Business Today

Virtual workforce

Dotcoms are booming once again, and so are internet jobs.

twitter-logo Manu Kaushik        Print Edition: Sept 9, 2007

Circa 2000: The dotcom meltdown has begun and the young, starryeyed entrepreneurs who had crawled out of every nook and cranny of industry to ride the internet wave are clutching at every available employment opportunity. Some are swearing never to return to the industry. The dotcom dream, it appears, is over.

Circa 2007: Internet is red hot again. But this time around, it’s not so much the greenhorns that are leading the revolution as seasoned, old media and Old Economy companies. What’s more, global internet giants have set up shop in the country to not just grab eyeballs but leverage India’s IT skills to develop products and solutions.

The only problem with this otherwise happy story is that there just aren’t enough trained and ready professionals around—be it for content, technology or creatives. The industry, which is growing at a CAGR of around 100 per cent, currently employs around 30,000 people and is expected to add another 25,000 over the next two years. As new business models and ideas are being rolled out each day, people with potential are joining the fray, thus, creating niches and skill-sets that are more specialised.

A classic example of this is Sumeet Singh, 34, National Head (Marketing, Corporate Communications and Strategic Alliances), Info Edge. She heads a team of 12 professionals who specialise in advertising, content, online marketing and corporate communications, and manages the company’s strategic alliances with over 100 online and offline publications.

“There are ample opportunities to grow as the internet space is booming and there is a lot of action happening at the moment,” says Singh, who, prior to this job, was Founder Executive Director with The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) and Executive Director, Indian Venture Capital Association. Adds Michael M. Bala, Business Head, ClickJobs.com: “The industry requires professionals with functional as well as domain expertise.”

The Net Widens

In India, the internet space has livened up in the last couple of years. The market has, on the one hand, home-grown entrepreneurial set-ups such as naukri.com, shaadi.com, rediff.com, and bharatmatrimony. com, which were startups some years ago and have grown into pure big internet players.

Then, there are MNCs like Yahoo!, Google, MSN and AOL, telecom and entertainment players and also media companies wanting a foothold in this space. Add to this the growing number of brick and mortar businesses going the clicks way, and the internet industry seems all set to surpass its growth targets.

Says Hitesh Oberoi, COO and Director, Info Edge India: “The Indian internet industry has been growing at a fast clip over the last few years and we expect the trend to continue, given the rising numbers of online users and increased broadband connectivity.”

The workforce across this industry is broadly spread across three levels—senior, middle and operational. “A good 70 per cent of the total workforce in an internet company comprises sales and technology professionals. These professionals drive the top and bottom line growth of the organisation,” says Kris Lakshmikanth, Founder and CEO, The Headhunters.

While there is an increased demand for professionals all across, there is an acute dearth of middlelevel executives. The reason for this lies in the way portals function. Points out Rahul Nanda, COO, Webchutney.com: “When four or five young entrepreneurs start a portal, they normally hire more people at the operational level and very few at the middlelevel.

By the time the portal starts gaining popularity, there are not many middle-level professionals who can handle the increased workload.” Though some portals are hiring quality mid-level professionals, the problem still persists.

Growth Engine(er)s

If it is the internet, technology has to be the differentiator; so, the role of engineers is crucial. Check out the ready-reckoner for some of the positions in demand. For management of traffic, bandwidth and software deployment on servers, a portal will rely on a server management team. For running the portal smoothly, the second core group is the Scalability Architectural Group, which designs the website.

It is this group that ensures that the increased traffic doesn’t affect the speed of the portal. And web developers are code-jockeys who develop applications, add new features every day and improve the search tools on a portal.

Marketing Mantra

The marketing departments of internet companies are witnessing a spurt in hiring—the professionals in this industry have a job similar to that of most of their counterparts in other sectors. Traditional marketing— offline advertising such as print, television and outdoor—and online marketing require the same skill-sets; so there is considerable movement here from other, even unrelated, sectors.

Take J. Mahadev, for instance. A Vice President (Product Development) with the Chennaibased BharatMatrimony.com, Mahadev is doing his first stint with an internet portal after spending more than two years in a technology and marketing company and another three years with a bank.

Mahadev works with a team of 40 people and is involved in the promotion and launch of ancillary matrimonial services like Matrimony Stamp (it validates the portfolio of a person), VoiceMatrimony (a voicebased service), and online horoscopes. Says Mahadev: “My work is both creative and business-oriented.”

Other areas that are high on the recruiters’ list are search engine marketing professionals—the people responsible for increased visibility of a portal on popular search engines. Says Vivek Bhargava, CEO, Communicate 2, a search engine marketing firm: “The internet can be a powerful tool if targeted well. The industry has grown from $100 million (Rs 470 crore in 2001) to $14 billion (Rs 57,400 crore) globally in just six years. And this has boosted the demand for qualified search marketing professionals.”

It’s Pay Time

If there’s one lesson that the first wave of internet has taught; it’s the power of re-skilling. This time around, too, learning is set to pay rich returns. Says Nanda: “With the introduction of new languages (XML, PHP, Perl, and C#) and programming techniques (AJAX), companies now look for professionals who can work on them.”

With the attrition rate in the industry as high as 30 per cent, portals are taking steps to retain talent as well. Says Ashish Mehrotra, VP (HR), Rediff.com: “Today, companies are focussing on offering competitive pay packages along with other benefits to retain and attract talent.”

A pointer to this is the increased salaries that are growing at the rate of 25 per cent per annum. For sales and marketing professionals, salaries at the entry level can be between Rs 1.8 lakh and Rs 3 lakh per annum. At the operational level, technology professionals can earn between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 3.5 lakh p.a. Middle level executives (product managers, project managers) command between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 15 lakh p.a. In any portal, CXO level salaries range from Rs 50 lakh p.a. to Rs 75 lakh p.a. in addition to perks and other benefits.

By all accounts, this second wave of internet is based on strong and solid fundamentals. That means, it’s a good time to be in this space.

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