Published: 28th June 2018
Chennai-based automobile giant builds a training program for international recruits
Ashok Leyland's popular program Graduate Engineer Training goes international. Here's why it is one of their best decisions to expand their global markets
Indian automobile giant Ashok Leyland has always believed in building their own pipeline of engineering talent. To keep up their standards in the international markets, they have decided to expand their existing Graduate Engineer Training (GET) program to the foreign markets. The GET program, that is one of the most sought-after programs in India, opened its doors to international recruits for the first time in 2017. As the polished batch, that was farewelled on April 27, 2018, looks forward to leaving to their respective countries, we find out how productive their journey was.
To kick-start the conversation, Balachandar NV, President, HR, Communication, and CSR at Ashok Leyland, explains the purpose behind the move. "We have always invested our time and skills in our future force. The decision to get international talent comes from the understanding that one-third of our revenue comes from abroad. In the first year, we have chosen three markets — Ivory Coast, Kenya and Bangladesh, where we already have a strong presence. We felt that it is best that we have locals to handle the markets as they can understand the geography and environment better," he says.
However, the challenge was to find out a way to train them the Ashok Leyland (AL)-way and that's where the GET program for the international recruits came into the picture. So, they selected students who were familiar with the English language, the ones who were willing to explore the Indian market and got them to the campus in India. "We adopted the same principals for these recruits. We consciously didn't want to distinguish between the national and international GETs. They were, for all practical purposes, treated the same and were exposed to the same environment," he elaborates.
Talking about practicality, it is not at all possible that there won't be any differences between the two cultures. And the trainer team at Ashok Leyland had a solution for that as well. "There was a visible need for cultural integration in the batch. The Indian orientation was necessary because this would help them get accustomised with the Indian way of working," Balachandar explains.
Therefore, the trainer at the in-house residential campus in Chennai made sure that the batch turns out to be integrated and motivated. The day started with exercise and Yoga followed by breakfast, classes and evening games. The trainees, both national and international, had a lot to learn from each other. "The Indian way of learning was a bit of a challenge in terms of cultural differences. For example, our cooks had to serve meat, corn flakes etc," the HR president laughs. The team saw it as a collaborative opportunity and asked the trainees to involve themselves in the process. "We asked them what exactly they wanted to eat and encouraged them to try Indian food," Balachandar tells. And the trick worked, some of them now drool over the very Indian alo-paranthas and idli-sambhar.
Visiting the CRS schools by AL and having sports meet every evening also helped the batch become more vibrant and lively. "Imbibing the technical skills was never a problem because all our trainees were bright engineers. It was only the cultural integration that was necessary and we are happy to announce that we pulled it off pretty well," he concludes.