Sunday, December 21, 2008

A breather -Navigating tough times

Amidst all the brickbats that Satyam Computers has been getting in the last one week, here was an example of an act that Satyam could surely be credited for doing it right! I am referring to a presentation made by a Satyam prodigy-whose idea was incubated as Satnav-almost a decade ago, before the company was spun off into an independent entity in 1993-in the IT products space!
Every third Saturday, the Hyderabad chapter of the ERA invites a speaker from the corporate circle -to address us in our monthly meetings. Yesterday's session gave us an insight to how an entrepreneur has been navigating his way into some unchartered territories!

Amit Prasad , in his very unassuming way, shared some of his impressions-and 'continuous course corrections' in his setting up (-as of now) three companies..Satnav Technologies, Sunshine Preschool & daycare chain, and Aircraft maintenance organisation.

Admitting that as a student back in the eighties, he had set up a 'computerised horoscope' stall in an annual exhibition at his school (that day-he earned more than what his father's monthly salary!) he grew up with the conviction that 'making money wasn't bad if it was providing value to a lot of others' and that one needed to 'back one's instincts' always despite a whole lot of well wishers trying to dissuade one from forays into new domains!

Speaking 'straight from the gut', the freewheeling discussion provided me with the following take aways!

-Passion and belief in one's own inner skills- helps an entrepreneur -who has only about 30 positive days in a year-to overcome perhaps the 335 negative days one is likely to be battling against! A good night's sleep always helped one wake up to a less gloomy day :-)!

-Citing that one needs more than a lifetime to learn from one's own mistakes, he admitted he has always learnt his most from the mistakes his competitors make!

-Contrary to the hype on focus, he advocates if one has the bandwidth to expand, one must not just manage to tap the existing market, but go on to diversify -as one is more likely to make the course corrections better.

Referring to the current economic situation, he concurred that the 'employee' had been pampered with some unrealistic market expectations, and that as employers, this is the best time to take stock -and ensure one upgraded not just the technical but also managerial skills. And may be -especially for battling the dwindling margins in IT services, companies would be well advised to be switching a six day working week!!

The mantra for us managers/owners of recruiting firms?

-invest in quality processes-ISO, CMM

-hire only those who are at least 70% skilled for the roles

-improve every team members 'customer outlook'

-review every decision that does not generate revenue ie-lay off non performers if the cost of retraining is lesser than the cost of carrying skilled but presently non billable resources

-Have a 'surprise wow delivery' package for the customer-to get that edge and loyalty. It isn't enough to have the 'best ' price, and the 'best' offering-that's the given!!

- be open to getting investors on board..for they would constantly challenge one's perspective!!

Lots of food for thought??

PS the company is expected to launch a new product in early January-for 'lost callers'. Imagine getting lost on the way to a destination, and getting navigational aid -by dialing a telephone number! Would not we all do better with a career management tool like this?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

11 weeks of jobcuts....Is there light?

In the 11 weeks following the fall of Lehman Brothers, the severe financial turmoil has seen an unprecedented loss of jobs across the world-encompassing a wide spectrum of industries.

As a recruiter -who believes in the India story, I refused to believe that hiring in India would be affected !!

How miserably wrong I was!!?Day after day, we kept reading about hiring freezes, job cuts, layoffs, cost cutting measures, deferred salary payments, apart from some companies encouraging sabbatical , and in the recent past, high profile auto companies shutting down plants for 3-15days to cut down production!!

Less people are being hired but people are still being hired. There seems to be a distinct pattern of hiring emerging in the recent past :

-"Cash rich" companies funding their own growth-ie those who do not depend on 'investors'!

-Small & Medium enterprises are exploring and attracting good talent (who, in good times would have flocked to MNCs and large companies!).

-Some innovative and nimble companies embarking on business plans leveraging on the 'sudden availability' of 'hitherto inaccessible talent' eg KPOs hiring equity reseach & investment banking professionals.

And yes, on the supply side, there is an increasing inertia among 'passive job seekers' to make 'the move'-as the current market sentiments do not encourage a flamboyant hike in salary while changing jobs.

So, its all happening now..and it is anybody's guess what will happen in the following weeks!!

Amidst all this, there is a glimmering ray of hope, in the various forms of financial stimulus by the governments across the world - be it putting in fresh money into a crisis-ridden institution, bringing them under the government's fold or other fiscal measures.

Just review the events over the latest weekend:

-The Indian government on Sunday announced major tax cuts across the board to boost demand and allocated additional funds and incentives for exports, housing, textile and infrastructure to stimulate the economy, hit by the global financial crisis.

-The US President-Elect Barack Obama's recovery plan aims to save or create at least 2.5 million jobs.

-German upper house approves $40b economic rescue package .

-Hong Kong's government aims to create 250,000 jobs by launching 10 big infrastructure projects in 2009

Is the dawn nearing?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hot jobs we are presently working on!!

It is very difficult to fathom the extent of trauma caused by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last week.

Maybe it had to do with the continuous live telecast by almost all the channels -that pervaded all homes. Perhaps it had to do with the cross section of society that got affected-right from those who take the local train to the elite and foreigners who visit the five star hotels.

One thing is for sure- the last six days has seen an uproar all across India-be it uniting against the senseless people who encourage terrorism-or the wily politicians. I cannot remember a time when we last had hourly emails forwarded -citing 'enough is enough'!

Here is an attempt of mine- to try and get back into a work mode-by trying to list out some of the openings we are working on. Am hoping I can catch the attention of someone who could probably know someone else!! These are all HOT -and some of them are through my associates-but you can be sure -our clients would be interested in meeting them asap :-)!

COO for a Life Sciences Company in Hyderabad

Associate Director in Sales-Financial products in Mumbai, Singapore, Hongkong,Tokyo

Credit Risk Analyst-Commodity in Delhi

Technical jobs in Oil and Gas refinery in Qatar

Head R&D at Hyderabad

Piping Engineer for global MNC@ Hyderabad

During this week, we have some enquiries for

-senior professionals for a cement plant in Andhra Pradesh (Telugu must!)
-senior IR professional for a company in Kerala (Malayalam compulsory!)
-business development manager for Dubai (auto identification product)
-Iron ore and Manganese mining Operations professionals in Madhya Pradesh

I shall be glad to provide more inputs!!

NHRD National conference-Beyond HR!!?

Higher the expectations- higher the disappointment, I reconcile.

I like to attend conferences. It is a great way to keep one abreast of the macro-view of the industry, listen and learn from the insights of the successful and future leaders, get a 'condensed concentrate' of the experience and vision of the speakers-and get a 'heads up' about the likely trends in the future! In addition, I have always also managed to come back with a handful of new relationships - while still reinforcing a few old ones.

Having attended 3 of the 'once in 2 yrs' National HRD conferences events in the past decade, the Chennai event last week, I felt the experience was an unfortunate dampener!!

After a sizzling launch earlier (of the event) this year, one really cannot blame it on the economic downturn that saw less than expected registrations!! (To be fair to the organisers, the 'early bird' bonanza was kept open much longer to rope in more delegates.) Maybe the Mumbai blasts on the eve of the function kept a few more Mumbai delegates/speakers grounded!!To add to it, some sudden floods drowned parts of Chennai may have kept a few more away. What was surprising -that though there was a decent number of attendees- the quality of the deliberations or the interactions were singularly uninspiring.

Save Mr Ramadorai of TCS-who gave the opening remarks, and the key note of Mr Rajesh Nambiar of IBM, there seemed to be no other business leader among the speakers. It was an 'all HR show' with over a dozen presentations each day-and ironically-every one of them stretching beyond their allotted time- leaving hardly any time for an 'meaningful interactive sessions'- that may have significantly added value to our insights!

There were many innovations designed -but somewhere -execution went awry! Power Networking sessions were announced before the event-leveraging on the increasingly popular social networking sites (LinkedIn and Facebook)!! Media Partner Sify had a feature one could transmit the proceedings live -so that delegates could perhaps attend one of the concurrent sessions- and catch up with the missed ones! The Stationery among the conference kit had customised formats. A new HR directory was launched, research findings about future workforce expectations were shared, also a new logo was unveiled!!

There were topics on diversity-inclusiveness, trade unions, new value chain, public sector, industry-academia, collaborative networks...and the other popular buzz words !! As I look thru the notes I have, there really aren't any significant take aways!!
Is it that the HR fraternity in the Indian corporate world didn't find meaning in this event? Was it not a great time to take stock-and find answers for the way ahead?? To go beyond the fluff and cliche's? Believe me, I really did get a creepy feeling that those assembled in Chennai Trade centre -had nothing else to do!!

And as I google around, I notice, in contrast to the 'pre-conference' media coverage-there is very little mention online..apart from a handout , either by the media-or even the blogging community-save Praveena's 'what not to do ', or a passing mention by Saikat Saha !!
I hope the lack of imagination/ dynamism is restricted to the lack lustre conference-and not a reflection of the larger purpose HR can and should play!! Especially as India is right there at the crossroads- on the path to greatness. The second fastest growing economy, the nation with the best demographic figures on its side, and a huge potential considering the Human capital!! I shall be delighted if I have been able to provoke some one who can prove me wrong !!