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BW Businessworld

The Great Job Hunt Of 2013

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The job market is like a dead man’s ECG — flat!”
– Rohtash Mal, chairman, Equitigro, an agri startup, on Twitter

“Hiring is on full swing for the entry level. Capgemini, Sybase and other IT majors have walk-in drives almost every second weekend.”
– Nabomita Mazumdar, community manager, Cite HR

“We have positions that remain open forever. In IT , especially, it is bad.”
– Dony Kuriakose, director and CEO, Edge Executive Search

The job market this year is like the story of the five blind men and an elephant, where each comes up with a different description of the animal. Depending on which sector and which level you are looking at, it is different strokes for different folks. So, if you are in infrastructure or auto, you will support Mal’s view. If you are a graduate with skill sets such as knowledge of cloud computing or digital media, you will agree with Mazumdar. And if you are a mid- to top-level executive, you will nod at Kuriakose’s comment.

Replacement jobs are especially hard to fill. Not just that: at the higher levels of management, companies are asking one person to even perform two people’s jobs. But if you look at the overall picture, there certainly has been some amount of growth in the job market.

So Where’s The Growth?
Let’s first tell you where there aren’t any jobs. Telecom and auto are bleak, racked by de-growth and layoffs. Grim stories are coming from the infrastructure, construction and manufacturing sectors — declining profits, investor pressure, political uncertainty and policy paralysis have made recruiters cautious. Jobs are stagnating in media and entertainment, advertising and agriculture, too.

But hospitality is on a hiring spree. With 12,000 hotel rooms added across the country last year alone, the segment needs people and has recorded a healthy 35 per cent growth in jobs year on year. Says Ashwin Shirali, regional director of HR at Accor India: “A year ago, we had 3,500 employees, today we have 4,500. A year from now, we expect to be 6,000.” Accor has 21 hotels in India and is adding another 10, for which it is hiring, says Shirali. Other hotel chains are also projecting a 30 per cent-plus growth in jobs in the coming quarters.

Consultancy firms such as PwC, which have strong practices in taxation and accountancy, have added robustly. “In the April-June quarter, our total hires went up 13 per cent from last year. Most of them were campus hires,” says Mark Driscoll, human capital leader for PwC India. But the hires, he admits, have mostly followed growth. “Growth is coming in double digits in our taxation and accounting practices, but there is a mood of caution in our government practice and utilities practice,” he says, pointing out how the impending elections next year are making clients take a ‘wait and watch’ approach.

In the IT sector, which continues to be the biggest supplier of white collar jobs, it’s a mixed tale. In IT hardware, which is showing declining growth, there are exceptions. Subhankar Roy Chowdhry, executive director of HR for Lenovo, says the company has entered new categories and added employees. “Lenovo India introduced smartphones and tablets, which are new growth categories. Hence, we need additional resources to build these.”
Companies are getting picky when hiring mid- or top-level people. With stakes higher than ever, “fitment is getting closer to the skin” as Nabomita Mazumdar of Cite HR describes it. Specific areas of expertise are in demand rather than general skills. For instance, Ashwin Shirali of Accor says there is greater emphasis on candidates with revenue management know-how or digital marketing expertise. Naukri’s Hitesh Oberoi feels that those with digital marketing skills will find more offers as companies across sectors are beefing up their digital marketing teams. Cloud computing is another skill in demand. “The recruiting strategy will be very different from what it has been till last year. These will not be plain vanilla jobs,” says Mohan A.V.K., executive vice-president and global head of HR at EXL Service. For instance, in EXL’s healthcare and medical verticals, where client records have to be managed, certified registered nurses are preferred over other graduates.

Sunshine Through The Dark Clouds

Although the mood is gloomy now, the overall outlook for the next two quarters is cautiously optimistic. Hitesh Oberoi, CEO and MD of Info Edge (which runs, says he expects to see some movement in the banking sector once the new bank licences are given out, and in retail, which last year too promised much in anticipation of FDI only to deceive. “However, consumer demand has remained robust, so retail has added jobs,” he says.

Education has been a strong job creator and the trend is expected to continue. The BPO segment is also showing strong pick-up. In fact, industry body Nasscom expects the BPO sector to post a much stronger growth (10-12 per cent) than IT (7-8 per cent). With the rupee plunging against the dollar, Oberoi says he expects back offices of MNCs to take advantage and start hiring.

FMCG and pharmaceuticals sectors have maintained a steady tempo. As for the rest, the sentiment is that since we have plumbed the depths, things can only get better now.  But with a caveat. Only if pending decisions are taken. “In infrastructure, the shells of the projects that are stuck are there. Once  they get clearances, you will see job creation. On the other hand, without clearances, we may see de-growth and layoffs too,” cautions Oberoi.

Hiring Patterns Transformed
The Naukri Job Speak data for June 2013 shows a small 2 per cent growth overall in job postings annually across sectors. But this may not be a true reflection of the state of affairs. “There certainly are more jobs out there than are being posted or advertised,” says Shirali of Accor.

Most recruiters BW spoke to said they are advertising less and doing more internal hires, employee referrals and tapping social networks (see The Salary Disconnect, pg 52.) “Hiring as a function is seeing a transformation,” says Rajita Singh, head of HR at Broadridge Financial Solutions. HR heads — like their marketing peers — are beginning to use not only social media but also Big Data. “We are leveraging the piles of data we have of our own workforce from talent assessments — why they stay, what they want, etc.,” says Singh, adding that data aggregation has helped in selection of outside applicants too.

Tighter Hiring at Mid and Top Levels

Companies may be cutting down on campus visits, but intake of freshers remains steady. “Freshers form 15 per cent of our workforce — that figure would always come in,” says Shirali. It’s at the mid and top levels that hiring has reduced. “Replacement hires are no longer automatic,” says Driscoll of PwC. If somebody leaves, companies are thinking twice about the need to fill the position, or are looking internally.

The hiring cycle’s duration is also getting longer. Recruiters say that companies are taking more time to close hiring as they want to make sure they get the right candidate.  On the other hand, mid- to senior-level executives who receive offers are also taking time to mull over them. Sangeeta Lala, senior vice-president and co-founder of TeamLease, feels the job market has slowed because those with offers are not taking a decision. “This could partly be because of low salary hikes offered, and uncertainty in the industry,” she says.

A More Mobile Workforce

For recruiters the good news is that geographical barriers are coming down, widening the talent pool.  More and more Indian achievers abroad are now looking at coming back  for professional reasons rather than personal. Even within India, candidates are now more willing to relocate to other cities if the offer is good.

While the rain god showers India with his bounty, there’s a drought of jobs in the telecom industry. In the past 18 months, an estimated 6,000 people have moved out of the industry. But things could change now that FDI in telecom has been hiked to 100 per cent. After the Supreme Court cancelled 122 licences in February 2012, three operators shut shop. Another three — Uninor, Sistema Shyam and Videocon Telecommunications — reduced their presence to just a few circles.

Bigger operators have rationalised networks leading to a fall in their employee base. Says Hemant Joshi, partner at Deloitte, Haskins & Sells: “With the continuing regulatory uncertainty, job expansion is a huge challenge.”

Operators cut costs as tariffs hit rock bottom, leading to a hiring freeze. With the mobile base down 50 million since March 2012, the need for people is clearly lower. Add to that the slow pick-up of 3G services, low rural penetration and no new network rollout, and the picture becomes hazy. “In such a situation, no operator would want to add to the head count,” says Joshi. The Naukri Job Speak data from October 2012 to April 2013 shows job postings in the region of 645 to 800. That’s two-third of the high of 1,200 in 2008-’09. The index figures for June 2013 are bleaker — a 29 per cent dip compared to June 2012.

Says Vlad Pozdyshev, chief HR officer, MTS India: “The industry is under severe pressure due to massive debt and negative growth. Given such business realities, operators are compelled to restructure their organisational set-up.” The job erosion has resulted in marketing professionals moving to FMCG and retail. Pozdyshev points out that replacement hiring is largely at junior and middle management levels. At senior levels
internal talent is redeployed. The sector is ripe for consolidation. The emergence of a few strong players could just be the light at the end of a long tunnel.

— Anup Jayaram

“People are now more mobile, though in a city like Hyderabad, we would see more people from Chennai, Bangalore or Maharashtra willing to move here than from the north,” says Singh of Broadridge.

Diversity Gets Going
There’s good news for women and differently abled jobseekers as MNCs are getting serious about their diversity programmes. Several HR heads said they had mandated their recruiters to have at least one woman candidate in the shortlist for senior positions.

The irony is that even as companies hire more women, there exists a gender-based pay scale. When we sifted through the salary data available with, we found many sectors that didn’t have pay parity between male and female employees. In ITeS, for instance, the average cost-to-company of a male employee with 12 years experience is Rs 14. 30 lakh, while it is Rs 12.2 lakh for a female employee with equivalent experience. But that’s a story that no HR head wanted to talk about.

Read interview with Kamal Karanth, MD, Kelly Services India


(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 12-08-2013)