For over a decade now, I have been hearing people, supposedly in the know, wax eloquent about India’s demographic dividend.  For the uninitiated, this is the notion that India’s young population will transform India into a productive, economic superpower.  I spent most of this time in the mutual fund industry hence the sounds were particularly deafening as fund managers and analysts used the idea ad nauseam to make the case for investing in Indian stocks.  About four years ago, I quit corporate life, and the term seemed to have been relegated to the back of my mind, occasionally revived by references in the press.  But then, unexpectedly, over a period of eighteen months, I found myself staring at the idea, in a way that I could never have imagined.

After quitting the corporate world, one of the decisions I made was to spend as much time as possible in the lap of nature.  With this objective, I zeroed in on a boutique luxury resort in the Western Ghats.  The idea was, of course, to soak in the verdant ambience.  But my frequent visits also gave me access to see at close quarters how the property was run.  The owner, who divided his time between India and Germany, believed in a hands-off approach.  His modus operandi was to hire a manager to oversee the day to day running of the resort.  For his part, he would do as thorough a background check as possible to try and ensure that he hired the right person.  As far as I could make out, he was a believer in India’s demographic dividend, with all of his hires being less than 40 years old.  As things turned out, over that eighteen-month period, he ended up hiring and firing as many as five managers.

Sujoy Das (The Lady Lover)

Sujoy was the first resident manager that I came across during my stay at the property. He was a Zoology graduate from West Bengal coming from a fractured family. He was 30 years old, single and with a pleasing personality.  He also appeared to be an enthusiastic learner.  It transpired that there was another side to his personality: his lust for women.  It got to the point that the job at hand became nothing more than a means to chase the women of the nearby villages.

Rupesh Bangaru (Sleeping Prince)

Rupesh replaced Sujoy. Rupesh was 37 years old who had worked with a reputed IT company in Bangalore for nearly a decade before quitting. He was single but had a steady girlfriend. His stated reason for taking up the job was to be close to nature.  Eventually, it came to light that he was attracted by the hands-off approach of the owner as this would enable him to indulge in something he truly loved- sleeping throughout the day!

Rudolph (Drunken Monk)

Rudolph came into the job with very high recommendations from his previous employer who was a friend of the owner of the resort. Rudolph had worked with that gentleman for a decade in Chennai. He was married and had a daughter. His tenure came to an end when it was discovered that he was a compulsive drunkard who did not hesitate to steal from the resort’s stock.

Romesh (Vegetable Thief)

Romesh too came with a recommendation from someone personally known to the owner of the resort. He was a single, 27 year old postgraduate who had been working in Mysore. The owner was initially happy with his work as he was adhering to the reporting systems, and had control over processes in the resort. But he had a hidden agenda up his sleeve, to take advantage of the owner’s visits to Germany.  The owner had 2 acres of land which he used for growing different kinds of vegetables. The produce was more than the requirements of the resort and hence, a certain portion was sold to the neighboring resorts. Most of these resorts paid for the purchase in cash. Romesh hatched a plan to siphon off the same. The discrepancy eventually showed up during the accounts audit, and he was promptly fired.

Tony Sami (The Classic Swindler)

Tony Sami had worked with distinction in a nearby resort in various capacities. He came from Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. He was a 38 year old married man with 3 children. His spouse was a respected teacher in his hometown. Given, he hit the ground running. Within a month, he brought in major positive changes. But then in the second month of his tenure, while the owner was in Germany, it seemed that he had encouraged an orgy on the premises.  And when it seemed that his firing was inevitable, he decamped with cash and other valuables from the resort.

So what should one take away from these episodes?  Could these be coincidental?  Could these be the fault of the owner?  Or are these representative of the truth of India’s demographic dividend? 

Personally, I am inclined to go with the latter.  My thesis is even with jobs available, the so called job seekers have other challenges due to which the much touted demographic dividend theory is bound to fail. And it seems I am not alone in this thinking.  A recent piece talked about the high price that corporate India has to pay for extracting work from the millennial kids: (

But what, then, is the solution?

In an opinion piece written a couple of years ago, Shashi Tharoor described the demographic dividend as “the advantage that will accrue to India of being blessed with a young population in the first half of the 21st century – provided, of course, we can educate and train it to take advantage of the opportunities that the 21st century world offers.”

Training, as it is classically defined, is about bringing about a positive change in one’s knowledge, skills and attitude.  While all three are important areas, I believe a change in attitude is the single most important thing need to encash the demographic dividend.