Business Today

Return of the IT czars

After a tough year, IT companies return for engineering talent. PSUs continue strong.

Saumya Bhattacharya        Print Edition: June 13, 2010

Pundits will love to tell you that a recession is one of the best times to hire- you get talent cheap, and you can zero in on the best in the pack. If you tried telling that to human resource (HR) honchos at India's top tier information technology (IT) services firms a year ago, they wouldn't have been impressed with such counter-intuitive counsel. As growth rates in the sector dropped from the highs of 30 per cent into low single digit, there was a virtual massacre in the IT services job market.

The April to June 2009 quarter and the subsequent three months saw IT companies downsize in their bid to do more with less. Recruitments were the last thing on their minds as they grappled with the the collapse of several US and European financial institutions that were among their biggest clients.

THE TOP 15
RECRUITERSNO. OF STUDENTS HIRED FROM TOP 10 ENGG. INSTITUTES
1. Cognizant543
2. Tata Consultancy Services438
3. IBM India179
4. Infosys Technologies176
5. Coal India140
6. Aricent134
7. NTPC73
8. Oracle72
9. Bharat Heavy Electricals53
10. Deloitte51
11. ONGC38
12. Reliance Industries37
13. iGate35
13. HP India35
15. Larsen & Toubro33
The rankings and number of students hired are based on data received from 10 engineering institutes that were asked to list their top six recruiters in 2010. Total recruitment by these companies could be higher than the number mentioned above. And there will be companies that may have hired more engineers-but not from these top institutes.

The top Indian IT firms-Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies, Wipro, and HCL Technologies-earn more than half of their revenues from the US. TCS, for instance, had a certain Lehman Brothers as one of its larger clients, as well as another investment bank, Bear Stearns, which was sold to JP Morgan.

Burdened with excessive bench strength, IT biggies had to grapple with pre-placement commitments made in 2007-08 for the following fiscal and to defer campus placements for the Class of 2009. In fact, this time last year, IT giant Wipro decided to skip campuses for the final placement season.

For close to 500,000 engineering grads entering the job market, it was nothing short of an apocalypse. That's because IT and related industries account for close to half of all placements of engineering grads. Explains Rajesh A.R., VP, TeamLease Services, a leading staffing firm: "IT recruits mostly engineers across streams. Each campus has high sectoral representation, but the numbers are driven by IT."

Cut to 2010. IT recruiters are back-not to the euphoric levels seen in the five years before the 2008 meltdown but they're back, treading gingerly in pockets where the action is. Instead of making offers a year in advance, these companies are now picking up talent in the final semester.

And if numbers are any indication, the long winter across engineering campuses has ended in a pleasant thaw. The campus intake of Infosys Technologies in 2009-10 was 19,000 while TCS has visited 371 campuses for hiring and made 20,050 campus offers in the recently-concluded fiscal, with 72 per cent of these made in the January-March quarter alone.

Cognizant, the top recruiter in the BT survey, hired 7,100 in the quarter. It's hardly a surprise then, that of the top five companies in our top recruiters' list, four are IT services players. Says Ajoy Mukherjee,VP and Head, Global HR, TCS: "The recruitment engine continues to fire on all cylinders. We will continue to hire people aligned with business domains. TCS is likely to make about 30,000 gross additions in 2010-11. I think the hiring ratio will be around 60 per cent plus for freshers and 30 per cent plus for experienced professionals."

It's a similar story unfolding at other IT-services companies. Cognizant visited 75 engineering schools to pick up talent for its technology solutions business. Though the company did not share the exact number of hires, in 2009-10 it added 21,800 to its total global headcount, of which 60 per cent are fresh engineering and science graduates.

Wipro, ranked #26 in our survey, hired 2,500 from engineering colleges and added 1,300 under its Wipro Academy of Software Excellence (WASE) programme. Wipro's Executive Vice President (HR) Pratik Kumar estimates that Wipro's campus hires for the present financial year is between 11,000 and 12,000. That's not all. Pradeep Bahirwani, Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Wipro says: "We are also hiring off-campus graduates from science streams, from the 2009 and 2010 batches, for meeting the existing demand."

The bonanza for engineering students extends beyond the big boys. Coveted employers like Microsoft India Development Center were back on campus to hire more aggressively. "In 2010, we went to the top 25 engineering institutes in India (IITs, NITs and a few state-level good engineering colleges) and hired close to 100 graduates who are all coming on board in the next 2-3 months," says Srini Koppolu, Corporate Vice President and Managing Director, Microsoft IDC. Last year, it had hired 75 engineers; the year before that it had taken more than 125.

Telecom technology and services company Aricent, ranked #6 in our survey, made 1,000 offers to the class of 2010. Say Amitabh Hajela, Head of HR at Aricent: "Recession was a reality. Students are very aware now. They look at quality, stability, culture, learning potential and quite honestly how companies behaved in recession. This is definitely reflected in interest among students this year; public memory is not too short."

Beyond IT and technology companies, public sector behemoths dangle the carrot of stability. Power utility NTPC, ranked #7, started the campus recruitment of engineering students in 2007. "Since then, we have been hiring almost 400 students every year, which makes up almost half of the total entry-level engineering recruitment annually; the rest of the requirement is met by national-level competitive exams," says Q. Khalid, DGM (Recruitment).

Indian Oil Corp hired 340 students in 2009 from 48 campuses; they will join later this year (June-September). IOC hires from all the IITs, University of Jadavpur, NITs, BITs and Delhi College of Engineering. It offers a fixed-scale starting in the band of Rs 8-12 lakh a year.

It is still early days yet for the Class of 2011 to start celebrations for the next year. IT companies, like Wipro, offer them "cautious optimism" at best. "One thing we have learnt from the downturn is that nothing is guaranteed. Offers will come, but they will come close to our requirements.We will make commitments only if the demand is sustained," says Bahirwani. And as Hajela of Aircent puts it: "Just when you think the recovery is on, you've troubles in Europe."

- Additional reporting by T.V. Mahalingam, Manu Kaushik, Puja Mehra and E. Kumar Sharma

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