My dreams

dreambig

Today, the number of graduates (MSc’s, Planning/ME/MTechs and MBA’s) in environmental science, planning and engineering is growing. Specializations such as MBA in environmental management and environmental economics have come up.

I receive on an average five emails a day asking for a job at the consulting company I run. I ensure that me or my colleague Sonal Alvares respond. Responding timely, either way, is a matter of showing respect.

In most cases, I find that the CVs are generally weak (and not well written too) showing lack of “experience” and “poor” qualifications. Most applicants come from mediocre institutions that you may not even know. We regret these applicants but with some guidance. I however wonder and worry how these young students and professionals can get the jobs that can inspire and train to help build their careers. We need a large number of professionals in the field of environmental management today – professionals with a vision having a “systems perspective” (no silo thinking) and most importantly work with ethics. The latter to me is the biggest challenge. Teachers have an important role here to play.

At my consulting company we have been conducting an environmental internship program over the past 15 years. A good internship not only provides “practice training” but also opens job opportunities. So far we have trained around 70+ interns. My colleague Sonal Kaushik manages this activity and does it very diligently and with a passion.

Each year we receive a huge number of applicants from top institutions in India and overseas. We go through the drill of assessing the CVs, reviewing Statements of Purpose, asking for writing assignments to select the “best” and the “most appropriate” interns. The internship program runs over a minimum of 2 months where the intern works on some of our “live” projects. The intern makes a weekly work plan. We coach accordingly and track the progress. There are interim and final presentations and the final report is reviewed. Most of the times the outputs produced are of high quality deserving a publication. That adds a credibility to the interns work (and also to the “mentor”!). Box below shows a sample of internship projects completed in my company.


Green Building Assessment Systems, Sustainability Reporting: Mapping GRI Guidelines with NVGs, Carbon Footprint in the Industrial & Regional Context, Development of Framework to assess Status of Environmental Compliance in Industries, Creation of Knowledge base on Resource and Emission Benchmarks for Industries, Environmental and Social Governance at Financial Institutions, Development of Framework for Sustainability Assessment of Mobile Phones, Directory on Green Office Supplies ……

The feedback that we have received on our Internship Program has been extremely positive and encouraging. But there is a limit, how much we can do. We feel sad to turn down a deserving internship application just because of shortage of space in our office or due to our limited bandwidth for coaching.

I wish I could develop something “huge” on a nationwide scale to handle 1000 young environmental students every year across say 30 academic institutions “feeding them” as interns to corporations, corporates, NGOs and R&D institutions in the environmental and social arena.

My dream is to set up an Environmental Internship Portal that will allow institutions to place their requirements and interested students to place their CVs, durations and interests. We will then do a “match making” and coach the intern on-line through a specially designed e-learning module to “prepare” for the internship. Coaching may be extended during the internship program – again through a web/mobile platform – as a support. As a sequel, the “portal” will also provide placement service and an opportunity to update for a “lifelong environmental education”. So you “log in” as an intern and “grow to be a mentor” and later lead as a “job provider”.

That’s going to be my next BIG step – if I succeed the first one!!

Anyone from my blog readers interested to steer this initiative with me or partner? I am simply not able to “see” someone with “fire in the belly” for last several years. I get sleepless nights – one of the reasons I guess for my sleep apnea!

And any angle investors to support this Portal? I have a decent business model with me for the investors “comfort”.

Several years ago I ran a 4 day “Finishing School” in Environmental Management at NITIE, Powai, Mumbai. A second such school was run at NIIT, Suratkal over 2 days. DISHA, a 1 day flagship program on Career Counseling on Environmental Management was conducted as a series in Mumbai and Pune.

You will be able to read the reports on these events at www.ekonnect.net.

All these programs were received very enthusiastically. There is great need that we organize such programs at multiple locations in the country and on the campus of academic institutions. Will be great if under the proposed Portal we establish a “network” of academic institutions who offer DISHA on their campuses on an annual basis.

I have always been either a “free radical” or an entrepreneur. I love to see when folks working with me start up independent “business” in the environmental arena. To me this is a performance indicator of my business.

I see a great need that we “populate” the environmental manufacturing and services market with bright environmental professionals who mean quality and bring on board the innovation. I dream of someone like a JRD or Murthy or Premji or Darbari Seth equivalent to lead the environmental business in India. Oh, what a transformational change it will be? Today most of the environmental business organizations we see in India are either small, more of trading agencies representing technologies/equipment of overseas suppliers, delivering services like consents/clearances with “appropriate expertise” and conducting kind of environmental monitoring (that is as good as generating random numbers!). And then there are some very “respectable” and “intellectual” international ones, who specialize in making documents that look pretty as they carry the right font and the visuals.

I am looking therefore towards some “fizz” coming in our sector and people/organizations who do things differently with “innovation” and “confidence” on the scale we need. My dream is to excite youth and build their capacities to become entrepreneurs with mentors/investors standing behind them (like tall shadows). We need to build this community badly who could provide drinking water solutions and sanitation infrastructure on a “scale” for India’s villages; come up with inexpensive outdoor and indoor air quality monitors, provide smart grids for energy delivery, establish waste to resource plants or provide services that can help us to restore, conserve and even monetize our bio-resources. The possibilities are simply endless across the country. I would say that each one of us should pledge to “create” at least one environmental entrepreneur every year. Is that too much to ask?

I will be conducting first program on Coaching Environmental Entrepreneurs in October this year over 2 days. Essentially a new form of DISHA. The course will have to be residential. Location will most likely be Pune. I am putting all my thoughts and experience in the course “design”. I will be most happy to receive your inputs and guidance to make this first event a success.

If I could train 20 bright minds and get at least 5 startups ongoing (with support extended), I will be the most happy person.

A yet another dream I guess.


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18 thoughts on “My dreams

  1. Let me respond. . It is the education system has failed. CV is not important even a graduate can be trained in the field.
    I like your comment about respected ‘intellectual ‘ producing glossy document for consumption specially coming UN agencies, world bank with colorful graph .
    I have found that creativity does not emerge from IITs and so called prestigious institutions.. It come from individual in-spite of institution and education which in fact killed any original thinking.Pl forget CV concentrate on individuals. I am a safe water professional . We have a business model and technology for provision of safe water to the community. I am trying to find donor or CSR who can take this forward.
    degree has led to think in established pattern .
    Can you work with me i have proposal to share on safe drinking water …. Business model
    we need to form consortium rather than push our institutions forward.

    Like

  2. Dear Dr. Modak,
    It’s really a wonderful thought to motivate to young professionals in the field of Environmental Science.
    I have been working in the field of Environmental Microbiology for the past 24 years- typically developing microbial formulations for difficult to break organics (BOD& COD) and Ammonical Nitrogen.
    Although this is a well established field, my focus has been in isolating special bacterias for this purpose. Most of the companies try to import such bacterias without actually understanding the logics behind the application and eventually relying more on the biological hardware systems ( MBR, MBBR etc to name a few). I would want to educate the professionals in understanding the same and work collectively with engineers to build a robust workable system be it industrial effluent, domestic sewage or even if it is municipal solid waste.
    Do not know how much this would help you in your endevour but just thought of sharing it with you.
    Best Regards
    Anil Pillai

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  3. Dear Prasad Sir,

    Great and inspiring thoughts! Must do something about this!

    I shall assist! In whatever way I can.

    I did ME in Envo Engg from VJTI and worked for several years in
    Risk Management division of a leading General Insurance Company.

    At present I am taking Risk Management programme to schools/socities
    and my pitch is if we make them aware at young age, society can minimize
    losses whenever faced with risks like Cyber, terrorism, Health-epidemic,
    calamities like fire etc.

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  4. Prasad : We have live projects resuscitating dead or defunct STP’s, at least one or two ongoing at any given time. Typical timelines are 6-8 weeks for each surgery, which may be ideal for interns and also as M Tech Project subjects. Gives them an opportunity to apply theory learned in the classroom ( for Ex : density of water ## ) in practice and learn the business hands on.

    ## http://travailsofanenvironmentalengineer.blogspot.in/search?q=density+of+water

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  5. Dear Dr Modak, your blog is intensely thought-provoking. An Urdu couplet comes to my mind:
    मेरे सीने में नहीं तो तेरे सीने में सही
    हो कहीं भी आग लेकिन आग लगनी चाहिए
    In a movement, much larger number of volunteers is needed than that of the leaders. It appears to me that your are focusing on producing leaders as entrepreneurs having both vision and commitment. I would suggest that you think of small business models flourishing in a congenital system. An example is that a growing number of small companies are brought to work to control leakage of water from water supply systems for which they are trained and equipped. The congenial system is created when municipalities and state governments are convinced about the economic and public health benefits of leakage control by consultants and advisers like you. There can be many other such business models in sanitation and waste management.
    Best wishes. — Paritosh Tyagi

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    • Thank you Sir. I loved the Urdu couplet you cited. I will be attempting your suggestion. We have been networking with several waste to resource recyclers in Mumbai and Pune. I will invite them and hold a thematic training workshop with coaches and investors for replication involving the corporations. Will keep you posted

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hii Ayush

    Please read this blog. If you like his idea, we can steer his initiative. I have been following this guy since long and I find his work really interesting.

    Reply me if you find it appropriate or suggest someone who would be interested.

    -Jignesh

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  7. Dear Dr. Modak,

    Thank you for sharing your dream in your blog-post today.

    I recently came across an interview of an EPA senior chemist who said,

    “An internship shows you what kind of work a person does on a daily basis and helps you see if that’s something you’re interested in doing. Most companies and organizations are willing to take anyone on who will work for free. A student can find out if it’s something they want to do for the rest of his or her life. That knowledge is invaluable”.

    Source: https://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/meet-epa-chemist-mark-strynar-phd

    I have been benefited while working as an intern at the Haffkine Institute, at bio-medical waste treatment facility at Thane civic hospital, at NIO-Goa, and at USGS, NY. I believe an intern not only gets subject-matter training, but also receives training in soft skills. For companies and organizations that host the interns, it is a great way to tap into a pool of talented interns and to groom them into potential employees.

    If I may add, volunteering can also add to the students’ experience. Volunteer work showcases co- / extra-curricular student activities and might leverage their candidature at an organization looking for more well-rounded individuals.

    Kindly let me know if I could assist in materializing your dream into reality.

    Omkar

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  8. I found following editiorial in eco-enviro post Vol. 03, Issue 22, August 2016 relevant –
    The Environmental Contracting Business represents the proverbial ‘dirty work’ of the environmental industry and includes such activities as remedial construction, clean up, and the physical handling or treatment of waste and by-products from contaminated sites or operating facilities, in addition to on-site and off-site management of hazardous or special waste streams. Environmental Contracting also covers maintenance and environmental cleaning of industrial,municipal and refinery assets, in addition to spills and emergency response. This market is blooming exponentially capturing significant share in the market. It is reported to be one of the fastest growing sectors. As the market is slowing down, cost cutting have geared up to optimise the production and focus on the sustenance of the negative pressures of government/Court’s in sync with the slowdown of market and production have counteracted the positives as per business expenses have to be reduced. As the volatility of these patterns persists, Environmental Contracting firms are taking steps to diversify across multiple sectors and to improve efficiencies and standardize best practices. This culture in the developed countries has switched Environmental market worth 24 billion dollars and the transformation of this in the developing countries is gradually changing with gripping legislation. India is foreseen as a big prospect for the established environmental contracting companies both in India as well as Overseas. The market potential is worth 10,000 crores as only 50% of the states have geared up and rest of the market is still untapped. Major corporate in India have diversified into this stream. Young environmentalists have huge opportunity for employment in this stream. The skill required for this is yet to be taken up as a major stream in Skill India.

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