My experiments with a job loss

If you have lost your job, this is not the time to be choosy. Sitting at home, waiting for a better job, increases frustration and depletes savings. If you can’t find another job, seriously consider self-employment.

Arvind Singhal        Print Edition: November 27, 2008

Arvind Singhal
Arvind Singhal, Chairman, Technopak Advisors

The current times are unprecedented in terms of uncertainty and economic turbulence.’ In the past few weeks, this has been one of the most clichéd (and true) pronouncements. The picture gets hazier when we consider specific challenges facing India at this time. These include a government that is on its last legs and has never really governed the nation, internal insecurity, and no cohesive or determined action by various policy-making arms to provide a positive thrust to the economy.

Under such circumstances, losing a job is traumatic. The situation is worse considering the overall deterioration in business sentiment and operating environment. When I lost my job in March 1990, I was given a 24-hour notice. Unlike many of the present joblosers, I had negligible financial savings (salaries were extremely low even in the 1980s and early 1990s). In addition, the economy was in a bad shape at the time; this was when India had to pledge (and ship a part of) its gold reserves to the Bank of England.

I initially wanted to start my own enterprise, but since I did not have a tangible idea about what to start or have access to any capital, I gave up the option. I took up a job for immediate financial and mental stability. The idea of becoming an entrepreneur had, however, taken root, and in January 1992, I started Technopak Advisors. I decided to focus on consultancy services since it required minimal start-up capital and only the ability to meet the monthly expenses of an initial team of four.

Since then the business has grown steadily, if not spectacularly, with the turnover likely to touch Rs 90-95 crore this year. More importantly, it now operates on a very strong foundation that should see it through these troubled times and have it ready to grow rapidly once the current turbulence lessens and the Indian economy starts humming again.

On the basis of my learning in the past 18 years, and having seen more than one bust-and-boom cycle, my advice to those who are in good jobs is to acknowledge their good luck and then start putting in whatever extra effort they can to help their employers remain healthy. They can, thereby, retain, if not improve, those jobs. Job satisfaction, personal considerations such as children’s schooling, financial considerations such as the current compensation are important in more optimistic times. In the current scenario, surviving should be the leitmotif.

For those who have unfortunately lost their jobs, my advice is to first try and find another job—any job. These are not the times to be too choosy. Sitting at home, waiting for a better job, is fraught with the risk of increasing frustration and depleting savings. Those who are not able to find another job should seriously consider self-employment.

Even in today’s troubled times, most urban centres offer opportunities for a plethora of new products and services. Start with just about anything without too deep an evaluation of its potential. The objective, again, is to survive by getting involved in some gainful activity. Once the economy starts growing and industries begin to hire, you can either try to get back a job or think of a new business that may be more in line with your dreams.

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