Business Today

Stable, yet supple

Wipro is seen as a secure and flexible employer. So what if salaries are lower by a fifth than at global rivals?

Rahul Sachitanand        Print Edition: February 7, 2010

Wipro is not the best paymaster among peers. It froze promotions and hikes in the last 12 months. It not just suspended campus hires, but also sacked over a thousand. Yet, the Bangalore company finds itself on the BT-Indicus-PeopleStrong's Best Companies to Work For listing. How? By virtue of being a brand that's seen stable by jobseekers, its emphasis on training and practice of rotating workers across businesses and functions.

When Chairman Azim Premji decided to enter the clean energy business in 2008, for instance, he chose managers from Wipro Technologies, the company's global software division, to run the new venture. Subhash Khare moved as Vice President (Process Excellence and Delivery) at Wipro Eco Energy from handling staffing and productivity at Wipro Technologies. Hari Hegde, the former Head of Operations at the tech division, now runs Wipro's water business.

As an employer, Wipro offers a stable brand built "over decades and across businesses", says Pratik Kumar, who heads the human resources (HR) function there. Its HR cues may be from the likes of General Electric, but Wipro has its bespoke solutions. Example: In consumer care, Wipro allows area managers near-autonomous control of regions to boost sales, a flexibility rare among MNCs. Wipro is zealous about training. Five days a year, Premji mentors senior managers.

They, in turn, spend 9-10 days in a year training and mentoring juniors—a contribution HR experts reckon is double compared to other software companies. (Wipro stood #5 in the training and mentoring rankings in the BT survey ahead of Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.) Wipro managers, then, are ready to take on complex tasks earlier than their peers in other firms. When Wipro wanted to extend its soap brand, Santoor, into handwashes, it leaned on a manager in her late-20s for everything from product formulation to perfume selection. "We throw employees into the deep end when they are just 60-70 per cent ready and expect them to learn on the job," says Vineet Agrawal, President of Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting.

Junior Wiproites, still, complain that their salaries are at least 20 per cent less than those at global rivals. Stock options remain a draw but with overseas project assignments reducing to a trickle, hiring and retaining talent will be a challenge. "Many tasks, which were earlier onsitefocussed, are now being delivered from India," says a 25-year-old software analyst, requesting anonymity. She quit Wipro in mid-2009 to pursue studies.

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