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BW Businessworld

Time To Brush Up Your CV

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The shackles are off. In the 2013 BW | Businessworld Jobs Survey, the predominant mood was that of restraint and hiring with caution. In 2014, aggressive appointments is the buzz. In just one year, with a new government in the saddle, job street has seen a transformation. Last year, there was barely a window of opportunity for job-seekers; today, doors are opening everywhere.

The numbers bear out the contrasting sentiments. Between July 2012 and July 2013, vacancies grew by 10 per cent on jobs portal naukri.com; between July 2013 and July 2014, they shot up 20 per cent, most of the growth coming in the last quarter. Rival jobs portal monster.com, in its July numbers, reported a 25 per cent upswing year-on-year in job openings.

citeHR, a human resource (HR) community portal, reports that job postings are now being shared on a daily basis, right from the level of the chief experience officer to entry-level hires, including telecommute jobs. “The war for talent is scaling new heights,” says Nabomita Mazumdar, partner at citeHR.

“It’s getting better with each quarter. We expect this momentum to continue as the economy gets better,” says Hitesh Oberoi, managing director and chief executive officer, Info Edge, which owns naukri.com.

Recruiters sound equally buoyant. “We will be hiring 2,000 people this year. That’s a 15 per cent addition to the existing staff strength,” says Divakar Kaza, president, HR, Lupin Pharma, which has 15,000 employees spread across 21 geographies.

“2014 has been one of the most aggressive hiring years in our company’s history. We have hired for product engineering, consulting, sales and tech support functions,” says Abdul Jaleel, senior director, human resources, JAPAC region, Adobe.

So, are the good days back? Yes. But it’s not an unqualified yes. There is a catch to this story.

Spoiler Alert
New jobs may be getting created, but hiring managers are a frazzled lot, because finding the “right talent” for a particular profile is getting tougher. A bigger challenge: many recruiters admit they don’t know what they are looking for in a candidate. That’s because the skills required for any position, be it the chief executive officer (CEO) or an entry-level person, have suddenly undergone such a radical change that hiring has become a game of shooting in the dark. Take, for example, the CEO’s post. In addition to domain knowledge and hard skills, a candidate must have high emotional intelligence, be a people person and be more external focused.

Every functional role — from the marketing domain to the research and development (R&D) space — requires new capabilities in addition to core skills. At Maruti Suzuki, for instance, chief mentor S.Y. Siddiqui says the auto major would like to hire people with skills in hybrid models and electric car technology — capabilities still nascent in India. According to him, it takes about four years before a young engineer is able to contribute meaningfully towards new product development.  During the global recession, Siddiqui recounts that Maruti opportunistically went to Detroit seeking benched R&D people and designers there, but came up short as they were not willing to take up permanent assignments and wanted only short-term contracts.

That’s the other challenge for recruiters — handling job seekers with a diverse set of demands, who have become pushy bargainers. “Today, there is more financial security as both husband and wife are generally working. Consequently, employees are in a position to be more demanding,” says Arun Sehgal, executive vice-president, HR, GSK Consumer Healthcare. “Today’s job-seeker is not looking for just another job, but a challenging work profile with a clear line of career progression. We have to cater to that,” says Dilip Puri, managing director, India, and regional vice-president, South Asia, Starwood Hotels and Resorts India. More on these challenges later. First, let’s look at where the openings are getting created.



Where Are The Jobs?

Almost everywhere, literally.  However, it’s the services sector — notably, information technology (IT) — India’s biggest employment generator, that is hiring in a major way.  Says Oberoi: “One of the first sectors to bounce back was IT. A sure sign of this is the growth in our business in places such as software hub Bangalore.”

The news from college campuses is that tech firms are back with a bang this year. Last year, hiring in IT and ITeS firms was muted due to local and global factors. This time, their hiring projections will make job-seekers happy. India’s largest IT services exporter, Tata Consultancy Services, projects that it will hire 55,000 people, including 25,000 freshers. Infosys has indicated that it will take on board 16,000 engineers. Cognizant, Wipro, Tech Mahindra and HCL Technologies are also expected to hire in a big way.

Industry lobby group Nasscom predicts Indian IT service companies will grow by 13-15 per cent this year. Nasscom senior vice-president Sangeeta Gupta says the industry will add 1.7 lakh to 1.8 lakh new jobs this year, which she calls a moderate increase. She adds that while there is addition in core roles, increasingly the old roles will change with disruptive technologies. So, a candidate being hired for an application management project will need to know what the cloud means and so on.

Other services — banking and financial, travel, tourism, hospitality and advertising — are also upbeat. The projection on Mint Street is that there will be a further burst of hiring when a new lot of private banks enters the fray. While only two — IDFC and Bandhan — have got licences so far, there will be jobs, even at the startup stage, for 250 bankers in the core group (senior level), assuming at least five banks get licensed. A new variable in play is niche “payment banks”, which will not operate in the loan business, thus opening up a window for specialised bankers. The biggest fillip will come from state-run banks. With over 80 per cent of general managers, 65 per cent of deputy general managers and 58 per cent of assistant general managers retiring by 2015, we are talking about hiring in the thousands here!

The hospitality industry, too, is set to ride the recruitment wave after the announcement of positive measures for the sector, including visa on arrival for tourists from several countries, and creation of a spiritual circuit. Accor India, which has 5,000 employees on its rolls, expects to add at least 2,100 more by the end of 2014. Ashwin Shirali, head, HR, at Accor, says new hotels opening this year will translate into consistent job creation. With Starwood opening 12-15 hotels in the next 12-18 months, Puri says, “Our estimate is that we’ll need over 2,000 additional associates across functions in South Asia alone by the end of 2015.”

Telecom, which was in the doldrums last year, has seen a 24 per cent spike in job openings year-on-year. “Job creation in the sector in the next 12 months is expected to result in a 10 to 20 per cent rise in the workforce. Hiring in smaller cities will contribute significantly to this growth,” says Richa Tripathi, chief HR officer, Tata Teleservices.

The manufacturing sectors, too, seem to be emerging from their stupor. The automobile industry, in a slump last year, has seen a 16 per cent jump in job postings. Says Maruti’s Siddiqui: “We have recently posted a Q1 year-on-year profit growth of nearly 21 per cent. The automobile industry looks good for the next quarter, so does the hiring outlook. We could say achchhe din (good days) are around the corner.”
 
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Consulting companies, which had stopped hiring for their government businesses, are now picking up talent. Construction and infrastructure firms, however, remain a little hesitant. Oberoi cites the large debts on some of their balance sheets as the reason for this pessimism, adding that hiring is expected to take off only in 2015 when new or stalled projects are expected to get off the ground.

Mining and telecom sectors are showing an uptick in job openings (see Hot Sectors). Jobs in advertising have zoomed 29 per cent, riding on the demand created by digital advertising. “As against hiring in a few pockets, broad brush job creation is making a comeback,” says Shiv Agarwal, founder, headhoncho.com and managing director, ABC Consultants. The big story of 2014, however, is undoubtedly e-commerce. 

The Mouse Beckons
Flipkart’s relentless expansion, the upping of investment by Amazon in its India business, the fast pace of growth — e-commerce grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34 per cent, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India and Indian Market Research Bureau — have all contributed to the attractiveness of the e-commerce sector. Add to that the rash of startups in this space, and there are jobs galore.

Kamal Karanth, managing director, Kelly Services, India and Malaysia, reckons the sector will add 50,000-70,000 jobs in the next few years and continue to be a steady job creator. “The rising customer base across the three screens — online, mobile and TV — is set to keep hiring trends ticking in the digital commerce sector,” says Amit Agarwal, head, HR and administration, HomeShop18. “The sector will see 15-20 per cent growth and about 25,000-30,000 new jobs over the next two quarters. This will roughly translate to a 30 per cent growth and 50,000 jobs over the entire year.”



Last year, at the height of the slowdown, a slew of mid to senior-level professionals in ‘safe’ FMCG and other offline jobs crossed over to e-commerce, especially startups. This is, possibly, an indication of mid-career professionals realising that they need to pick up digital skills. “Soon every company in the country will revamp its website. Every hotel will have a website. Every manufacturer will want to sell his wares online. The impact of the digital economy on the jobs sector will be phenomenal, going far beyond the formal e-commerce space,” predicts Oberoi, and adds, “Firms want digital-ready talent.”

Licence to Skill
This brings us to the question: Is the supply enough to meet the demand that is building up?
First let us look at the skills needed for e-commerce. “Technical know-how and new product development are important. An ability to develop innovative product offerings and effectively manage businesses is a huge plus. But the bedrock of virtual commerce is customer satisfaction, so customer relationship management skills are key for us at HomeShop18,” says Agarwal.

Pradeep Pendse, dean, IT, innovation and business design, at Mumbai’s Welingkar Institute, which offers a module on e-business, says: “E-commerce is 70 per cent about business and 30 per cent about technology.  An understanding of multiple trends such as cloud, mobile, social media, big data, analytics, digital payment systems and digital media is necessary to do well.”

That’s quite a tough ask. While most people admit having to invest large amounts on skill development, others point out that Indian B-schools have hearteningly risen to the challenge. “Some schools are adapting to the changing needs of corporates and tweaking their programmes,” says Prashant Bhatnagar, director, hiring and staffing, SapientNitro . He cites Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, as an example. “We are also seeing new schools such as Miami Ad School, that opened in Mumbai recently and which offers specialised programmes in advertising, ” he says.

Getting The Right Talent
But it’s not just about digital capabilities. Every functional role today seeks ramped-up capabilities — skills that no school imparts; skills that recruiters themselves are struggling to identify. This crisis is all too evident at mid-levels. Subeer Bakshi, consulting leader, South-east Asia, Towers Watson, says companies often hire the most viable person rather than the right person for the job. He adds that companies get around the skills issue by picking up candidates who are “most trainable” and with the best attitude. 

“At the entry level, we have the problem of plenty — too many people chasing too few jobs. Also, most companies in our industry spend anywhere from three to six months imparting skills and knowledge to college recruits, which takes a toll. At the mid-level, it is the inverse — there are too few qualified people and every company tries to woo them, creating pressure on wages,” says Bhatnagar.

Adds Sehgal of GSK: “The issue is not with the quantity, but the quality of talent available. When we hire we need to keep in mind the capability required for the role as well as potential for the next role. This becomes more difficult when we hire for niche skills or roles in emerging channels. Sometimes, we expand the talent pool and look outside the immediate industry to fulfil our demand, especially for roles where the skills are clearly transferable.”

In the IT sector, with many developers re-skilling, Bakshi sees the job market becoming more and more contractual in nature. Flexi-staffing will gain ground.

Changing Mindsets
Meanwhile, the news from engineering colleges this year is that graduates are no longer stuck in a “I want to write code” groove. Says Himanshu Agarwal, founder of Aspiring Minds, a skills testing company: “Candidates — even those from engineering colleges — are now open to alternative careers such as technical support, customer service, sales and marketing.”

Startups have become cool on campuses and hence have picked up a lot of talent. Flush with venture capital funding, they do have the means to pay. Even for senior hires, Oberoi says whenever there is extraordinary hiring activity in startups, it indicates the creation of a new ecosystem. “In this case, it’s mobile technology, app development and analytics.”

The good news for startups is that freshers no longer have hang-ups about joining them; in fact, many are opting for entrepreneurial set-ups. Deepa N. Gowda, a seventh-semester student of information science and engineering at M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore, says: “While large IT services companies are stable, I am looking for upside potential in my career. In most large services companies, you are one among lakhs of employees, whereas there is greater scope for learning in a startup. My aim is to join a niche data analytics company.” Gowda’s choice is not unique. The placement officer of a Mysore-based engineering college says the first preference of students looking for jobs is startups, followed by multinational companies for international opportunities, and then domestic IT companies.” “Risk taking and unconventional career choices are gaining acceptance,” says Agarwal.

“Overall, the scope of jobs has changed radically,” says Agarwal. This is the biggest positive in the new wave of job creation sweeping across the country.

(With inputs from Venkatesha Babu and Raghu Mohan)

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(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 22-09-2014)