Member of Parliament Meenakashi Lekhi, who is an advocate of skill development, fears that industry may not sustain its growth if the constituents do not invest in upgrading the skills of their people and get them the deserved dignity
By Mrinmoy Bhattacharjee
When Member of Parliament from New Delhi constituency Meenakashi Lekhi contested elections for her second term last May, she listed skill development among top priorities. Now that Lekhi, who is also BJP national spokeswoman, has been re-elected, she is intent on closing the yawning gap between demand and supply for artisans in her high-profile constituency.
Lekhi spoke at the recently-held India Kitchen Congress (IKC), a conference for the modular kitchen and cabinet industry that focused on skill development, entrepreneurship and technology. She appealed to the manufacturers, dealers, franchisees, institutional buyers, and designers to scale up their skilling activities for tapping into the rapidly emerging domestic kitchen market. “A big market with low-skilled staff will impact your delivery mechanism,” she warned, adding, “I will be happy to work with the industry to create more jobs and bring professionalism into this sector.
“Your industry will grow, make more money, and will do very well, but along with that please comply with your social responsibilities and get involved with Skill India, Startup India, and Stand up India.” Lekhi knows that skilling manpower in the kitchen, furniture and allied sectors could go a long way in delivering her poll promise.
“Skill development is necessary for changing the way of doing business if we have to transform India. As our population is increasing, individuals and families will have to live in lesser space in the multi-storied buildings of the future. In that future, we will need efficient kitchen systems,” said Lekhi as she later sat down for an interview with Sourcing Hardware on the sidelines of IKC. “The industry will also require skilled professionals for offering service. “If the skilled people are not available, maintenance of kitchens will surely become an issue.”
Underscoring that India has been the skill capital of the world since ages, she added, “There was an emphasis on learning skills in India until a generation before me. We were proficient in craftsmanship. Till today my family has been engaging a carpenter for decades. He can execute the most intricate of designs with precision, but cannot comprehend them by looking at the computer screen. Our craftsmen are far superior when it comes to designing and material selection, but tend to flounder when they have to work with modern technology. We need to address this gap and blend the best of our traditional skills with technology.”
Lekhi also pointed out that attitudes towards craftsmen must change. “The job of a carpenter is a very skilled one. He is not just a carpenter; he is a technician who is delivering your requirements. He is not being granted the dignity that he deserves for his skills. This needs to change. Today, people seem to prefer sitting before computers instead of engaging in work that requires intense hand-eye-brain coordination. Technologies such as Virtual Reality may help you visualise the chair, but you do need skilled hands to build it.”
Finally, she noted, “Labels matter. Perhaps it’s time to replace the word ‘carpenter’ with a fancy name like ‘furniture technologist’. This may help in changing attitudes and attracting more graduates towards craftsmanship.”