the end he said "I have no idea who you are or how you got in my office, but you've got conviction and I like that. I'm going to help you."
And he did.
He retired shortly thereafter, but I ended up on a trading floor and he's a friend to this day, and I write much more polite emails now, too. INTERVIEW 3 :- Presence of mind was one thing I didn't think I had until this happened:
Interviewer: Good morning Mr. Anonymous. I'm sure you're familiar with a typical consult interview, so I won't beat around the bush. Tell me a little about yourself before we dive into the puzzles and cases.
Me: Blah blah blah...er...blah...er...blah
Being my first job interview, I managed the impossible. I screwed up right at the start and ended up describing why I wanted to do consulting, instead of talking about myself. Beads of sweat started forming on my troubled forehead. With a bemused look on his face, the interviewer continued.
Interviewer: Uh, o...kay. I'll go on to the puzzle now. Okay, so tell me...
He proceeds to describe a puzzle I had heard and solved recently. I have trouble keeping my emotions away from my facial expressions, so I broke into a wide smile, thinking that the moment to redeem the dismal 'tell me about yourself' had come! Needless to say, my poker career ended almost as soon as it had started.
Me: <Laughing> Sir, I'll be honest with you. I've heard this one before...<I then proceed to give an outline of the solution>
Interviewer: Oh, haha, okay. I guess I'll have to ask you another one I guess. Okay, so...
He then proceeds to describe a puzzle that sounded so tricky and convoluted that the beads of perspiration on my forehead now gushed forth with renewed fury in rivulets of nervousness down my face and neck and arms and legs. A Ganga of tension clouded over my face. The interviewer finishes asking the question and there is an ugly silence that ensues. I could almost hear the atoms in the left part of my brain screeching to a sudden halt and completely and stubbornly refusing to budge towards any analysis whatsoever. I had no idea what the solution was. I didn't even know where to start!
But then the creative right part of my brain swooped in, with fluttering heroic cape et al.
Me: <Smiling broadly> Sir, I hate to admit it, but I've heard this one before as well!
Interviewer: <A look that registered appreciation of my unbelievable 'honesty' and shock at the probability of it all> Wow...No puzzles today, it seems. I guess we'll move on to a quick case then...
And then, after blindly stumbling and bumbling through the case and then shockingly recovering to somehow solve it, I cleared the interview and got the job! INTERVIEW 4:- The interviewer, a very senior technical guy, asked me, "So, do you have any questions for me?"
I thought about it for a moment and said, "What's the worst thing about working here?"
He thought about it for a minute, then got up and closed his door, and told me. For like half an hour, in painful detail, getting more agitated as he went. Then he was done, and sent me on my way saying I'd hear back soon.
The next day I got called back in. Seems that after he talked to me, he went and resigned, and the HR rep asked what happened in our interview.
After I told them, in detail, I expected to hear nothing further since I would have been reporting to him. Instead, the CTO came in to talk to me, and asked if I would be interested in coming aboard to help him fix all the things that seemed to be wrong with the organization (and solve some cool technical problems as well).
So I did. INTERVIEW 5 :- In response to a job offer, I said no. As a result, I got the job.
This goes back a few years: I was interested in a particular job, and read the description carefully. I saw it had 5 job specifications, covering a wide range of skills in my field. I thought they might need two people to do the job they described. After some good phone interviews, I was invited to a full day of on-site interviews. I first met with the hiring manager, and then with a few people related to the group. The last interview was with the recruiter.
First interview with the hiring manager (CTO-ish role) went well, but it had a strange moment near the end. We spoke about the job and then he asked if I had questions. I asked about the five items; they were diverse, so which was the most important part of the job? He looked at the job spec sheet and answered that #5 was the essential job, the other four were much less relevant. I asked, why is the most important part of the job listed last? Usually a list like this would have the most important item listed first. Moreover, #1 and #5 implied a very different skill profile. He seemed annoyed at me for asking the question, and reiterated that #5 was the job, the rest was not as important.
The next five interviews went very smoothly, and things were looking promising. When each interviewer asked if I had questions, I asked the same question, out of curiosity: "If you and I asked the CTO which of these 5 items are most important for this job, what do you think he'd say?" Each one answered #1 is the primary job. Then I said "I actually asked the CTO, he said #5 was the essential part of the job. What do you think that means?" Their reactions were very interesting. One said "No, I meant #5..." Another said "Oh that's not right, I need to meet with him and correct this." Fascinating indeed! Seemingly, I revealed a disconnect between the CTO and the team about the job.
The last interview was with the recruiter. We clicked. We had a frank conversation about the company and about the issues I uncovered. She told me that feedback on my interviews was positive. But she did not have a good answer about the role clarity. Yet they still wanted to make me an offer. The truth is, I really wanted (needed) this job. But I said: I'm sorry, I don't think I can take the job if the company doesn't know what the job is. You need to figure out what you want before you make an offer. I don't think anyone could succeed in a job where the very role is in dispute.
She responded. The reason they wanted to make me the offer was that I was the only person to see what was going on. It was a new role and they didn't fully understand the requirements themselves -- but apparently I read the situation in a way they were unable to see themselves, and that's what they needed. They want me to take the job in order to help figure out what the job should be.
She asked me what salary range I was looking for. I thought, this makes no sense. Yes, I want the job, but the risk of failure is high since the job was ill defined. Given the risk, how would I know if they are serious about having me figure this out for them? So I said "If you make me an offer I can't refuse, then I won't be able to refuse it." She came back 15 minutes later with an offer I could not, and did not refuse. No regrets either.