Rohit Karnatak and Prakash Patil are the in-house graphic designers with Investronaut. While seated in a snug corner of our office, I tried to make sense of their journey through the lights and shades of their profession. What is the nature and scope of this profession? Read to find out.
1. Explain to the lay reader out there who is a 'graphic designer' ? How does one become one and what qualities/traits must an aspiring graphic designer have?
Response - Simply put, bringing inanimate text to life visually! There is no one job that a ‘graphic designer’ does, rather a designer offers a bouquet of services to make the product visually appealing.
A graphic designer assembles images, illustrations, typography, vector elements (shapes) and colors to bring a design to life. Graphic designers play a vital role in the animation and the publishing industry. They design sets, backgrounds and logos. Graphic designers also work as user interface designers, brand identity designer, web and app designers. The options are numerous.
Being a creative profession, an eye for color, understanding of shapes and a creative bent of mind is a necessity. A degree in graphic design can teach you the basics but like any other field most of the learning takes places 'on the job’. To succeed as a designer, you need to keep your eyes open, be observant and one must learn to think on your feet.
2. Please walk us through your journey to become a designer.
Rohit - I am self taught. I was working as a Computer Engineer when by a slice of good luck, I was assigned a project to develop a website. I was expected to learn and use Photoshop for it. That’s when I discovered the joy of creating something new! I instantly knew that this is what I wanted to pursue further.
Initially, I relied on video tutorials to learn the basics. It was tough as I had no prior training in the field. My team in Flexton Inc., the company I was working for at the time, understood quickly my inclination towards graphic designing. So, I was deliberately assigned design-related projects which turned out to be a blessing indeed! It’s been four years since I have been working as a graphic designer now, and I have not looked back ever since.
Prakash - I was never good at studies but I excelled in drawing and painting. My teachers in school spotted that and encouraged me to take up Elementary and Intermediate art exams. That gave me confidence and I decided to study arts after school. My two years in art school and later a course in graphic designing gave me a solid grounding and understanding of the field.
A degree in graphic designing is not mandatory but it teaches you how to brainstorm ideas, inculcate a sense of colors and teaches you the importance of observation.
In the last 8 years my journey as a graphic designer has given me immense creative gratification and diverse range of assignments have fine tuned my craft.
3. Drawing from personal experiences, as well as those you have known, how does a graphic designer contribute to the development, marketing and distribution of a product?
A sample of Rohit Karnatak’s work showcasing his angst against capitalism, hollow notions of being cool and his idea of boundless imagination.
Rohit & Prakash - A graphic designer’s contribution is immense! See human beings are mostly and primarily visual. We see first and then decide in most cases. This is where the designer comes in. Graphic Designers transform a product into a brand. Graphic designers channel their creativity to design campaigns that intrigue, and delight the customers and so customers stay with them longer! A longer stay naturally means greater revenues. Therefore the designer amplifies the message visually which in turn which motivates the customer to try the product. An article on the Web or curiosity towards a book is greatly influenced by the cover image. As they say the first impression is the last impression, and so we often judge a book by it’s cover. Be it a hoarding, a logo or an advertisement, it is the designer’s job to get it right. Their work will go a long way towards determining the reach and popularity of a product.
4. From your own experience and of others, what are the possible challenges a graphic designer faces in course of work? How must they be overcome?
Rohit & Prakash - The biggest challenge is to not be repetitive. If we are promoting three brands of soap, each one has to have a distinct identity. So, one has to have a fresh perspective each time, with new ideas that can be translated into new designs, videos and images.
Some brands like Mercedes and Wills have established their brand identity with minimalistic designs - a simple logo against a dark background. They apparently look very simple, but it is actually the result of a careful thought by the designer. But once the logo is established, the designer’s job increases manifold, as the template is set. Now the designer has to walk a tightrope between keeping the brand identity intact yet vary it so as to keep the campaign fresh, else stagnant waters stink, and familiarity breeds contempt.
Another challenge is to keep pace with the new softwares that come to the market every so often. One has to learn them if you don't want to turn obsolete.
On a personal level there are days when you are not feeling particularly inspired and creative. Yet, on some days the work is urgent, and there is no scope to procrastinate. Then, the challenge is to overcome that and find ways to keep the creative juices flowing. The trick to keeping monotony at bay is to expand your canvas. As with every art, so with design. The designer’s first audience must be one’s own self - create primarily for yourself and savor the joy of creating, without having a client or product in mind.
A sample of Prakash’s work for leading Investronaut clients.
5. Innovation is the favourite word of the corporate world these days. Do graphic designers need to innovate? Do you for example recall any time you innovated?
Response - Of course! Variety is the spice of life. Graphic Designers are no different. Innovation is the key to evolve and sustain in a competitive world. You have to change your design and approach with the changing pulse and taste of the audience. You have to constantly figure out what will click with the masses. In our current job too we innovate and try to inculcate an element of humour, video content, mailers etc. We have to constantly think of new tricks to engage new audiences in our work and keep the regular ones hooked.
6. And finally what are the career opportunities and advancement options that are available to a graphic designer?
Rohit & Prakash - There is an evolving hierarchy and career path one can follow as a Graphic Designer. After honing your skills for a year or two as an intern or a Junior Graphic Designer, one can become a Graphic Designer. After 5-10 years of experience one can join as a Senior Graphic Designer. Another 5 years in your kitty and you become a Visual Graphic Designer. All this culminates with one becoming a Creative Head after 18-20 years of experience.
Life as a Graphic Designer is like a gust of fresh air everyday. It forces you to challenge the limits of what you already know. It is financially rewarding and creatively gratifying as a career. If you are fresh out of school, a graduate or someone stuck in a stifling profession and looking to unleash your creativity and make a decent living out of it too! This could be your best bet!
A CASE FOR LIBERAL ARTS
Keeping up with globalization has lead to an enquiry of knowledge domains, previously unexplored. The explosion of knowledge has meant that while specializations are in demand, yet subject parochialism can no longer pass off as acceptable. The previous yardstick of measuring knowledge value in ways no longer hold true. It demands a renewed conversation on the practice of knowledge production at this particular contemporary moment, and a broader conversation on the activities and institutions that shape an understanding of the utility and nature of such knowledge.
Binaries of class, caste etc have crept into education as well. As with all binaries, one entity invariably takes on a superior position. There are two distinct camps in higher education - Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) vs Humanities. While STEM is seen to be practical, real, with high employment potential, liberal arts is viewed to be elitist, self- indulgent and vague. This misunderstanding largely emerges from understanding liberal arts to be synonymous with humanities. To make clear the confusion: Liberal arts is a fusion of pure sciences AND humanities. It defies the straight jacketed distinction of arts and science.
WHY INTERDISCIPLINARY EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT ?
A liberal arts education is not about learning any one kind of content or text book. It’s about learning how to synthesize novel ideas, develop critical thinking, develop an aptitude to research, ability to adapt to new situations, meaningful enquiries, to be tolerant of differences, develop problem solving abilities, effective communication, clarity of concepts and thinking etc. We have falsely come to believe that education is only about collecting degrees and finding employment. Yes! it is that too but if one hopes to attain success in a professional career one needs more than that.
The world is a complex place and there are no linear solutions to its problems. Problems like climate change, hunger, terrorism etc. cannot be resolved using parochial straight-jacketed solutions. They need a multidimensional approach.
The dominant thought is that only a degree in engineering or management can secure you a job. It is far from the truth. Media, fashion, education, publishing, commerce are some of the industries that do not involve STEM and yet provide livelihood. Even the IT industry requires all sorts of non technical employees to run the company. In the evolving global employment landscape, employees that can work in multi-professional teams and adopt holistic approaches to problem-solving are preferred over the ones who bring limited skills to the table. Only a scientific or technological education devoid of any social context makes a tool out of an employee not a thinker. Employers are looking for people who can find innovative solutions to problems and can approach the issue at hand from different angles.
Indira Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo, an inspiration to many, in an interview said that apart from hard work one needs to be well informed and have extraordinary communication skills to climb the ladder in any high-tech industry. An interdisciplinary education is a must to make us a wholesome individuals and inculcate these skills in the young graduates.
WHY WE NEED LIBERAL ARTS MORE THAN EVER BEFORE?
I believe that in the contemporary times of great division and bigotry, a liberal arts education is more important than ever. It forces us to admit and understand that a uniform world view is dangerous and boring. That world is fluid, there are no concrete truths and no one ‘right’ answer.
A liberal arts education ignites the passion for rational debate, the ability to ask uncomfortable questions, question the status quo and introduce students to an ever expanding world of ideas. It leans toward openness instead of containment. It forces us to continually revisit our view point, understand our own position in the world and broaden our ideological borders. Most importantly it makes us realize that it’s ok to not subscribe to the uniform notions in any walk of life. That people and cultures other than ours are as human and as real as our own.
In my view liberal arts education enables one to embark the path of innovation and creativity in whichever career one chooses to pursue. It is those who can think nimbly and responsibly who end up building bright careers.
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a content writer with Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
Being an International student makes you unique in a foreign country. Remember that it takes all kinds of people to make the world. So celebrate being different and wear your uniqueness with pride.
I was greeted by a deafening silence and deserted streets as I walked out of the Stuttgart airport on a chilly October afternoon. I collected my luggage and got on to the bus to Tuebingen, a tiny University town in South Germany. Once in the bus my eyes filled with wonderment. Snug little cottages along the road, carefully mowed lawns, intricate see-through curtains on the windows, winding tree lined roads and crystal blue sky! The sheer beauty of the place kept my sleep deprived eyes wide open. Everything was straight out of the fairytale! It was my first day outside India. I was going to be an exchange student at the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen for two semesters, spanning a year.
In the days that followed I had a series of jaw - dropping experiences. Busses and trains were more punctual than your watch! The women at the visa registration office treated me with a polite smile and voila! in 5 minutes my work was done. It was a refreshing change from India where red-tapism can be exasperating.
Life felt like a breath of fresh air every day. But beneath the excitement I could feel a pit of sadness and nostalgia that came from missing my family and friends back home.
Life at University
I faced a real challenge once the classes started. The education system in Germany is very different from that of India. The classrooms in Germany are very student - centric and the professor’s role is that of a guide. Most of the learning happens through discussions, presentations and assignments rather than lectures. Coming to class unprepared is not an option! The study material, which is provided in advanced, has to be thoroughly studied before the class. I realized that German students were better equipped to research and work independently, a skill not nurtured in the Indian education system. Adapting to it was hard and I had several bouts of feeling incompetent. I had to constantly remind myself that I am amongst the chosen few to have bagged the opportunity to be on an ‘all expenses’ paid exchange program, and there is no way I could let it go in vain. I modified and evolved my study habits to gradually generate a new learning curve for myself.
Adapting to new ways of learning was only one of my classroom challenges. I was different and so was my accent. For me the accent of my fellow students was alien to an extent that initially I would lose trail of the discussions in the class, trying to understand the words that sounded too twisted on the tongue for my Indian ears. It took me a moment to wrap my ears around it. I was conscious of my own accent too. It took me a while to realize that rather than being conscious of my uniqueness I need to embrace it. If I embrace my uniqueness, others will too.
Life in Tuebingen
Life in Germany was a fairy tale except that it was real. Tuebingen is a sleepy little town which comes alive with the multicultural student community from across the globe. The building I lived in housed students from countries I had never heard of, up until then! Eight students on each floor shared a common kitchen and my Indian curries attracted much curiosity. On several occasions I ended up inviting complete strangers to my dinner table. Some of them remain my close friends till date!
By the time I landed in Tuebingen in October, Christmas was already in the air. Everyone told me to not miss the Christmas markets. I went to one in Munich and the word to best describe it is ‘Christmassy’. There was snow all around, white, red and greens ribbon decorations, and shops full of goodies. Steaming Glhue wine being freshly brewed on the roadside to keep you warm in the frosty winter and bilgy lights emanating warmth. But the Christmas day was lonely, most of my friends had either gone home or made plans to spend Christmas with other German families. I was fairly new in town to get an invitation yet.
Tuebingen has a strong Indian community and it made me feel like home away from home. But I made a conscious effort to not remain clubbed in a ghetto and made friends across cultural lines and mixed with the locals.
Of all the memories I made in Germany, It’s the random acts of kindness that remain closest to my heart. Once I was walking in a Christmas market when an old lady came up to me and admonished me for not wearing gloves in the cold. She pulled out a pair of gloves from her big hand bag and handed over a pair to me. I use those gloves till date!
Time flew like the wind and before I knew it was time to buy presents for the family and return. A part of me never wanted to leave. Coming back when your own country feels alien you realize that something in you has changed.
My fellow International students, carry your culture with you for its an expression of your roots. Embrace your uniqueness, don’t be scared to be different in the way you look, the way you talk, what your wear. Its beautiful to be different. Be your self. Represent your culture and do it with pride.
As an International student don't forget that you are a guest in that country so be sensitive to the cultural nuances and respect them. Make an effort to understand the new culture, keep patience and don't be quick to judge.
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a Content Writer at Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
Painting by - Prof. Mitali Kulkarni
A long engulfing silence hung between them, shattered intermittently with silent sobs at both ends of the phone line. 25 years have passed since that fateful day, people have picked up the broken threads of their lives and moved on, but memories are stubborn. Incase you are wondering what I am talking about, well the story begins 25 years ago when Latur was struck with a massive earthquake.
As residents of Latur went to bed that night, little did they know that for many it would prove to be their final night. Still hungover after the relentless festivities of the recently concluded Ganesh Utsav, Latur was ravaged by a devastating earthquake, in the wee hours of 30th September,1993, measuring 6.4 on the Richter Scale. This was a calamity of unprecedented proportions that claimed 9,748 lives and left 30,ooo injured. Overnight the city known for its enchanting Kharosa Caves was reduced to a haunting heap of debris and dead bodies.
Broken Homes. Broken Dreams.
Nature’s fury knew no end. The rescue and rehabilitation work was severely hit by torrential rains that followed the mighty earthquake. Lt. Col. Sumeet Baxi, then freshly commissioned into the Indian Army, was deputed on the rescue mission to retrieve the trapped under the debris. As bodies were dug out, he worked day and night giving them a respectable burial and taking the injured to the hospital. Days passed by and the odds of finding anyone alive under the debris was getting smaller than the point of a fine needle. But as they say in Hindi - ja ko rake sayian mar sake na koi (The one protected by God can’t be killed).
On 5th October, 1993, four days after the catastrophic earthquake struck Latur, Lt. Col. Baxi heard feeble cries of what seemed like the voice of a baby from under the debris. Springing into action, Lt. Col. Baxi slipped through the precarious gaps that could have been fatal to his own life and pulled out a baby girl with her pulse still beating. The 18 month old girl was spontaneously rechristened Priya by the brave heart officer who handed her over to her overwhelmed father. 25 years went by and Lt. Col. Baxi’s army posting brought him to Pune. He came to know about the whereabouts of Priya, now in her 20’s, a confident young school teacher. Hesitant yet curious Lt. Col. Baxi picked up the phone to ask about her well being. Overcome by emotions, he found himself struggling to strike a normal conversation with Priya. A long engulfing silence hung between them, shattered intermittently with sobs at both ends of the phone line. “Thank You” - is all Priya managed to utter.
Unlike what we are accustomed to - taut muscles, handsome, shiny hair and being gallant at the drop of a hat, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Reality is more complex and interesting than fiction. Lt. Col. Sumeet Baxi might seem like an ordinary man going about his daily business yet there lies around him the ring of a halo of heroism. For one who saves a human being, it were as if, one has saved entire humanity. By saving a life, a future, an aspiration that will create a difference by just existing, when it almost wasn't meant to be.
Debris of Hope
On 1st October, 2018 Lt. Col. Sumeet Baxi was felicitated by Vishwakarma University, Pune for his heroic act and selfless service during the Latur earthquake.
The audience were enthralled and deeply moved when Dr. Siddharth Jabade, Vice Chancellor, Vishwakarma University narrated the tale of valour of Lt. Col. Baxi to the audience present.
Prof. Mitali Kulkarni, Art and Design department, presented Lt.Col. Summit Baxi with a beautiful painting depicting his heroic act and Priya's journey of becoming a teacher today. Dr. Siddharth Jabade announced the noble initiative of VISHWAS, an NGO under the aegis of Vishwakarma University, to adopt the village called Mangrul in Maharashtra.
‘Touch the Sky With Glory’ – true to their motto, the Indian Air Force is an embodiment to the grit, determination, and grace. On this Air Force Day the nation salutes the spirit of sacrifice, courage and the inspiring discipline exhibited by our men in blue! Be it emergency evacuations, search and rescue operations or a full fledged war, the Indian Air Force always leads from the front! On 8th October 1932, the Indian Air Force was officially established by the British. That is why 8th October every year is commemorated as the ‘Air Force Day’. The day is celebrated with the public display of synchronized adventurous air shows at Hindon, near Delhi.
The Indian Air Force boasts of a glorious history of achievements starting from the Second World War when it halted the Japanese army in Burma and other South Asian countries. It played a decisive role in “Operation Vijay” for Goa’s annexation to India, the victory of Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 and the Kargil War in 1999. Fact Check - Did you know that the President of India is the supreme Commander of the Indian Air Force?
Why Should You Learn a Foreign Language?
Learning a language is hard enough, learning a foreign language harder. A language is not simply an assortment of names and sounds, but an ever expanding catalogue of a culture. Learning a new language means experiencing a culture that is not only absent but also fundamentally different from the one in which one has grown. This cultural immersion is one of the most difficult things as the biases of own cultural conditioning continuously exert a pull that resists the foreign influences. The experience can be immensely frustrating. Yet, where there is a will there is a way as the old adage testifies. If you persist long enough, the process of learning a foreign language can be immensely enriching.
The benefits of learning a foreign language far outshine the clichéd and done to death adding sheen to your CV. How does it benefit thee, let me count the ways! For one, it is an excellent brain exercise and has documented health benefits. Learning a new language is fun and is proved to boost our cognitive process, helps in better memory and delays dementia and Alzheimer’s. Learning a new language makes us a good listener as we have to pay attention to gauge the meaning in a new language. It allows us a sneak peek into a new culture. Learning new languages is not just a tool to explore the world outside, it takes us on an interesting journey inwards to understand the self. You emerge a more cosmopolitan and enriched person, an invaluable advantage in a globalized world.
The limits of your language are the limits of your world. Learning a language opens a whole new way of life to us because language acquisition cannot take place in isolation. Language and culture are deeply intertwined. Teaching-learning a foreign language is assisted by watching movies, learning songs, reading books etc. This exposure to new culture infuses cultural tolerance and brings an inevitable comparison to our native culture allowing us to self-reflect and understand our own position in the world. We might find an unexpected connect in another countries -music, food, dance etc that were hitherto alien to us.
You might claim that all this is fine but does it offer any tangible career benefits? Why should you as a student enroll for a language course? To put your brains where the money is, you can make a successful career out of it too, while having a great time.
In the age of instant google translator, the career as a translator is still a sought after one. It allows you the flexibility to work from any corner of the world as long as you have an internet connection. Since it is well paying and much in demand, it is highly competitive. One is advised to specialize in a niche domain such as education, law, medicine, science etc.
Interpreters are in demand in courtrooms, conferences, parliaments of multilingual countries, UN etc. Interpreters during live interviews and speeches are much in demand. Along with the message a good interpreter should also convey the personality of the person for whom you are interpreting so that the interpreters own personality stays in the background.
Foreign languages can open your path to one of the most glamorous professions and a ticket to travel the world. A combination of English and a foreign language like French, Spanish or German could be your ticket to an exciting career as a flight attendant.
Embassies and Consulates
Each country has an embassy and consulates that provides diplomatic services to other countries. These embassies and consulates need people who speak the local language.
These jobs are very prestigious and applicants with a very high proficiency are recruited after a rigorous selection process.
Proof reader/ Editor
Anything that is written/ translated needs to pass the watchful eyes of a proofreader before it is published. As a proof reader your role will be to find and correct any grammatical error in the document. A lot of international companies are setting up businesses in India. They hire people for translation and proof reading of their documents for formal communication.
Hospitality, Tourism and Travel Tour guide
With a degree in a foreign language, you can expect to work with museums and monuments as a multilingual tour guide. If you love to meet and chat with new people, this could be an option worth considering.
Companies with businesses overseas train their staff in the local language before sending then abroad onsite. One can work as a corporate trainer for these companies and carry home a hefty pay check.
There are ample opportunities for qualified teachers in foreign languages. Most schools offer German, Russian, French or Russian, Japanese etc as a third language. Most universities too have foreign language departments.
Higher education in Europe
Germany, Finland and many other European countries do not charge tuition fees for higher education and countries like German and France offer generous scholarships for a Masters and Doctoral courses. A degree/diploma in foreign language opens research and higher studies opportunities abroad.
There is a world beyond engineering, medicine and management which is equally rewarding and perhaps more exciting. Don't be scared to explore it. There are no promises that it’s going to be an easy ride. The rat race and competition is a part of every profession, one can’t help it. But to be in a race one enjoys makes it worthwhile.
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a content writer with Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
Unveiling Secrecy: RTI and Access to Information
The International Day for Universal Access to Information is celebrated each year on 28th September. The term ‘Information’ has important connotations and consequences for the modern world beyond the cursory “acts provided or learned about something or someone” as mandated by the dictionary. The extent, content, and nature of this ‘learned’ information as well as the objective and the audience of this learning, are fundamental to defining the political orders and models of governance that are conceived, and adopted by any state.
This is particularly true of states like India that are conceived as democracies, where the will and choice of the voting public reign supreme. In such a scenario, it is absolutely essential that the people who vote have clarity in their choice of elected representatives, which necessarily involves an unqualified and unrestricted access to information on ‘polity’ and ‘policy’.
Access to Information as a safeguard of Democracy
Public access to information is one of the keys to a thriving democracy. For a democracy to flourish, its public institutions should be free of corruption. In most developing countries, development projects are marred by high levels of corruption. The funds meant for infrastructure, education, health, and housing are diverted to the deep pockets of politicians, middlemen, and contractors. It perpetuates the cycle of poverty and injustice, undermines the rule of law and weakens confidence citizen have in democratic institutions. Corruption thrives due to the lack of transparency and back door deals. With access to information, governments can be held accountable and questioned for their policies and expenditure on health care, education and other public services. Access to information increases public participation in governance by allowing the citizens to scrutinize the actions of the government and encourage a well-informed debate on matters of policy and national importance. A debate, as we know, is the backbone of a healthy democracy.
Right to Information and the death of RTI activists.
In 2005 India joined the illustrious list of countries passing laws for open access to information when the Right to Information Act (RTI) came into force. Under the provision of this Act, any citizen of India can request information from a public authority or office. The concerned office has to reply within 30 days. The Act gives citizens access to information to which hitherto only government officials were privy to, making every citizen a potential whistle-blower. Unfortunately, the Act that was meant to bring transparency in the system has ruffled many feathers.
Tragically, since 2005, more than 60 people have been murdered and numerous others tortured for exposing the corruption in the government on the basis of the information they received under the RTI Act. Nanjibhai Sondarva of Manekvada village in Gujarat is the latest to pay the price for seeking information under RTI. He was murdered by six people in March 2018 for seeking information about the funds spent on the construction of a road in his village. Try a google search on attacks on RTI activists in India and you will be taken aback to find a never-ending list of people who have been murdered, kidnaped, tortured, harassed, assaulted and driven to suicide.
This despite the 2014 Whistle Blowers Protection Act which promises to protect the person who exposes corruption in the government bodies, offices, and projects.
India has been ranked a dismal 81st in Corruption Perception Index 2017 by Transparency International. India has also been characterized as the worst “regional offenders” in Asia Pacific region on grounds of murders of journalists, activists, opposition leaders and intimidation and threatening of investigating agencies. As the statics indicate RTI Act alone can’t combat corruption until a sincere political will to weed out corruption prevails. In the current scenario when crackdowns on activists, journalists and civil society, in general, are on a rise, isn’t it all-important to protect a few who dare to speak up and question the establishment?
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a content writer with Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
The #metoo campaign following the stories of women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein restate the ubiquitous sexual harassment of women at Workplace. It is not the first instance of abuse of power by the people in important positions. The infamous Tarun Tejpal case back in India is yet another glaring example of the all pervasive problem of harassment of women. In many instances women are unaware of the complaint mechanism and existence of law against sexual harassment at the workplace.
Indian women have been in the work force since the 1950s, the number multiplied multifold post liberalization in the 1990s. Yet, sexual harassment didn't hit the Indian legal map until 1997. In 1992, Bhawri Devi, a village level Rajasthan government employee was gang-rapped by the village landlords after she tried to stop a child marriage in their family. The case led to the filing of the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by a women’s rights group- Vishakha, after which the Supreme court laid down guidelines, also called as Vishakha guidelines to be followed at the workplace.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act came into force in 2013. Sexual harassment is punishable under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. The convict can face one to three year imprisonment and/or fine.
What constitutes sexual harassment at workplace ?
Sexual harassment is making unwanted sexual advances , obscene remarks, showing sexually offensive visuals and demands for sexual favors. Inappropriate texts, unwelcome social invitations, lewd comments making sexually colored jokes, innuendoes, staring, intimidating women or any other behavior that makes a woman uncomfortable constitutes sexual harassment.
Execution of Sexual Harassment Act at workplace
The sexual harassment act requires all companies with more than 10 employees to set up an internal complaints committee, with one external member, headed by a woman. It is meant to encourage women to lodge their complain in a fear free environment and ensure a transparent system of redressal. But the reality is far from hopeful. Non-compliance of the act is rampant in companies.
According to the 2016 report on sexual harassment by Indian national Bar Association, despite the provisionsthere is no complain committee at most organization and they have no knowledge of the process.
Women find it overwhelming to challenge the employers or male colleagues for the fear of termination from their job, retaliation, lack of confidence in the organization , low awareness about laws and procedures and fear of embarrassment and stigma.
Most organizations tend to push these cases under the carpet for they view it as a blot on their public image and not as a breach of an individual woman’s right to safety and dignity. There is a sense of denial in that organizations believe that sexual harassment is something that happens in other organizations and does not exist in their own because there are no reported cases. Organizations even evade calling the term sexual harassment, such cases are often labelled as ‘inappropriate behavior’ and ‘internal matter’. Companies tend to dismiss this issue as unimportant and hope it will be forgotten in the due course. Or, the HR department will be equipped to handle it and the employees rules of conduct will be adequate to handle the situation should the need arise. Companies fail to recognize that sexual harassment is a socio-legal issue and HR department is not enough to tackle the specifics of the issue.
In response to the #Metoo campaign, Women and Child Development Ministry has launched an online portal called as the ‘SHe-box’ to report sexual harassment at workplace.
How can men contribute?
Gruesome sexual violence on the rise against women and right-wing groups validating them should be a cause of worry for all of us. Men can be powerful allies too in sexual assault prevention.
As men you need to understand that passing comments, staring, making unwanted phone calls, whistling or any other activity that is making a woman uncomfortable needs to stop now. Don't encourage or participate in such behavior.
Take down your Bollywood tinted glasses which tell you that when a girl says no she actually means yes. That’s nonsense! No means no. Understand the concept of consent.
Do not respond to sexist jokes and question people who do. It will make them think. Refrain from using gender based abusive words and language that objectifies women.
Remember that only the person perpetrating sexual violence is responsible for it. Whether a woman was wearing short dress or not, whether she was drunk or not, the time she went out and what company she was in is irrelevant. Do not blame and shame the victim.
Men need to interrogate their own privileges and the traditional notions of masculinity and femininity that put women in a hierarchical subservient position. They have to understand that gender equity is an important facet to violence prevention. Legal framework can hardly yield success until there is enough sensitization about the issue at the workplace and the cultural practices which allow men to feel superior to women are quashed.
Sarpotdar, Anagha, “Sexual harassment of Women, Reflections on the Private Sector”, Economic and Political Weekly of India, Vol XLVIII No 40, October 5, 2013.
Make Trade, Make Peace!
Trade is the single most important factor that has shaped the destiny of the modern world. Cultures and goods freely crossed the silk route for centuries bridging the gap between East and West. Modern nation-states were founded upon the premise of protectionism and expansion of trade during Renaissance, and funded by finances generated from trade. The importance of trade dates back to pre-industrial and pre - nation societies. Much of our history comes from travelogues drawn by traders who traveled through the world, drawing maps and our concept of the world. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to suggest that trade is one great unifier that has fueled the establishment of a civilized world as well as modernity on its own.
Free trade Vs Protectionism
Free trade is the policy of treating foreign goods and services no different from domestic goods and services and allowing producers from overseas to freely sell their goods in the country.
Protectionism is a policy of discriminating against foreign goods and services and restricting trade by imposing tariffs on them, thereby making them costlier for the customers.
At different times in history, protectionism and free trade have dominated the trade patterns. However, most agree that free trade is the means to promote peace and economic prosperity amongst countries.
Peace through trade?
It is an established fact that free trade benefits nations by increasing their wealth and living standards. India’s own story post-liberalization is testimony to that. Countries that trade a lot with each other are less likely to go to war with each other because free trade makes countries more commercially inter-dependent giving them the economic incentive to keep hostilities at bay. India and Russia share outstanding bilateral ties. Russia has been supporting India on various international forums and vice versa. The reason is the high trade link between the two countries. India is the second largest buyer of defence equipment from Russia. It reflects in the perception Russians have for India. A good 45% of Russians view India positively and only 9% expressed negative views, according to a BBC World Service Poll conducted in 2014.
Traders or businessmen influence the government. If they are doing profitable business with other countries, businessmen on both the sides will be opposed to war. Recently China has reduced the import duty on American cars by 10% opening huge possibilities for American car makers in China. US has also blinked on its decision to slap import duty on Chinese goods to the US. It has bought truce to the two countries otherwise on the verge of trade war.
India and Pakistan share dismal bilateral trade figures which reflect in the volatile relations the two two countries share. Every time the conflict with Pakistan hits a new bottom, experts suggest that the only way to normalize the situation is to improve mutually beneficial trade ties. On several occasion when politics has failed us, trade has come to the rescue. After the Uri attack where 18 Indian soldiers were martyred, India retaliated and hostilities on both sides reached a new high. India banned Pakistani artists from working in India. Pakistan countered it by banning the Indian movies. However, within a few months Pakistani cinema owners incurred heavy losses and amidst heavy pressure, the decision was revoked. Practical considerations of money sometimes force peace and keep the hollow noises of nationalism in check!
Extensive trade links may not always be directly proportional to good diplomatic relations. Despite Indian markets being flooded with Chinese goods and a whopping bilateral trade volume of US$ 84.5 billion between the two countries, the diplomatic relations with China are not always cordial. Yet, the importance of trade in normalizing relations does not diminish. Trade does not occur in a vacuum. Trade accompanies cultural exchanges and exchange of ideas. Trade breaks the wall of mystery and stereotypes and humanizes the people one trades with. It makes the people on the other side of the border seem less demonic, making us realize that people all over are the same with same hopes, sorrows and joys. It makes us more tolerant and understanding of each other’s differences and makes the countries look more than mere lines on the map.
That is why despite the border disputes with China and Pakistan which could completely cripple the bilateral ties, trade helps to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Indian movies make mighty sums of money in China and Pakistan and Indian movie stars are widely revered there, resulting in cultural closeness. The legends of humungous popularity of twinkling blue eyed Raj Kapoor singing..... mera joti….mera joti hai japani..Sar pe lal topi rusi…. are still talked about in India and Russia. Such cultural exchanges facilitated by trade keep the tensions lower if not completely mitigate them.
Protectionism on the other hand, leads to ill feelings towards other nations.
In the 1930s, industrial nations increased trade barriers leading to spitefulness amongst countries, setting the stage for World War II.
Protectionist sentiments are stirring all over the world evident in Brexit and the ‘Make in India’ initiative in India. India has raised import tariffs to the highest in the last three decades leaving all its important trade allies including the U.S, up in arms. The U.S is already mulling over doing the same to Indian goods.
Trump’s “America- First” policy has had its repercussions on India’s important information technology industry – which generates output worth $150 billion per year.
These seemingly harmless retaliations proves to be an ammunition for the war.
French economist, Fredric Bastiat famously wrote- If goods don’t cross borders, armies will. I would humbly agree to it!
What to say when you meet new people: The 9 secrets to success
On an average day, you are going to meet a great many new people. Some of them might seem of no value to your life - a waitress, a delivery man, a house cleaning staff and so forth. Yet, never underestimate the value of any individual. Remember, the art of networking can lead you to you achieving greatness. With that in mind, let's look at what you should say and talk about when you meet someone for the first time!
1) Speak without speaking: Your physical appearance and demeanor will say more to people about who you are and what you think of them than any initial greeting. So, keep your body clean, your appearance neat, and dress nicely.
2) A good first line: Don't start off with something like: "Hey, what’s up?" Unless you're talking to a bunch of excited teenagers; that is not how you address someone in the professional world. A proper phrase along the lines of: "How do you do?" or "It's a pleasure to meet you" is appropriate.
3) Eyes and hand: You want to connect with someone at once. So, look them straight in the eye, and offer them your hand. A firm handshake that isn't brief, and yet isn't too long either, and don't crush their hand. That's something a professional wrestler does to intimidate an opponent; not what you do when you want to make a good first impression.
Once the initial meeting is over, Follow up by asking for their name, and make it a point to remember it. Nothing is better at pleasing someone than a person they just met remembering their name.
4) Body language: You want people to feel comfortable when they are talking to you. So, stand up straight, maintain good eye contact - without being domineering, and pay close attention to what they say.
5) Be courteous and speak in a clear, polite tone: If you are in a job interview, let the interviewer ask the first question. After all, you're after a job from them; time is money, and they're busy. So, let them control the situation. Now, at some point, they're going to ask you if you have any questions. That leads to the next point.
6) Be ready to participate in the conversation: Again, if you're on a job interview, check out the company, and have some questions ready to ask. If you're in a social setting, be ready to ask the other person questions about them and their life; or be able to talk about yourself and what you like.
7) Pay attention to what's going on: If your eyes glaze over and you’re not engaged in what's going on, people won’t want to have anything to do with you. So, concentrate on what they're talking about.
8) Select the right things to say: This is a function of the type of conversation you're involved in: interview, a social gathering, a dinner party, and so forth. After the initial meeting, you want to either talk about something interesting - a recent market trend you have observed, a deck that impressed you the most or even a movie you enjoyed recently. Also, ask the other person some questions.
9) Keep the conversation balanced: On one hand, you do not want the other person to have to do all the talking; on the other hand, it's impolite for you to monopolize the conversation. So, allow the other person (people) to talk, and then you "chime in" with a contribution.
Finally, remember the Golden Rule; treat people as you want them to treat you. Treating people decently is a true sign of having good manners. It's said that first impressions are last impressions.
• Bovee C.L., Thill J. V., Chatterjee A. (2011), Business Communication Today, Pearson Education
• Butterfield J. (2011), Soft Skills for Everyone, Cengage Learning India Pvt Ltd
Authored by Ashish Vilas Thite, Faculty of Commerce and Management, Vishwakarma University, Pune.
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