A V Suresh the President – International Operations & CEO Forbes Professional at Eureka Forbes Limited (EFL) chats with SkillingIndia.com.
A V Suresh: There are two different channels in this industry, one is direct sales and the other is retail. Sales and service are the two kinds of key jobs available in this industry.
In direct sales there is always an immense need for good salesmen with the right attitude and aptitude to do direct selling. Also, in direct sales, the growth is based on the number of people you have. Its people multiplied by productivity v/s. sales.
The need for people is an ongoing requirement in this industry. But, today, getting the right people is the challenge. Direct sales may be an interesting and high paying job, but it is also a tough one as a person needs to be prepared to take rejection from customers. Secondly, the salesperson should be prepared to work hard and earn more. At Eureka Forbes we provide opportunities to people across the spectrum – graduates, post graduates, and MBAs. We prefer taking graduates, but we also consider undergraduates if they have the fire in the belly to perform. We, then, train them accordingly.
Skills needed in workforce
A V Suresh: Consumer durables industry will keep growing, thus, it will have a continuous requirement for people. The growth rate can vary from year to year, but, the need for good people will always be there. Today, in international retail markets there is a need for people who have a good personality, can build good relationships, and maintain a pleasant approach towards selling. Nowadays, products are sold through the relationship that we build in a small interaction we have with people. The moment of truth is about five minutes and in this time you need to impress the person to buy the product. Contrary to direct sales, there is a trend on more people getting into retail, but with good qualities in terms of personality, communication and selling skills.
In direct sales, as I said, we look for aptitude and attitude, which means an individual, should have a sales driven personality. He/she should be able to communicate well, be aggressive in selling, know how to go about it, and should have the drive to achieve. We also look for trustworthiness in people with integrity since they are going into customer homes and we do not have direct contact with them. We also ensure that the person concerned has good references, too.
Specialized skills required in this industry
A V Suresh: There are lots of changes occurring in the electronics field. Today, with the help of a Smartphone people come to know about different models and their QR codes. The Smartphone reads the QR code, which in turn connects you to the website of the company that gives a customer all the required details of the product. A salesman attending to a customer at home needs to be aware of the company, its products, etc. as the customer has the resource to check online immediately. From this angle, sales execs need to be aware and abreast of new developments. They should possess the knowledge of availability of resources for tracking, be familiar with handling gadgets, and need to have in depth product knowledge as today there are 10 different models to choose from. These three skills are critical for salesmen to learn.
Recruitment at EFL
A V Suresh: We have an ongoing recruitment process as we have 240 branches across the country with a direct sales force of about 8000 salesmen on the field everyday and have a service network of 5000 people on the field through service franchisees.
We have multiple channels of recruitment. Of that the biggest channel is ‘Friends Get A Friend’ scheme. Existing employees can get their friends into the system and in turn they are rewarded on the basis of the productivity of sales of the new recruit. Secondly, we get people through newspaper advertisements, although the number is much less. Thirdly, we recruit through campuses, where we make presentations, provide awards for best students based on their academic performance, sports, or research (R&D) done by them in science or microbiology since we are into the business of water we do research on microbiology. We create a brand on campus, become an integral part of it and subsequently recruit people.
We also visit employment exchanges where we have a regular program. We put up job posters, etc. Further, we have started approaching rural and semi urban communities, through NGOs and people who work in this field in Maharashtra. They interact with the rural and semi urban communities, shortlist people for us to select, and conduct training for selected people on our modules. The training provided to the selected people is fully funded by us. Subsequently, they join us. Here, everyone gains – we gain by getting good talent, NGOs get paid to train, and the person concerned gets employment.
But, even companies can build their offices in rural or semi urban areas to give job opportunities…
A V Suresh: Right, but, people should be given a chance to get exposed to different life styles and work cultures. For example, a person working in Mumbai will work differently as compared to a person working in Latur.
Training at EFL
A V Suresh: People joining us are first briefed about the company. They go through a training program called ‘My First Week’. The training comprises of an orientation on the organization, and moves on to selling skills. Through this program people learn prospecting, how to make a door entry, how to interact with the customer, how to demonstrate the product, how to handle objections made by the customer, how to do a trial closing and a final closing, how to maintain relationship with the customer, and how to get further references from customers. This training program covers both – soft skills and hard skills. Typically, the training program is for one week, but sometimes is extended up to 10 days. It’s a mix of classroom training and field training – half day classroom session, and half day on field as new recruits practice what they learn in the classroom. Subsequently, they come back with questions the next day and/or ask for help on any issues. Also, we test people at the end of the training program. The people who do well on the tests are put on field and typically for the first two or three weeks they work along with a senior executive to learn the business. They study under them and then they are on their own. Mostly, it takes about a month’s time to become a good salesman. But, if the person can’t make it in three months time he leaves, as the income is more on the variable.
People who sell and earn go on to become leaders. Most of our leaders in the company are here for around 10-20 years. I have been here for 24 years. All the regions are headed by direct sales leaders. As a matter of principle, we don’t recruit leaders from outside, in fact, we train and groom people to become leaders. Apart from salesmen, leaders have a separate training program. Sales leaders get trained on managerial skills, recruitment skills and undergo on various train the trainer modules.
Furthermore, we also provide undergraduates’ opportunity to study further and become graduates and then join us. We also provide opportunities to our salesmen to study MBA or do post graduation while working. We recruit raw people, hone them to become good salesmen, good leaders, and good citizens.
Skill is not something learnt and forgotten. It is something, which is an ongoing process throughout your life. Whether you are 30 years or 60 years it is something you have to do continuously. In that context, we have something like Earning, Learning, Pride and Fun (ELPF). Earning is something, which people are expected to achieve through their hard work for which we provide the required stimulus. Stimulus here means our training. Besides the formal training, for us every day is a learning process. Every morning and evening the salesmen and the leaders meet as a team. They share their day’s activities, good practices, success stories, and challenges. When you earn well, and are trained well automatically you feel proud that you are doing something in life. Also, when people work hard they need to have fun too, for that adequate time and platform is provided.
What can government do?
A V Suresh: The government’s plan of training and providing opportunities for people is a good step towards helping people in earning their livelihood. But, I think the government should help in identifying the right people rather than just identifying a program and investing ‘x’ million of rupees. They need to channel the resources aptly. For example, Philippines, Indonesia have recruitment camps organized by the district employment exchanges for the locals. The companies sponsor. They put up their banners. People are welcome to visit. The government supports the event to the extent that they ensure people come to the event. However, whether or not the companies get the right people is left to them, but it’s ensured that the event is adequately publicized. May be our government should try something similar.
In my opinion there are many youngsters with skills and potential in the rural and semi urban areas. The government can support such people by providing them with governmental accommodation for the first three months so that people coming from up country can stay there, acclimatize themselves into the place and then three months later should be able to fly. The initial support is critical as they don’t have salaries, which takes one month, and other two months to stabilize. Typically, people don’t have the ability to survive for this period and that’s where the government can help. We do help in such cases.
A V Suresh: It’s our responsibility to provide opportunities to people. India is a country of opportunities. It’s just that they are not captured enough because we spend our time on everything else, other than what’s required. If we are able to provide opportunities I am sure that youngsters will have more constructive things to do than take part in other activities like strikes, etc.
Is apprenticeship an effective way in skilling youth along with school?
- Yes (93%, 309 Votes)
- No (7%, 25 Votes)
Total Voters: 334