Ganesh Chella still remembers the formidable Kabuliwallas or Pathans from his days in Cadbury's as a personnel officer in the '80s in Mumbai. These moneylenders would stand outside the factory gate on payday and grab the workers' money before it reached home. Indebtedness was rampant.
There was a migrant workforce, a first generation of workers who, out of necessity or profligacy or both, often became indebted-a theme portrayed poignantly in so many Bollywood movies of the '60s, '70s and '80s. Chella and his ilk neither had the brief nor did they do anything to mitigate the financial problems of workers then.
Things are no better today. There continues to be a large mass of firstgeneration workers, especially in new economy sectors like Business Process Outsourcing and Information Technology. Then, the culture of spending ensures that a lot of employees always have much of the month left at the end of their money.
Amit Tandon, 37, Head of Marketing, AGS Infotech, Mumbai
Organised personal finance training for 400 service engineers and technicians from various centres at a workshop during the company's annual conference in 2009. Their average salaries were between Rs 5,000 and Rs 12,000 a month.
"The employees have to be happy in their personal lives to be productive during work"
And the reckless use of credit cards to meet everyday expenses completes the vicious circle of indebtedness. But there is one big difference. Unlike in the past, HR departments are now increasingly becoming alive to the financial problems of their employees and recognising the need for training them in personal finance management. Says Chella, now CEO of Totus Consulting, a Chennaibased third-party HR consultancy boutique: "The problem of profligacy is very serious and the onus of counselling/teaching for sound financial management rests with the employer and not with the parents. The nuclear family has no control over its offspring."
Thanks to proactive HR departments of companies and marketing initiatives of finance consultancies like Bajaj Capital, Client Associates and Coimbatore-based Finerva Financial Solutions, among others, till date thousands of employees across companies have received training in financial literacy and become aware of their financial goals.
Bajaj Capital has a client list of nearly 200 companies and includes biggies like Indian Oil Corporation and Samsung India Electronics. Client Associates puts the number of such clients at eight but refuses to divulge any of the names for reasons of confidentiality.
"Of late, the importance attached to financial literacy is increasing. Not only are our old clients calling us again and again, but newer ones are also taking a lot of interest in these programmes," says Anil Chopra, Group CEO, Bajaj Capital. S. Velavan, Senior Design Engineer at Coimbatore-based Nimbeon Inter Technologies, who received such training, vouches for its efficacy: "I am quite happy here and don't want to jump jobs for the sake of a few thousand rupees. I know I have to plan well with my current salary and with my family growing. Such programmes really help."
Prathiba Thiagarajan, an employee who had been part of an earlier personal training programme at Cognizant and is currently located in Arkansas, US, recalls, "When my parents came to me for a personal loan to fulfil a long-term vision, I was glad to help-but I could not help thinking that they could have planned better. I also know that my child may not be as generous to me later-I have now set my financial goals."