Business Today

When your boss does you in

The darker part of the cloud of uncertainty over Satyam looms over its 53,000 employees, many of whom are in no mood to throw in the towel.

E. Kumar Sharma | Print Edition: Feb 8, 2009

A week after Raju was arrested, one of Satyam’s clients in Europe decided to move a project—along with the team working on it—to another Indian IT vendor. Satyam employees in the Europe office told BT that 95 per cent of the team had agreed to join the competing vendor and they would soon begin negotiating their salary packages with the new IT company. They add that the newly-formed Satyam board had agreed to let go of the European client. Although there are those who are willing to stand by Satyam (see employee profiles on the next page), fact is that few want to be stuck with a tainted firm. Two days after B. Ramalinga Raju’s confession letter was made public, T. Sreedhar was rushed off his feet by countless calls from Satyam employees, many of whom kept spilling into his office. The Managing Director of TMI Network, a leading Hyderabad-headquartered talent hiring company, says Satyam employees are “stuck between the devil and the deep sea. They cannot quit the job because there is no option being made available by the large companies (who have chosen not to hire them) and while staying back, they are not certain if they will get the salaries due to them this month”.

Options for Satyamites

  • Stay put and expect new board to revive the company

  • Move to a rival IT vendor if it manages to get a Satyam project

  • Look out for niche openings in areas like SAP, IT infrastructure and engineering software.
IT industry body Nasscom, and the flagship of the sector, Infosys Technologies, have issued statements against recruiting people from Satyam, not because they are tainted but to ensure that the company doesn’t suffer because of an exodus. However, it is not helping allay fears among the employees about their prospects. Their biggest fear is obviously not getting paid, what with Satyam’s financial position unclear. According to Rishi Das, CEO, CareerNet Consulting, about 35,000 or 70 per cent of Satyam’s workforce is already out in the job market, scouting for opportunities with rivals.

Sections of employees now say they had scented a crisis in the making. A mail to employees from B. Rama Raju, then Managing Director, dated October 24, contained stern warnings of sacking/demotion in cases where 80 per cent of targets are not met, and laid down harsh cost-cutting paying a big part of the employees’ variable pay for the last two quarters.

As uncertainties about Satyam’s survival increase, the ones who are really on tenterhooks are those employees who were forced to provide Rs 2 lakh bonds as part of their two-year contract. There are an estimated 7,000 of them, insiders say, and they are all qualified engineering graduates with many having additional MBA degrees. They cannot get out without losing the security deposit, which, incidentally, is said to be safe in accounts of State Bank of India. The freshers—just out of college—will have it rougher. In 2007, the Satyam management issued about 6,000 offer letters in campuses across the country, promising a decent salary package. Those offers are not worth the paper they are written on.

"I am awaiting the offer letter"

N. Kavitha /22
Kavita had studied engineering at Muthukumaran Institute of Technology near Mangadu, a Chennai suburb. She was selected by Satyam in a campus placement in 2007-08.
“I was told that I would get a joining letter by September 2008. This did not happen. The company HR said that I could definitely expect to join in January 2009. Now that this scandal has happened and there are media reports about downsizing, I have lost all hope of ever getting the letter. However, if I still get the offer letter, I will definitely join Satyam. In this recession, a fresher needs to grab any opportunity. I am not worried too much about Satyam’s reputation in the market; I want the work experience first.”

As told to Nitya Varadarajan

"Leadership at project level is excellent"

S. Mastanamma /24
Mastanamma has been with Satyam at its Chennai centre for two years, after passing out of Newton’s College of Engineering in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.
“I am very positive about the company’s future. Satyam has 160 Fortune 500 clients. The leadership quality in the company at the project level is excellent. The portal that is maintained for employee communications is very good. So is the learning. I would say that HR responded quickly to the crisis. A 24x7 associate relationship window has been opened. I am not worried about lay-offs. The existing clients have to be serviced and the new board at Satyam is saying that people are needed to continue to service the clients.’’

As told to Nitya Varadarajan

"They were good employers"

The consultant with Satyam Europe has been with Satyam for two years.
“The situation is complicated beyond our wildest imagination here. The client has negotiated with another vendor to move our whole project team to another firm. We, as employees, are very clear we want to save our livelihoods. The client is very clear that they would want the project team morale to not disintegrate due to events at Satyam and their immediate work will not be affected.

As an employer they are (were) very good, they pay well and do take good care in terms of perks, benefits, etc. Raju was always elusive, I have never seen or heard from him in the two years I have been with the firm, except when a mail was sent by him justifying the Maytas deal after the shareholder revolt; he had expressed his sadness about the fact that corporate governance is being questioned and the fact that we would restore Satyam to its former glory. His brother used to send the odd e-mail, on the quarterly performance and business outlook.”

As told to Anusha Subramanian

"There is uncertainty in every job”

The MBA from NMIMS is a retail consultant at Satyam and is just five months old in the company.
“I am not worried and I am not quitting in a panic. There is a bit of uncertainty in every job. Yes, in this case the story is different but the projects are on and I am still working on the project that I was given. That’s an indication that clients have not pulled out yet…. right now I am comfortable working with Satyam. Satyam has so far been a good employer to me and I have no complaints.”

As told to Anusha Subramanian

"Nothing was amiss from the HR perspective"

Kulwinder Singh /36
Singh is a Marketing Head, APAC, West Asia, India and Africa, at Satyam. He is based in Hyderabad, and has been with the company for three-and-a-half years.
“The mood is much better after the government appointed industry stalwarts like Deepak Parekh and Kiran Karnik to take stock of the situation. This gives us some confidence that things are likely to improve at least in terms of business continuity. The projects are on as usual. We have a personal relationship manager for every customer, who develops communication on a daily basis and reassures them on the daily happenings. Deepak Parekh’s press conference has been put on YouTube so that all customers overseas and our employees overseas are aware of what has actually been said.

I cannot remember a single month in my last three-and-half years of service when the salary has been delayed or missed. From an HR perspective, I did not find anything amiss. In three years, I have had three promotions and I also got the opportunity to do my certification in global business leadership (CGBL) through Satyam School of Leadership, which has a tie-up with Harvard Business School and U21 of Singapore.”

—As told to Anusha Subramanian

Even if Satyam’s staff prefer to leave lock, stock and barrel, there is no way the industry can absorb so many people—at least 40,000 of 53,000 Satyamites are working in India. According to Das, only those with skills in niche areas like SAP practice and engineering software will find it easier to finding the right jobs. Opportunities are particularly dim for those in the managerial cadre and senior leadership positions. Rohit Ramani, Director-Operations, Emmay HR Services, an HR consulting firm and part of the Netherlands-based Randstand Company, says: “There are jobs in specific niche skill areas within the mainframe and IT infrastructure space.”

—Additional reporting by Anusha Subramanian and K.R. Balasubramanyam

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