Indian traditional training systems versus the modern training systems
Avinash Rao

The term training refers to the process by which a person gets the learning and expertise in a particular domain. If we talk about the traditional training systems of India and compare it with that of modern training systems, we can see a noticeable difference.

The traditional training system of India was quite simple and effective. It may be termed synonymous to the "On-Job Training in the modern era". Indian traditional system was based on continuous mentoring and slowly transferring the ownership of the task to the trainee. Traditional training system of India was highly family oriented. We can understand the same through the example if a shopkeeper seeks a successor for his shop then the most obvious answer is that he shall look out for his son to transfer the ownership. Before doing so, it is quite necessary to train the son. The shopkeeper regularly starts taking his son to shop where his son is made to do all types of work related to that shop while getting mentored by his father. All types of work range from cleaning and mopping the floor of the shop uptill handeling the cash. The same practice of training keeps going on for years under the guidance of the current owner. Finally, when the owner finds his son worthy enough of handling the business on his own, the ownership of the business is transferred. The same can be extended to any possible business. The major benefits of such training system was that instead of getting the training in a single domain, this training use to develop the overall skill of a person as a businessman. The intricacies of the business were so well understood that while employing the people to do the job, the businessman knew very well about the job description and the exact amount of people required to do the task. Another aspect of the same is that this system use to make the businessman more considerate towards his employees as he himself knows thoroughly about the work. The root of such an effective training system lies in the internal drive of entrepreneurship which was much more prevailed in ancient India. The person equipped with end to end knowledge of a particular domain guarantees his or her success as a businessperson in the same.

If we compare the same system with the modern training systems motivated from west, we may clearly notice the contrast. The current training systems primarily lacks root of entrepreneurship which is primarily converting the trainees into just the employees. The training happens in the single domain most of the times be it the finance, marketing or any other skill. Many a times, a lack of coordination can be seen in the company in between the different domains. The supply chain and marketing functions also indulge in conflicts many a times. In contrast to this, Indian traditional training was more of like the training of general management, thus equipping the person with expertise in all the domains. In the modern era, a few company also try to implement the Traditional way to train through the different stints in different domains but that duration is quite small to impart the knowledge and rather serves by merely giving a flavour of that particular domain. One of the major reasons for the success of large business houses is that the fonders of the business knew it very well. The same was accomplished because they built their business from ground and knew each and every aspect of their business very well, be it Dhirubhai Ambani, Subhash Chandra or any other.

The Indian traditional training system also relates us to the prosperity of the ancient India. Prime training structure followed was to pass on the expertise gained from the elders to the younger ones by adding on the contribution of current generation to it. As a result, by the time passing, the generations got more and more skilled in a particular business and skill. The castes in Indian system got divided on the basis of occupation. If we keep the ill effects of caste system aside, each caste became an expert in a particular business, be it the carpenters, baniyas, gold smiths or any other. Thus, in the ancient times, the castes were an asset to the society.

The Traditional Indian training system was primarily based on the skill rather than formal education. It's implementation in modern era can be seen at the lower level of society where the mechanics and drivers are trained by their "Guru" (ustad), after the training of many years while they initially join as helpers to the "Guru" (ustad). Another benefit of the Indian Training system is that even if the person getting trained is not the son or relative of the trainer, the level of personal relationship developed among the trainee and trainer helps the trainer even if he wants to go for independent business. Many a times, the level of personal relationship gets so high that the trainee employee is even lifted to the status of "Son-in-Law" by the trainer. An example of the help by the trainer in setting up the business can be seen at the Sankagiri town of Tamil Nadu which is one of the biggest transport clusters of the country. Most of the transported are uneducated and started their business as helpers under other transporters. In many a cases there, the "guru" (ustad) helped his "shishya" (Chela) to set up his own business. The same example is quoted in the book of "Indian Financial and Business Models" by Kanagsabhapathi.

Many a times, I feel the need for a basic change in the management and engineering education structure of the country. Rather than the small internships and projects of 2 months, it may be much better if the students are made to work on a project of a company for the duration of 3 years for Engineers and 1.5 years for the managers along with formal education. The project may be carried out under the guidance of a mentor in the company as well as the teachers of the college. This will develop the thorough knowledge of the business in them rather than just completing the project in 2 months and getting back to the formal study process.

Avinash Rao is a Corporate Banker, can be reached at