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2nd wave of Covid pandemic won't dampen hiring drive

Companies prefer to train two freshers with same cost instead of hiring an experienced candidate

Neeti Sharma, president, co-founder, TeamLease Edtech Ltd
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Neeti Sharma, president, co-founder, TeamLease Edtech Ltd

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The second wave of Covid pandemic in India is unlikely to create a dent in the hiring intent of companies. With the vaccination drive accelerating, companies are expecting things to get better this year. In a conversation with Bizz Buzz, Neeti Sharma, president & co-founder at TeamLease Edtech Ltd, says the skill requirement in the last year has seen a paradigm shift

The use of APIs between application and platform has gone up dramatically. Also, product architecture is likely to undergo some change going ahead. As far as availability of talent is concerned for manning these new kinds of services, we feel there is a shortage, which is going to increase

In GICs, we don't see the hiring momentum that strong this year. However, the skill sets requirements for being employed in GICs are at a higher level. These captives of global MNCs also pay a higher salary than the other service providers. So, instead of adding more headcount, these captives are looking at a more intelligent headcount and paying better salaries

A recent TeamLease survey indicated rising intent among corporates to hire freshers on the back of demand recovery. However, the fear of the second wave of Corona pandemic has started lurking again. Will the dynamics change in the wake of the new realities?

Everyone is hoping that the lockdown doesn't happen and with the vaccination drive going on, things will be better. We are assuming that things will normalise rather than going bad. Whether it is hiring or running educational institutions, we are hoping for better times. We are getting very positive responses from corporates on hiring freshers this year. What has changed this year as compared to last year is that the skillset requirement has changed this year.

What kind of skill sets are in demand as of now after one year of the pandemic?

Cybersecurity, data analytics, IoT (internet of things), cloud security, cloud computing, and many more are in demand during this period. For example, we have seen a fair amount of implementation of IoT last year during the pandemic period. So, what we were talking about for a decade, got implemented last year. The use of technology has improved substantially.

In the last year, we have seen a lot of platform-based services coming into play. Are our engineers prepared for such productisation of IT services?

The biggest thing that has happened during last year is that there is a lot of collaboration in technologies. So, the technology world has moved from pure-play creation to collaboration. The use of APIs between application and platform has gone up dramatically. Also, product architecture is likely to undergo some change going ahead. As far as availability of talent is concerned for manning these new kinds of services, we feel there is a shortage, which is going to increase. For this, we need massive reskilling of the Indian workforce to cope with this demand. So, we have to be on a move all the time.

The Third quarter of FY21 proved to be a good quarter for IT services companies as far as hiring is concerned. But we are still down on year-on-year hiring terms. Do you think, YoY growth in hiring will come back in the fourth quarter?

I think so. In Q4, the growth will not jump up as it used to be in past years, but it will not be negative either. Obviously, the January-March quarter for Indian companies is about finalising plans, rationalising budgets, and many such activities. So, growth in Q4 may not be superlative, but it will not be stagnant either. In FY22, growth in new hiring will jump from the second quarter onwards.

In Q3 of FY21, utilisation levels of Indian IT services companies were at all-time high levels, which might not be sustainable in the long run. What are the reasons for such utilisation level despite new staff addition?

I think it is a combination of many factors. The staffers on the bench are being reskilled on newer skill sets. We have not seen companies sending back people home because they are on the bench (reserved employees). IT industry has held itself quite beautifully. The number of fresh graduates hired in the last two quarters is way more than anticipated earlier. So, hiring momentum in the freshers' space remains strong. What has happened, however, is the mid-level hiring has not kept pace. Instead of taking up one managerial person at a certain cost, companies are taking up two fresh graduates at the same cost. Basically, they are not bloating the employee pyramid. This makes sense because even if companies spend a little more on training the freshers, it is better than keeping a mid-level manager on the desk with a fat salary.

So, fresher hiring has happened at the cost of mid-level hires. That's what you are indicating?

That's right. The number of people being hired at the entry-level or with one-two years of experience has gone up.

The pandemic has increased the pace of digitalisation with more apps replacing the human interfaces. Will such a trend kill jobs in the coming years?

These fears have surfaced many times over the years. Some time back, there was a fear that automation through bots will replace humans in the technology sector. But anyone who has interacted with a bot can say that these bots can't answer critical customer queries. These are good for a standard set of questions and answers. So, a human interface is very much required even if you use a bot. Of course, automation is replacing some routine and repetitive jobs. But demand for another set of people has come up. Skill sets have changed but demand has not decreased.

Will hiring of engineers in 2021 touch the 2019 level given the demand revival? Also, what are your takes on hiring in GICs (global in-house centres) hiring space?

2020 is an abnormal year and it is not wise to infer a hiring trend based on last year's data. As far as this year is concerned, we see the hiring intent remains the same as the 2019 level.

In GICs, we don't see the hiring momentum that strong this year. However, the skill sets requirements for being employed in GICs are at a higher level. These captives of global MNCs also pay a higher salary than the other service providers. So, instead of adding more headcount, these captives are looking at a more intelligent headcount and paying better salaries. What has happened in the hiring space across companies is that with work from home becoming the norm, firms are looking at more intelligent hiring. As long as work is getting done, companies are willing to hire from remote locations.

Debasis Mohapatra
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