Editor's Note

Hello, once again, urban thinkers! Planning Times™ is back this month with a new theme to spice up your mailbox. Last month Planning Times™ released its inaugural newsletter, and our readers appreciated our initiative through their reactions and replies. Planning Tank Team thanks everyone for reading the newsletter and providing us with precious feedback. However, we all can agree that 2020 was a year of catastrophe for many people worldwide; it might not be easy to "spice" things up. But we hope to give you some quality content on the final day of this year!

Coming to the phrase 'we hope to give you some quality content.' I picked this phrase to emphasize three words: 'we', 'you', and 'content'. There were some very insightful comments last time, and I would like to address three fundamental questions from those comments.

  • Who are we (Planning Tank, the producers)?
  • Who is our target audience? and,
  • What is the content that we focus on?

To start with, Planning Tank® is one of its kind and India's most visited and World's #12 Urban Planning Blogs that focuses on creating a knowledge base of Regional, Urban, and Rural planning for human settlements. We provide educational resources and informative knowledge of urban and rural planning and allied fields. Our team, consisting of students and professionals from various fields, aims to cater to students, professionals, academicians, and policymakers' knowledge needs. We are reaching over 100K readers every month and helping over a million readers worldwide every year. More information available in our Media Kit - Information Guide.

Now that you know who we are let me tell whom we expect to read this newsletter. Planning Times™ was initiated to reach a variety of groups directly. We wanted to connect with students, academicians, and professionals within the planning discipline to give you straight content about what's happening within the field. We bring you the best and most relevant updates in one place through this newsletter. We wish to increase awareness of the planning profession as well.

I hope the above discussions have made yours and our relationship stronger. As they all say, knowing more leads to a better relationship :D. And do not hesitate to tell us your views about the newsletter, the content, and our mascot Terra the Turtle. With that, the Planning Tank Team wishes you a very Happy New Year, and we hope to provide you with more interesting updates in the next year.

In this issue

Our theme for Dec 2020 is The Market Value of a B.Planner. We wanted to begin 2021 with a topic that is discussed a lot within our profession but often fails to translate into words and actions. And what better topic to discuss than the worth of a planner. The interesting point about this topic is its quality of addressing two groups at the same time. It will create more awareness of the profession, and it will also let current students and academicians know what is happening in their field.

A very important milestone was achieved in the B. Planning discipline. National Testing Agency (NTA) decided to conduct a separate B. Planning paper in JEE Main 2020.

Hope you enjoy the issue and stick with us till the very end!

Karthik Girish  

Theme of the Month

The Market Value of a B.Planner

"Urban Planning" - a widely neglected and unknown profession, yet the one that shapes our cities and everything beyond. We may often talk about government policies affecting the poor and the plans of expanding the scope of infrastructure in Indian cities, but we forget the driving factors of the same. The urban planners suffer the most ignorance when it comes to the market, there is a lack of Urban Journalism, yet are the ones who work to realize the dreams of a more developed nation - day in and day out. To add to the misery, the constant efforts of urban planners are backlashed by the masses due to the "time" that entails bringing about a change. All of this puts a question mark on the real value of Urban Planning.

Are you an Urban Planner? Do you practice in India? Which government authority are you associated with? How long have you been practicing? What are the projects that you have been associated with? - These are some of the major questions that set the stage in determining an urban planner's market value in India. The longevity, the works, the organizations bring about the demand of particular people in the profession. And everyone else (like any fresh graduate or any entrepreneur) gets pushed to the hindsight. A job requires experience, and experience is only possible with a job. How to sell urban planning as a product? So the questions lingers on, and remains unanswered (and probably, unanswerable).

Aakriti, Master of Management Studies (Urban Management), CEPT University  

The Professional Viewpoint

In an attempt to explore more about this topic, we talked to various professionals and students within the discipline. We first approached certain practicing professionals and posed this question to them. We tried to understand how the market changed the initial expectations of those in the market right now, and how the professional life in our discipline portrayed various challenges and opportunities to them. The insight provided by these professionals will help to get a lot of clarity on this topic.

Arathy Gopal, is an Architect-Planner pursuing her Ph.D. in the SPA, New Delhi.

Being an Architect who has done her PG in Planning, I had always thought that other than the very few courses that we study, there is no real awareness of planning as a discipline in our UG course curriculum. Despite that, many of the job openings in the planning profession still mandate a B. Arch/B. Tech (CE) along with PG in Planning to get hired as a working professional. Having taught B.Planning students, I have had an opportunity to be amazed by the level of exposure these students get regarding the discipline at the UG level. It is a pity that the undergraduate degree of B.Planning is grossly undermined in the market. Working in the field, I feel that it is time, students, faculty, and bodies like ITPI to work together towards letting Planning organizations realize the worth of this UG degree. And as with any other course, the course curriculum should be strengthened with more activities to improve entrepreneurial and leadership skills, which eventually will make the students be good working professionals.

Harpal Dave, Asst. Town and Country Planner in TCPO, MoHUA, Government of India, and a visiting faculty at SPA Delhi, had a very interesting take on the topic.

Market value is a bit subjective to determine as value changes with time, place, and the urgency of the requirement. Further, for a profession like Planning, where the graduates work for organizations ranging from NGOs to the Big Four, the compensation variation is immense. There is also a rider about the personal qualities and abilities. However, when urban development and the associated sectors are growing at a rapid pace, planners should rightfully expect their due compensation and center stage, for their contribution, is immense.

A fresh graduate with the right skills and the willingness to adapt, learn, and work in teams, should expect anywhere between 28 to 40 K per month. Compensation generally depends on the type of projects that an organization is handling; purely commercial, research, not-for-profit consultancies, etc. So the above figure should be looked at from that perspective. Further, along with the compensation, one should also see how an organization would help him/her grow professionally by enriching professional experience and expanding network amongst the right kind of people. This leads to bountiful growth in the medium to long term; then, the initial compensations are well forgotten. So a medium paying job with rich potential for growth in the long term may prove more beneficial that way.

Riya Gupta, who is currently working in the Department of Town and Country Planning, Government of Punjab, tells us about what she thinks students should focus on while preparing themselves to come out into the practice world.

In my willingness to share my epiphanies, I would've focussed on three points in my student days:

1. A greater interest in the infrastructural know-how in conjunction with the theoretical planning concepts that come in handy while making decisions. This is not just because of the profession being largely hijacked by civil engineers, but also due to the inter-organizational practices, that keep things moving.
2. More attentive towards the real estate aspect of urban landholdings, for the anticipated “change” that is romanticized in much of planning education, is reified only upon a manifestation of a handsome remittance for various stakeholders.
3. Shown more curiosity in the workings of Planning Offices, especially in terms of tasks involving more of public dealing for once, other than those akin to the laborious studio exercises of Plan Making – for in aggrandizing the latter, howsoever necessary, the former gets noticeably undermined.

Vidushi Bhatt worked in the realm of policy research and development for three years at the IIHS, New Delhi. While it is easier to switch between modes of practice, the field of expertise can only be diversified to a certain extent.

There are various fields of expertise for a planner. Planning might not be identified as an individual trade but its various facets fit well with several others. Each of these has a unique market narrative, limitations, and progress curve. Fields like transportation and real estate are deemed to be more paying than those related to the social sector but have limited scope for exploration. Policy, for example, has a static curve until one establishes themselves and reaches a breakthrough.

Method of practice refers to how you choose to manifest your field of expertise. It may include consultancy, research, academia, or practice. These modes may coexist and also change for an individual over time. A healthy and rounded professional can tactfully switch from one to another, feeding the learnings from research into practice, or consultancy.

Team Planning Tank  

Expectations of Planning Students

We asked the students to give us their expectations/ ideas/ views about the B.Planning course; what made them choose the course, what were their expectations, and how well they are being met.

First years that recently joined the B.Planning course. Apart from their curiosity and excitement, they also share their stories on how they came to the planning discipline.

As a science student, I was expected to do Engineering. But then, while applying for JEE, I saw this course (Bachelor in Planning). I looked it up on Google out of curiosity and found it quite interesting. The course is so wide that it touches many parts of academics.
(Adarsh Ajikumar, SPA Delhi)

In my view, planning was architecture but on a larger scale and a bit more theoretical. Now that I am studying it, I realize that it is more than just making maps. This course spread across various disciplines that teach you how a region is planned and maintained, and I am honestly finding this very interesting.
(Akshita Garg, SPA Delhi)

My interest in this field started when a special exam for B.Planning started in JEE. I researched it and learned that it is widely a study of urban and rural planning. In my opinion, what this means is that we decide the very place where the architects and engineers work, and this is why I entered this field because I will have the satisfaction of helping people. (Aman Kumar, SPA Delhi)

The power of a planner comes from the laws. I want to be an anonymous superhero and prepare cities and countries against disasters.
(Gaibul Singh Bhullar, SPA Delhi)

I decided to pursue this course with the expectation that I’ll have all options open after my bachelor's, including MBA, M.Planning, or UPSC. I’ve realized that these options will be available to me, and hence I’m satisfied with my decision.
(Saksham Mishra, SPA Delhi)

Students who have gone through four years of the B.Planning course, and have come to realize some things when applying for jobs, and about the marketing of our discipline and while pursuing a higher degree.

I am just one semester away from graduation, and I must admit that knowledge-wise, I do not regret studying the course at all. But now, I am worried about what will happen when I step out after my graduation. B.Planning is a multi-disciplinary course in a true sense and has introduced me to so many knowledge domains. The course was never marketed properly enough to create jobs and awareness for B.Plan graduates. The whole notion of planning is still limited to just a post-graduate specialization in India. The industry is yet to consider the potential of B. Planning. I find myself capable enough to do things that planning professionals are expected to do yet it would be difficult for me to sustain without a master's specialization. Simultaneously, there needs to be some updation of the course curriculum to match the industry needs.
(Ishita Saraswat, SPA Delhi)

Having completed my B. Plan from SPA Delhi, my experience at TISS Mumbai has been enriching. A fresh planning graduate has a lot to offer to society because the skills gained and the understanding developed during the 4-year course is commendable.
(Vipul Kumar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)

Being new to the profession after freshly graduating with the degree - I had certain expectations. So stepping down at a concrete platform right after college has not been an option. A Master's course became the only way out for me, as no one in the industry seemed to pay any heed to an inexperienced B.Plan student.
(Aakriti, CEPT University)

Team Planning Tank  

So, what is the market value of a B.Planner?

Planning is one of the most promising professions in our country. When you call yourself a planner, your role is to tackle some of the biggest challenges of our Indian cities. Challenges range from basic requirements, like inaccessibility to drinking water and proper sanitation facilities, to more complex issues like improper land use distributions, lack of environmental spaces, and inefficient governance, to issues that contribute to global matters like urban poverty and climate change. B. Planners are trained to analyze and propose solutions for such issues. They acquire a lot of technical and professional skills that enable them to handle almost all city-related problems that exist in our cities.

But today, B. Planners are not getting the recognition they deserve. The Indian market has not yet noticed the capabilities and skills of a B. Planner. Somewhere along the timeline, the course curriculum was not marketed properly and lacked advertisement. You are still expected to have a postgraduate degree in Planning to prove your worth as a competitive and able professional. As a student, you can take the lead and prepare yourself better for the market. That is what we encourage you to do! Increase your self-worth as a professional planner.

There is a very good understanding of what the market needs right now. Importance of Urban Planning, Environmental Planning, Regional Planning, and even concerns about privacy and data sharing by the government with tech giants are highlighted in almost every urban and rural area. As some of the professionals above have mentioned, the closer you are to the market demands, the better your value. And it's not that your value as a planner is determined purely by monetary benefits, but the value of a planner also consists of increased exposure, experience, and growth potential.

As an aspiring planner, I believe that the spotlight that we deserve is near. It is only a matter of time, where we, the B. Planners, will be recognized for our true value.

Karthik Girish  

State of Planning Profession

Way forward - Taking one step at a time

A serious profession with endless opportunities and a profound sense of responsibility. No other profession comes close when you think about the meaningful impact which a planner has on the lives of people. A person working relentlessly to make other’s life better, understanding colour coding and assigning colours on map to provide a bright future to the thousands of people and affecting the lives of over a million people daily. Popularly called and understood as Jack of all trades, master of none is still trying to make a space for itself so he/ she can create beautiful and useful spaces for everyone else.

A planner, after completing a course offered by only a handful of institutions in the country, stands confused and stares at uncertainty. Wondering what to do next after getting a degree from the finest institutes of the country and wondering if the profession moved forward with time or if it moved backward or unable to decide and stands as confused as the professional itself.

Shubham Aggarwal, Planning Tank, an Urban Planner turned Commercial Pilot.  

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