Larsen & Toubro is one of only two non-technology companies on the BT-Indicus Analytics survey of 'Best Companies to Work For'. MS Krishnamoorthy has spent 43 years at Larsen & Toubro and has spent the better part of his career in the conglomerate's core functions. He spoke to BT on, among other things, the manpower challenges that L&T faces. Excerpts:
How difficult is it to get quality engineering graduates when you have to compete with much better-paying IT companies?
If you compare us with IT companies, we start with a better salary but then there your salary rises much faster. The generation today wants to make money fast. They think your CV is bad if you have worked in a place for a long time. What the market has realized is that in IT you don't grow very fast and your learning is limited while at L&T you develop a variety of expertise. Till the 2008 slowdown happened, the job market was quite tough for a company like ours but during the slowdown it was easy for us to get people.
How large is L&T ?
We have about 50,000 people. That's excluding L&T Infotech where we have 18,000.
What about your hiring for this year?
Our target is 5000.
As an engineer, how did you view your move to HR?
I think it helps being an engineer. It brings a business perspective. At the end of the day it's about managing people
Tell us of some of your recent HR initiatives.
Since most of our people are engineers, they are not trained to act like MBAs. Also, in electrical & automation, there are companies like Siemens, Crompton (Greaves) so we there is a talent pool available. But in heavy engineering and construction few do the kind of work we have to train leaders within. Three years back we talked to IIM, Ahmedabad and they started conducting a Management Education Programme (MEP). It's spread over 18 months and happens at our Lonavala centre. It's for people in the age group of 27-35. The third batch is going on. We also have similar programmes for senior leaders like Leadership Development Programme and Global Leadership Development Programme.
What do you consider your biggest challenge so far?
Three years back we felt that we need to do something on strategy. If you want someone to think about the future you have to put him there. So what we did was create a manual, which talks of what's likely to happen to, say, the dollar and taxation. We also talk about the possibility of a bad acquisition and project delays. People have to take decisions keeping these in mind. Over 200 people from the general manager level and above have taken it and it's been a huge success.