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BW Businessworld

‘India And China Are Important For Us’

The executive vice-president of Schneider Electric sees India as an ‘active destination’ for jobs with great opportunities at every stage

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

Olivier Blum has served as managing director at Schneider Electric India. He is now executive vice-president of Global Human Resources at Schneider Electric. Blum was in India recently to interact with internal and external stakeholders of the company. Taking time off, he spoke to BW Businessworld about the company’s human resource initiatives as well as the active role it is playing in the Skill India, Digital India and Make in India initiatives.


Schneider Electric India (SEI) has been associated with the Indian government’s initiatives like Skill India and Digital India. What are the company’s achievements so far?
SEI is investing in the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative. We are connecting villages through a national optical fiber network. We are also leveraging virtual network operators for urban connectivity and a national information infrastructure for the government. We offer VDI structured cabling infrastructures to support data, telephone and video in offices, data centres and homes. We are also providing the latest technologies to support increasing bandwidth, higher densities, and scalability and cost expectations. For the Skill India programme, we have trained nearly 53,000 unemployed youth in the electrical trade.

How do you look at India as a job market? Does India being a multi-cultural country pose challenges for SEI’s HR management and practices?

The job market in India is very active with great opportunities at every stage. I was here 10 years ago, things have changed. The attrition at that time used to be high, but today it is at the lowest as compared to the industry standard. I agree that India is complicated as a market because of its multi-cultural diversities. However, managing diversity can be a challenge and is something we are still learning here as there are a lot of regional biases. Our management heads across the globe create an environment that is multi-cultural. We have a global policy for India and we make sure we blend talents.

SEI advocates gender diversity as a key metric for its business strategy. Have you reached your target of hiring 40 per cent women in your workforce in India?

SEI, along with the United Nations, is promoting the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 programme. It targets the communities that need to address women’s empowerment and gender equality concerns. The HeForShe initiative puts responsibility for change right where it matters — spotlights leaders who can make it happen. We are working towards this by increasing the representation of women to 40 per cent of our workforce in India and implementing a salary equity process, involving group leaders worldwide.

We strongly believe that we can make significant progress only if our male employees raise their voice against gender inequality.

We have a focused strategy and policy that took a decade to formulate. Every country has its own women related issues. In India security is an issue, which is not the case in other countries. So we have country specific policies for women employees.

How beneficial is your company’s ‘Predictive Analytics’ tool? How helpful are research and development (R& D) and IT development centres in recruiting fresh talent in India?
Our ‘Predictive Analytics’ helps us to predict the possible reasons why people quit. What is the time frame in which they are likely to quit, which helps to determine the patterns, and also predict the future outcomes and trends. It is a form of software-driven calculation that helps in hiring. It’s during these times that the chances of inappropriate hires can peak due to the paucity of time and other concomitant pressures in filling positions. If that’s the case, there can be higher turnover of employees within the first year — either voluntary, or involuntary. It helps us recognise the type of people, who could succeed in the environment and the kind of sources that will help produce better hires. It should be noted that even minor improvements in attrition rates can lead to significant financial benefits. We stay competitive to stay attractive. We treat our employees like our customers. As a HR, we are in sync with technology to make the work easy. We have 21,000 employees, of which 1,500 are engaged in R&D and 11,000 in plants.

How good is the job market from a global perspective?

Even though the global economy environment is not looking good, the job market is looking good globally because many companies are undergoing restructuring and people movements across industries are happening. The job market in the lower and mid-level Europe and Asia is fairly more stable than in the US, while at the senior level the market looks good everywhere. We have many Indians, who are global heads of verticals like our chief technology officer and R&D officer. New economies like Asia Pacific, South Asia — are very competitive markets, but India is very specific in terms of the size and the structure of the market.

What are your plans for boosting investment in India?
I would not be able to share any figures. But in the past two years, we have grown fast and will grow even faster in the coming years. Currently, 3.5 per cent of our global turnover comes from India.

We have done a lot of acquisitions, which have helped to accelerate growth and a much stronger set up in India. We have 31 factories and over 900 engineers in India. Now, we are more adapted to manufacture — a very big part of Make In India project. Inside the new economies, two countries are important for us — China and India.