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 Around this time last year, 45-year-old Gurinder Singh Rana was feeling frustrated with his job as a director in one of the prominent security firms in the country. Much of what his employer had promised him in terms of money, projects and new responsibilities had not materialised. Worse, Rana had no option but to grin and bear it. The job market was so bad that there was simply no chance of shifting to a new company. Nobody was hiring. Not in his sector, or in any other. On the contrary, companies were actually shedding jobs and Rana knew that this was not the time to make too much fuss about lack of job satisfaction. However, a couple of months ago, Rana was approached by another security firm that offered him a hefty salary hike and an expanded role.

 
If Rana is feeling satisfied with his lot, so is Ronesh Puri, managing director of Executive Access, a premier executive search firm in India. Though Puri refuses to divulge specifics, he admits that the business of executive search was down by half last year compared to 2008, but has picked up speed over the past few months and is up by 50 per cent.
 
One person who has mixed feelings about the smart turnaround in the job market is Dhruv Shringi, CEO and co-founder of travel portal Yatra.com. On the one hand, business is brisk and Shringi has every reason to feel glad that his company is growing and adding more people. But on the other hand, he says it has once again become tough to get the right kind of people. The competition for talent has started in earnest. “It is becoming difficult to get good people,” says Shringi ruefully.
 
 
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That the job market has recovered sharply from the depths of gloom it had sunk to is not exactly news. In a cover story in October (‘The Jobs Are Back’, BW, October 2009), we had written that jobs are back — and that after a long lull, hiring had resumed, albeit cautiously, in most sectors. Indeed, a select few firms had started a bit of hiring as early as July 2009, though the bulk of the companies had adopted a wait-and-watch policy until their businesses and the overall economy showed signs of recovery for more than one quarter.
 
The mood among HR managers in most industries then could be classified as only cautiously optimistic. Yes, many had started hiring but the numbers were modest, and no one was willing to stick his or her neck out to say that 2010 would be a bumper year for job seekers.
 
Four months down the line, the mood has changed dramatically. There is every indication, say HR managers across sectors, that 2010 will be a great — not merely good — year for job seekers. It probably will not match 2008 — when an estimated 1 million new white collar jobs were created by the private sector. But it will be close. The more optimistic expect more than 900,000 jobs to be created this year — over 350,000 new jobs will be added in the IT services companies alone. Contrast this with 2009, when many companies in the private sector went in for drastic rationalisation of their staff and only 0.6 million new jobs were created. 
 
So, hiring is back, but which are the sectors in which maximum jobs are being created? Which are the skills most in demand? And which cities have the most new jobs available?
 
To answer these and other questions, such as how much salary increase an average Indian employee can expect this year, Businessworld teamed up with India’s biggest job portal, Naukri.com, to conduct a multi-city survey of both employers and employees. First, the data on the jobs listed and the resumés posted on the Naukri site was analysed to understand the broad sectoral, geographical and skill set trends. Then, 800 recruiters — consultants as well as firms — were polled. A parallel exercise saw 40,000 job seekers responding about their aspirations and expectations for the year.
 
Finally, this was supplemented by interviews with HR managers and consultants in order to get a composite picture. (For the methodology log on to www.businessworld.in).
 
Some of the results of the survey were along expected lines. For example, the fact that hiring had picked up rapidly in the IT sector and that it was expected to the biggest job creator this year. But there were plenty of surprises as well. For instance, Tier-2 towns such as Cochin came up high in job creation. 
 
IT And ITeS
In the past decade, IT services and IT-enabled service (ITeS) companies were the champion job creators in India. In the post-Lehman Brothers meltdown period, these companies were also among the hardest hit as clients in the US and Europe grappled with falling margins, sales and liquidity. First, students who had been offered jobs in the pre-meltdown days were asked to defer joining. Then, even existing staff on the bench were asked to go. HR managers in top-rung IT companies estimate that, overall, the sector lost almost 50,000 jobs in the first quarter alone last year. It may not seem much for a sector that employs over 2 million people, but given the fact that the industry had added jobs every year for the past 10 years, it dampened sentiment. 
 
 
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This year, IT is back. The results, at least for the top order companies, have been quite good in the past two quarters. And as new orders have started trickling in, companies are hiring again. Most of the intake is still at project execution and management levels, and not at very senior positions. But the total numbers are not insignificant. Mohandas Pai, director of human resources at Infosys, estimates that the sector will add upwards of 350,000 fresh jobs in the coming year. Compared to the average 400,000 new people it used to take in during the boom period of 2005-08, this is still small. But to put it in perspective, the sector had also shrunk its manpower by 10 per cent last year. This year, Tata Consultancy Services alone plans to hire 30,000. Infosys is hiring over 15,000 in the next fiscal. Wipro expects to hire 7,500 freshers. The frontline ITeS companies have also started moving on the recruitment front. 
 
Genpact plans to add 10,000 people while IBM Daksh is reportedly looking at hiring 5,000. Anand Sharma, head of management services at legal process outsourcing company CPA Global, is busy scouting lawyers to add 400 
people to the existing workforce by July. 
 
Marlabs India, also a player in the KPO segment, is ramping up numbers by 20 per cent, says Vignesh Hebbar, the company’s associate vice-president.
 
Construction And Engineering If IT and ITeS represent the new economy and the top two job creators this year, the construction and engineering sector is as old economy as you can get. This is another sector that is expected to boom and create additional jobs this year. In terms of white collar job creation, the sector may lag IT and ITeS, but if you include the opportunities available at supervisor and labour levels, the total number of fresh people to be hired this year will far exceed the IT and ITeS hirings.
 
The construction industry got a big boost when the government’s stimulus package put a lot of emphasis on infrastructure building. The focus on infrastructure (roads, ports, airports, etc.) along with a revival of the housing and commercial real estate sector is the prime reason for job creation. Data by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that over 2,200 projects in various sectors with total project cost of roughly Rs 7.5 lakh crore are expected to be completed in 2010 (see ‘Where All The Action Is’). 
 
The director-general of Construction Industry Development Council, P.R. Swarup, says he expects roughly 170,000 white collar jobs to be created in the sector this year, with the split between engineers (80,000) and supervisory level jobs (90,000) being almost equal. Skilled and labour level jobs will also be created in large numbers, with the number of labour hirings being estimated at 1.8 million. P.M. Kumar, executive director at GMR, says while last year his company had focused only on hiring senior functionaries, this year it will be taking on many more people in operations such as design, power and quality assurance, besides engineers.
 
Banking And Financial Services
The companies in this sector are not too far behind in terms of expected job creation this year. Different job websites have seen a 90 per cent-plus jump in job postings in the banking and financial services sector in the past quarter. HR consultants expect roughly 100,000 new jobs to be created this year, ranging from officer-level jobs to class IV employees. 
 
 
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India’s biggest commercial bank, State Bank of India, says it is going to hire 30,000 people this year — some 5,000 officers, and 25,000 in all other categories. That apart, Shriram Lele, general manager for recruitments in SBI, says he estimates the six associate state banks to hire another 1,700 officers this year — a big jump from the 700 hired last year.
 
In fact, HR consultants say that public sector banks are likely to recruit heavily for the next few years — not just in 2010. The reason: a large number of officers in these banks were recruited during the 1970s, and close to 50 per cent of the senior staff in these banks is expected to retire over the next four or five years. This will trigger a major recruitment drive. 
 
Many private sector banks with aggressive growth plans have also started hiring. Deodutta Kurane, president of human capital management at Yes Bank, says, “Banks with defined growth strategies coupled with robust financials will continue to expand their footprints to newer locations and geographies, while continuing to deepen their presence in existing locations.” Yes Bank plans to hire nearly 4,000 people by March. Subhro Bhaduri, executive vice-president of HR at Kotak Mahindra Bank, says, “We will be hiring fresh talent to match with our growth plans.”
 
Other Hot Sectors
Oil and gas, automobiles and auto ancillaries, and insurance are the other hot sectors that consultants expect to generate several lakhs of jobs this year. The oil and gas sector has always been a steady recruiter — it didn’t falter even last year when all other sectors had stopped hiring. But this year, it is expected to go into high gear because of exploration and pipeline building activities. With gas drilling and exploration activity expected to increase this year with discovery of new gas fields in the KG and other basins, there will be more jobs created than ever before. The four pipeline projects of Charotkar Gas Sahakari Mandli in Gujarat, Dhulijan-Numaligarh Gas Pipeline Project in Assam, Gail India’s project in Rajasthan and by Indian Oil Corporation in multiple states will also play their part.
 
The auto and auto ancillary industry, which has been experiencing an unprecedented boom since the past six months, is likely to create a large number of white collar as well as labour jobs, says Dilip Chenoy, director general of industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam). 
 
 
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Ganesh Shermon, head of people and change practices at KPMG India, concurs. He points out that the sector is growing rapidly and if all the plans announced by the different automobile companies are actually added up, the total capacity of the industry will double in the next couple of years. Chenoy expects 200,000 new direct jobs to be created over the next few years. 
 
The bigger companies have already started recruiting. Maruti Suzuki is planning to hire 900 people for the company’s upcoming R&D facility, says S.Y. Siddiqui, managing executive officer of administration (HR, finance and IT) at Maruti Suzuki. Mahindra & Mahindra has a target of adding 3,000; General Motors is recruiting 600; Hyundai will employ roughly 1,000 more by the end of the calendar year. 
 
Besides, Volkswagen, Honda, and Toyota all have expansion plans on the anvil. CMIE data shows at least 20 projects in this segment, totalling a cost of roughly Rs 2,000 crore, expected to get completed in 2010. Insurance is another sector that has been creating a large number of lower-level jobs — for agents, for instance. It will continue to create jobs at the same pace, say recruiters in the industry. Most of the hiring will be done by new players entering the fray. As per the BW-Naukri.com survey, this is one of the only two sectors where hiring has bounced back to the pre-recession levels. Job postings on the Naukri website show a 34 per cent increase in this segment compared to October 2008, and the figure jumps to 54 per cent when compared to June 2009. Roopa A. Kochhar, head of human resources at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, says, “Established players who are conservative in growth plans may not hire too many people. But new players will be buoyant.” SBI Life is ramping up its sales force and plans to add 30,000 new agents this year. 
 
As per the BW-Naukri.com survey, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and capital goods are the other sectors expected to create significant jobs. While there are no hard estimates of how many fresh jobs capital goods will create this year, job postings — both online and offline advertisements — show that hiring is back to pre-recession levels. 
 
Similarly, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are also recruiting in large numbers as new projects in healthcare and manufacturing of drugs get completed. Senior vice-president of HR at pharmaceutical major Glenmark, Alind Sharma says, “Pharma has traditionally been a very closed sector, but the trend of hiring people in supply chain, HR and marketing, etc., from outside the sector will move a bit forward in 2010.” According to him, hiring level will be the same as it was in 2008.
 
Telecom is another sector seeing rapid growth — it has suddenly seen the number of players almost double because of the licensing policies. Six to seven new players have started operations in the past 24 months, and three others are expected to do so in the next couple of months. The requirement of workforce has doubled, says Romal Shetty, telecom expert with KPMG. And there are not enough people who have the domain knowledge. 
 
 
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Between them all the operators employ close to 0.5 million people. The big four private players — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications and Idea — employ roughly 100,000, including the outsourced positions. To start operations a player needs a minimum of 2,500 people for the core team. Three new operators would mean at least 10,000 people needed, and almost six times this would get involved in the operations indirectly — through applications, allied services, customer care, network management, etc. The sector as a whole is likely to throw up 60,000-70,000 fresh job opportunities in the next seven-eight months, according to expert estimates.
 
Cities, Skills and Increments
Barring construction and oil and gas, the bulk of the jobs being created are still concentrated around metros and Tier-2 towns that are experiencing a big boom. According to the survey, Delhi-NCR comfortably pips Mumbai as the city creating the most jobs. Then come Bangalore and Chennai with Hyderabad in fifth place. Pune is ahead of Kolkata and Cochin is number 10. 
 
The pecking order of cities, however, changes according to the sector. For instance, while Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai are top in IT services, Mumbai replaces Chennai in the top 3 list if the ITeS sector is considered. Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai are the top three for construction and engineering jobs. Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEO and co-founder of Naukri.com, says, “A cluster approach works in every sector. If two big companies in a particular sector flourish in one place, the available talent flocks there, and spawns the growth of similar ventures. Noida and Gurgaon in Delhi-NCR are turning into hubs for the BPO industry, while Delhi, Pune and Chennai are attractive clusters for auto and auto ancillary sectors.”
 
In terms of qualifications, the survey shows that an engineering degree is the one most in demand with recruiters, followed by MBA. 
 
Almost 13 per cent of recruiters wanted candidates to have a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering or Technology while 7.4 per cent are looking for MBAs. A Master’s in Computer Application doesn’t seem to be in much demand, with only 2 per cent recruiters searching for candidates with this qualification in the Naukri database.
 
In terms of skill sets required, only the IT sector threw up proper data in the survey. Typically, programming languages such as C++ and knowledge of databases such as Oracle are important skills being searched, with knowledge of SAP being another much in demand skill. 
 
Temporary jobs are still not in fashion, and, while some freshers are expected to be recruited, the bulk of the new jobs available are for people with two to four years of experience — this could create a big war for talent in the short run.
 
The final piece of good news the survey threw up was that it is not just jobs that are being created, salaries are expected to go up for current employees as well. Only about 13 per cent of the recruiter respondents in the survey said they will not give increments this year. 
 
Many of the companies in the IT and other sectors that had frozen salaries, and, in some cases, even pared them, have given increments now. Many companies have indicated that increments are set to return to near normal levels in 2010. Approximately 62 per cent of HR managers polled for the survey said they will give increments of 10-20 per cent this year, while another 24 per cent said that the increments will be less than 10 per cent. A smaller share of about 13 per cent said the hikes would be more than 20 per cent.
 
The big surprise in the survey, though, was that job seekers were far more pessimistic about increments than HR managers. While 86.8 per cent of HR managers and recruiters said they would be giving increments this year, only 78.6 per cent job seekers expected them!
 
shalini(dot)sharma(at)abp(dot)in
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 22-02-2010)