Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Career Hotline
There’s lots on the menu
Pervin Malhotra

Q I am a stay-at-home mom for the last five years. Earlier, I was working as a chef with a hotel chain. But the long hours didn't suit me. Now that my girl is in school, I have plenty of free time and am keen to take up a job. I am quite creative but am not too sure where to get started. Please advice.

Simone Bindra

A An offbeat career that comes to mind is food stylist. A food stylist is someone who arranges food to be professionally photographed. Whether it is magazines, cookery books, food shows on TV, ads, hoardings or restaurant menus, a food stylist is today quite indispensable.

She / he has a number of tricks up her sleeve to make food appear appetising. The harsh cameraperson's lights would make the ice cream melt so voila! Ice cream is replaced with mashed potatoes. Similarly, motor oil substitutes for maple syrup while the frothy beer ad is created using detergent and chalk. Get the picture.

With your experience as a chef all you need to do is add a dash of creativity and I am sure you can stir up a feast for the eyes.

Unlike the fashion world as food stylist you will be spared the starry nakhras of models and you get to work at your own pace. You can work with advertising agencies, magazines, film & TV production houses or freelance.

To develop contacts you need good communication skills. The key ingredients for success are of course creativity, artistic ability, attention to visual detail, business sense. While some food stylist may take a short-term photography course to translate their works of food art into perfect pictures others work in close co-ordination with photographers to achieve the desired effect.

Best of all, there are just a few food stylists in India at present. Even a beginner can earn close to Rs 20,000 per shoot. So, even if work is available intermittently you can make a tidy sum. Once you establish yourself as a professional you can earn close to Rs 1 lakh per month.

There aren't any formal courses that teach you how to style food. The best way to get started is to take a shot at styling food on your own. Get yourself some useful props that add colour and style. In the comfort of your kitchen, play with curries and cutlery to make food look simply yummy.

Tie up with a photographer to create a start-to-finish portfolio of all that you make in the kitchen, beginning with salads, dishy appetisers, moving on to the other in-between courses, and ending with seductive desserts. Don't be afraid to experiment. Another good way of getting noticed is creating your website.

So now that you hopefully have the recipe for success - best of luck.

Have drive, will design cars

Q I have completed BE Automobile Engineering from a premier engineering institute. I am a little confused. Should I opt for the outsourced engineering services sector? Since this is a relatively new field, I am not too sure of its feasibility in the long run as compared to a more routine job. I am really keen to work on car designing.

Karan Singh

A I wouldn't turn up my nose on the multi-billion dollar BPO industry if I were you. India's outsourced industry is evolving from a low-cost, back-office destination into a preferred supplier of high-end engineering services that boasts of domains such as technology-centric business research and engineering design. If you are really passionate about design, this sector is the right place to be. Maruti Udyog, for instance, has been entrusted with designing and developing all Suzuki cars in Asia outside Japan. Not surprising since, it was Maruti's engineers who did all the re-designing for the Zen and played a very important part in designing Swift. India now boasts of 12 companies / plants that have bagged the highly prestigious Demming Prize that authenticates our prowess at manufacturing quality products.

And it's not just about design. Offshore vendors are looking for engineers who can bring value addition to services like validation, simulation, pre-production work and product life-cycle management.

According to the latest Nasscom-Booz Allen Hamilton Report globally outsourced engineering services are worth $10-15 billion which is expected to touch $150-225 billion by 2020. India is gearing up to garner a hefty 25-30 per cent share of this sunshine sector. Incidentally, the sectors that will bag a major chunk of this pie are tech/ telecom and automotive firms. There is an acute shortage of skilled manpower. While engineering offshore services are expected to create 2.5 lakh job opportunities by 2020, currently we have a talent pool of 35,000 professionals in this field.

While mechanical and electronic product engineering have hogged the limelight, think- tanks at NASSCOM feel that there is tremendous untapped potential in the process engineering and plant operation sector as well. So, in your case you can look at either design or the more routine operations sector within the outsourced services category.

However, you need to remember that when compared to Japan, Europe or US, India is still new to the concept of automobile design. Which is why you need to be finely attuned to market demand in terms of comfort, safety and even cultural sensitivities and preferences. 

Distance learning

Q I have done B. Sc and B. Ed and am interested in doing M. Sc through correspondence. Can you please tell me about UGC-approved universities?

Neetal Jallu

A Here are some universities that offer M. Sc Chemistry through distance learning mode:

Annamalai University, Directorate of Distance Education, Annamalai Nagar

Acharya Nagarjuna University, Centre for Distance Education, Nagarjuna Nagar

Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open university, Bhopal,

Manonmaniam Sunderanar University, Thirunelveli (

Kakatiya University, School of Distance Learning & Continuing Education, Warangal.;

Kuvempu University, Distance Education Council, Shankarghatta,

However, nake sure you verify the status of the course and institution from the Distance Education Council, New Delhi ( before signing up.

Both the UGC and the Supreme Court have cracked the whip on the so-called “off-campus study centres” of universities offering all kinds of distance learning courses run by franchisees.

Branding them as commercial ventures, several such “rogue” deemed/private universities have been banned from offering courses through their off-campus study centres run by private franchisees all over the country.

Distance education programmes can be offered only through a university’s own study centres (not through private franchises) with the prior permission of the UGC and the Distance Education Council (DEC). This is clearly stated on the UGC website

So, please make sure you enrol for a course only if the university or study centre shows you concrete proof of their recognition/accreditation status. Otherwise, it’s a risk, best avoided.

Nothing can be more traumatic than discovering that the course on which you spent precious years (not to mention the effort and money), carries no recognition or merit – either in the industry or when seeking higher education.

PMT norms

Q The CBSE has introduced an upper age limit for candidates taking the AIPMT. I am 27 years' old and I belong to the SC. Am I eligible?


A For the All India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT) to be held on April 1, 2007, the CBSE has introduced an upper age limit of 25 years (on December 31 of the year of taking the exam). However, you are in luck. The 25-year age bar has been relaxed by another five years for SC/ST and Backward Class students.

However, you will now have only three chances at cracking the AIPMT. Many students are not aware of this clause, but those who have already attempted the PMT thrice will get a one-time exception. They will be allowed just one more shot at the exam in 2007.

Approximately 2.5 lakh candidates apply for the 1654 medical seats every year and now a sizeable number of 25-30 year-old aspirants will be disqualified from taking this highly competitive exam. As per the Medical Council of India (MCI)'s notification, students appearing in the exam should have completed at least 17 years on December 1 of the year of admission.

You should also have scored 50 per cent (aggregate) in English, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Also since AP and J&K don't come under the all-India scheme, their eligibility could differ.

As far as the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune, is concerned the age limit had been fixed at 22 years (24 for B. Sc students). However, do check their website for any changes.

Incidentally, the PMT forms will be available from October 9, 2006.

At sea about choices

Q I am a class XII (PCB) student interested in joining the Defence Services and the Navy in particular. Can you please give me the necessary information?

Rishi Bagga

A You can join the defence services either after finishing your plus two or after obtaining your bachelor's degree.

Straight after Class XII, you can apply for admission to the National Defence Academy (NDA) or the Naval Academy (Executive Branch). Recruitment to both academies is conducted twice yearly through an all-India examination, which is announced in April/May and October/November. The last date for filling in the application forms is May and November, respectively.

For joining the Air Force and Navy wings of the armed forces you need Maths and Physics at the plus two level.

The Indian Navy also recruits matriculates and those who have completed plus two with Physics and Maths as Artificer Apprentices.

For details contact: Recruitment Cell, DMPR, Naval Headquarters, Sena Bhavan, DHQ (PO), New Delhi-10011.

The written exam consists of two papers, both of which are of objective type. Paper I is on Maths (300 marks) and Paper II is on General Ability (600 marks). The paper is further divided into two parts: while Part A consists of questions on English, Part B consists of questions on General Knowledge - Physics, Chemistry, General Science, History, Freedom Movement, Geography and Current Events.

Those who obtain the minimum qualifying marks in this exam, are called to appear before a Services Selection Board (SSB) for the Intelligence and Personality tests.

Candidates for the Army and Navy Wings of the NDA and the Executive Branch of the Naval Academy are assessed for officer potential. Those for the Air Force have to take an additional Pilot Battery Aptitude Test.

There are also certain physical requirements that you have to meet, which are specified in the detailed notification that is published in the Employment News and on the UPSC website: (

As a science student (PCM), you could also try for the plus two Tech entry scheme for the Indian Army for which the application deadline is October 31, 2006, and the plus two Technical Cadet Entry scheme of the 
Indian Navy. 

Advertising avenues

Q What is the scope of advertising for an MBA graduate?

Ranvir Singh

A Well yes, if the advertising world fascinates you then you can look at the following options: That of a media planner or an advertising account executive.

If you thought there was an unprecedented publicity blitz for Hritik Roshan’s `Krrish’ , there was certainly a well-planned method to it. In fact, an entire team of professionals burnt the midnight oil diligently crafting the perfect marketing strategy for the film. Little wonder then that Bollywood’s media planning strategy is being studied at the top-notch B- schools like the IIMs. So don’t worry, you won’t feel like a fish out of water if you opt for the advertising industry after completing your MBA.

In the advertising industry, the media planner is responsible for placing advertisements in the right place at the right time, so that they reach the desired audience at the most economical cost.

They study the viewing, reading and web-browsing habits of consumers to determine, which medium (newspapers, magazines, TV radio, Internet, hoardings) is best suited to get the client’s message across. They then study the number and types of people reached by different media and calculate the total reach.

With a boom in the media industry, there is a great demand for media planners and analysers. Since crores are at stake, selecting the right media or a combination of media platforms is the media planner’s job.

While a Master’s degree, preferably with a specialisation in marketing, advertising or maths/statistics is considered ideal for a media planner, MBAs who have specialised in marketing are also in demand. If you have a background in marketing or statistics and years of experience usually fill research positions.

Another closely related area is client servicing. Account executives usually work as part of the client servicing team. Their job includes collecting information about the client like the product and the company details, budgeting and the marketing goals. They then have to brief the same to the creative team, media planners and the researchers. It is their job to supervise and coordinate the work of the various production departments so that the campaign proceeds according to the plan. Throughout the project the AE works closely with the client, assisting them with marketing strategies. Personality traits like creative ability, imagination, good communication skills, organisational skills, ability to work under pressure and analytical skills are valuable assets to stay ahead in the highly competitive ad industry.

Preference is given to executives with a formal management or advertising qualification at the entry level in the agency’s Client Servicing Department.