Saturday, January 19, 2008

The army: full career or short stint?

Compulsory military service 'could be an avenue' if the armed forces are unable to recruit adequate numbers of officers and soldiers of the standard they require, army chief said here Tuesday.

Andhra Vilas

'Personally, I don't think it will come to that stage. But yes, should the need arise, it could be an avenue,' Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor said at a press conference.

Admitting to a shortfall of 11,200 in the officer cadre, Kapoor said: 'The fact is that we are not getting the right material. We have to take youth from the national pool in a situation where the corporate world is paying much more. At the same time, we do not wish to lower our standards.'

With a sanctioned strength of 46,615 officers, the 1.12 million-strong Indian Army is not the only one to face a shortage of what Kapoor terms the 'right material'.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) faces a shortfall of 1,565 officers against its authorised strength of 12,128 while the Indian Navy is short of 1,461 officers against a sanctioned strength of 8,797.

Detailing the steps taken to fill the vacant posts, Defence Minister A.K. Antony has told parliament that all officers, including those holding short service commissions, were now eligible to hold the substantive ranks of captain, major and lieutenant colonel after two, six and 13 years of service respectively.

Time scale promotion to colonel and equivalent ranks after 26 years of service had also been introduced, while the tenure of short service commission officers had been extended from 10 to 14 years.

Gen Deepak Kapoor's suggestion for compulsory service must have been modelled on the lines of Israel, where all eligible men and women are drafted at the age of 18 to serve three years, after which they are released to follow their career of choice. Ironically Israel is now in the process of shortening this compulsory stint!

It is surprising that the short service commission, instituted by the Indian Armed Forces, is not covering the shortfall in officers for the army. The short service commission is not a decision to be made in a is taken after the young person has made his/her choice of career. So a doctor or engineer can join that branch of the military, do his five-year stint, and then return to civilian life without losing out in age or experience.

Interestingly civilian life is very kind to those defence personnel who have completed their full career in the military. This is particulalry true for the corporate world:
From the battlefield to the boardroom
Ramiya Bhas with inputs from Shubhashish

A career in the armed forces’ was something that AS Singh always wanted. And after spending more than a decade in the forces, he came to realise that he wanted something more than a retired life. He realised that he wanted to join the corporate world and have a second chance with a different career. But he was not sure whether or not a company would hire him as he did not have any masters’ degree or a management degree. After the completion of his tenure, when Singh approached a multinational company, he was in a pleasant surprise as he was instantly hired at a senior managerial designation. Today, at 52, he is still flooded with lucrative offers from prospective employers! The reason: he was a member of the armed forces.

This is not the first case where an individual from the defence sector has been recruited by an organisation. Many companies in the Indian scenario and globally are readily employing people who have a background in the defence sector. And this trend seems to on the rise as more and more defence personnel are stepping out of the defence sector and stepping into the corporate world.


If you think that it is quite a tedious process to have people from the defence sector to make this transition to the corporate world, think again. Many organisations are hiring people who have served in the forces and are offering them jobs that suit their profile. “We have hired several people who have joined the corporate world after the successful completion of their tenure in the defence sector. Most of them have come and joined us after a decade of serving in the army or the navy. And while hiring them, we know that their background works in our favour and we are more than happy to welcome them,” says Robin Lloyd, VP and GM, Lionbridge India.

Experts also say that people with a defence background have a certain edge while appearing for an interview and also on the job front. Indrajit Sen, Director – Talent Acquisition, Aricent says, “People from the defence sector prove to be equally competent employees as hires from other backgrounds. They are especially suited for specific functions such as administration, facility management, security and logistics, among others.”

Vijay Nair, General Manager, HR, Ninestars Information Technologies Ltd, a former army officer, who served in the army from 1982 till 1998 in the mechanised infantry, before retiring and joining the corporate world says, “A person from defence is trained to handle any situation envisaged in the management philosophy. They are disciplined, have a sense of integrity and excellent leadership qualities and can fit well within an organisational structure.”


Experts say that people from the forces can just about fit into any kind of a job profile and execute it with ease. While placing them within the organisation, experts say that they can fit in perfectly with leadership roles. Lloyd expresses, “They have a unique advantage that many employees tend to lack. They are more honest towards their team; more open and also have a better style of communicating with their team members.”

Llyod gives the example of one of their employees at Lionbridge, Bhupinder Singh Saini who presently works with Lionbridge Mumbai as a Project Co-ordinator with their Localisation team, “Saini has served the Indian Air force for more than 15 years in the Radar Defence System Department and was based at various locations in India like Bangalore, Kanpur, West Bengal and Assam. Saini’s key responsibilities involve working closely with Lionbridge’s Espoo team in Finland on various projects in Localisation. His job profile demands deep understanding of the software system at Lionbridge, good technical knowledge, excellent communication skills and working on tight deadlines to complete the projects on hand.”

Saini feels his experience with the Indian Air Force has benefited him immensely in knowing the importance of self discipline, working on tight deadlines, understanding of technical knowledge and improved communication skills that come handy while working on various projects of extremely demanding customers.

Nair expresses that people from the armed forces are here to stay and that they provide a major boon to the organisation.

The bottom line is that the trend of hiring former defence officers will catch up. And organisations are more than happy to hire them because they know that these people mean business and can get just about anything done. So if you are one of those who have been in the army, navy or air force and don’t want to sit at home post retirement, don’t worry because organisations are now on a hunt to find talent with an edge