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Bridging the Skill Gap

Hettich India has been leading the skill development movement in the furniture industry and is now aiming to institutionalise its efforts with the forthcoming Hettich Poddar Woodworking Institute

The furniture industry in India is witnessing a shift. Gradually, the share of organised players is increasing. There is also an apparent slow but gradual shift towards modular furniture from custom made furniture. Even the manufacturing process is getting modernised with automation. So, while there is greater demand of skilled workforce, even the existing one needs upgradation.

And, furniture components major Hettich India has been at the forefront driving changes in the industry – be it from the prospect of preparing the market, bringing in innovation, upgrading the manufacturing process or preparing a talent pool of skilled workforce. Hettich on its own has trained more than 20,000 people in the last one decade or so. And, now that the government is on a Skill India mission and has called for greater industry participation, Hettich was first off the block in the furniture sector to form a tie-up with Furniture & Fittings Skill Council (FFSC).

Anil Kumar Goel, managing director, Hettich India has led the company from its start-up days in 2001, when Hettich Holding Germany and Adventz Group forged a joint venture in India, to emerge as the market leader, with sustained profitable growth year after year, in an industry that is highly fragmented. Building a cadre of trained carpenters and furniture fitters has been a key plank of Goel’s growth strategy for Hettich India, and the government’s belated call for skill development has only validated his approach.

In an exclusive interview with Sourcing Hardware, Goel talks about the industry’s requirements, the initiatives being taken by Hettich, and the way ahead.

What is the current scenario in the furniture and fittings industry as far as availability of skilled workforce is concerned? What is the approximate current industry requirement?
Let us keep our discussion restricted to the furniture industry. The industry is going through a transformation process and is witnessing two dimensional changes. First, many new manufacturing units are being set up. Second, conventional furniture making is shifting to modern practices involving change of almost all the components.

No wonder the industry is facing a huge shortage of workforce. Further, even the earlier trained carpenters are finding it difficult to use new fittings and hardware. The requirement of a skilled work force at the carpenter level is many times higher than the industrial requirement. The carpenters need to be trained in modern practises for better quality of workmanship, higher earning potential and improved productivity. This requirement exists not only in tier-I cities, but also in tier-II and III cities, and even in villages!

Hettich India was among the first to come forward and tie up with FFSC as an industry partner for various training initiatives. What prompted you to do so?
A skilled workforce and the nation’s prosperity (through GDP growth) are interconnected. This has been well elucidated by our most eminent economist Amartya Sen. In that context, the Skill India Mission is a great initiative from the government. And since the skilled workforce is to be employed by the industry, the government thought it prudent to involve the industry right from the beginning and took the necessary steps. It was natural that we would want to be part of the programme, and hence the association with FFSC, which is the sector skill council representing the furniture and fittings industry.

As part of the governing body of FFSC, and leader of the country’s largest furniture fittings manufacturer, what is your vision regarding skilling at large?
I believe that skill development should have the following outcomes: better employment opportunity, higher earning potential, and improved productivity for employers of the work force. That is what we are trying to achieve through training.

Hettich is setting up a corporate skilling centre in NCR in association with FFSC. What is the arrangement between Hettich and FFSC? What courses will be offered?
Yes, we are in the process of setting up an institute in Faridabad which would be iconic in all respects. FFSC and Hettich are trying to bring many partners on board to make the training more effective and capable of generating employment opportunities.

The Hettich Poddar Woodworking Institute, as it would be called, would be independent of Hettich and will be run as a Vocational Training Partner (VTP) and a non-profit industry oriented education institution, with the sole objective of benefiting the workmen involved in the woodworking industry.

There are many processes and syllabi designed by FFSC for the benefit of workmen in different job profiles such as assembler, lock installation, kitchen assembler, RTA furniture assembler, carpenter, sofa maker, etc.

What kind of support or incentives does the industry require from the government?
It is unfortunate that we have an attitude of asking the government to do everything, rather than we as an industry taking the initiative. The government has been supportive enough for the last few decades by removing many road blocks so that the industry could do what is required to be done for making the country prosperous. Therefore, from industry’s viewpoint, we should look more into doing what is required from our side rather than looking at the government for support.

Mrinmoy Dey

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