Friday, November 27, 2009

Brain Gain: Oxygen for "Reverse Innovation"??

Coincidences. I am increasingly getting convinced that there isn't such a thing! There is almost always a bigger purpose!

Yesterday morning, I listened to a podcast of Prof Vijay Govindarajan-on HBR talking about "How GE is Disrupting Itself" -and evangelising "reverse innovation' for all companies to have a cultural mindset change to be able to unlock opportunities in emerging markets.
The model that GE and other industrial manufacturers have followed for decades—developing high-end products at home and adapting them for other markets around the world—won’t suffice as growth slows in rich nations.
To tap opportunities in emerging markets and pioneer value segments in wealthy countries, companies must learn reverse innovation: developing products in countries like China and India and then distributing them globally.
While multinationals need both approaches, there are deep conflicts between the two. But those conflicts can be overcome.

During the day, I came across two more articles:

1.Mr Shyamal Majumdar of Business Standard, who wrote 'that almost 30 per cent of companies in the 2009 Fortune Global 500 list have been developing global talent by long-term assignments in the Asia Pac region.' and cited examples from companies like the Unilever group, Volvo, Essar Telecom, Sony and Nokia!

2. Elsewhere half way across the globe, the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh was exhorting all Indian Americans and Non resident Indians to leverage on "Modern technologies" and invited the diaspora to 'return back home'!! Highlighting the Five Es - economy, energy, environment, education and empowerment - Mr. Singh mentioned that it forms a critical part of the “next phase” of the relationship between the two countries -US and India.

I somehow have this nagging feeling that global migration of professionals is very imperative for a WIN WIN for all concerned!

And as I listened again to the podcast repeatedly this morning, the writing is very clear on the wall. To quote Prof Vijay Govindarajan, "Companies that don't have a sense of urgency in this area are going to face serious threats to their very existence"!

May be we should look for more answers?

1. How long would off shoring or outsourcing continue relevant? May be it works for cost rationalisation -when one is able to migrate low end repetitive tasks?

2. Unlike globalisation and glocalisation, which needs a very highly centralised organisation structure and decision making process, to implement 'reverse innovative' processes, there is a need for a leadership roles at local /country level-across functions-strategy/R&D/Supply chain etc.
Ala Cisco? (Interesting to read interview with their CGO) Wim Elfrink admitted that the Bangalore office provided them access to 70% of the world's population within 5 hours of flying time!)

3. Will the quality of the professional in demand be different? As pointed elsewhere in my blog, I would anyday back a returning Indian -who has had prior Indian experience before going abroad- as a better bet as he would be able to bridge the ethos much better.

I look forward to hearing from you!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

@ the Crossroads- Looking ahead

Aren't the images in the rear view mirror clearer than those seen through the windscreen?

It is amazing how comfortable people are -doing things the way 'it has been always done'! So much so, that the willingness to give up the old ways of thinking and adapting the new -seems to be a trait that is akin to taking risks and sticking one's neck at the chopping block!

In one of the books, Execution, by Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan the authors point out:

"Most leaders are too busy thinking of how to make their companies bigger or more global than those of their competitors. What they are overlooking is that the quality of their people is the best competitive differentiator."

"Developing leaders begin with interviewing and assessing candidates. I'm not talking about overseeing the HR department and interviewing finalists; I am talking about hands-on hiring. Most interview processes are deeply flawed. Some people interview well, and some people don't. That's why it is important to probe deeply, know what to listen for, and get supplement data. It takes time and effort to drill down further, but it's always worth the trouble"

In the hey days of the booming industry, everyone played the game of hiring more than necessary-as one was used to the concept of 'having a bench" but also to account for a 20-30% "dropouts"- euphemisms that helped hide the inefficiencies of hiring under the carpet.

Whoever had the time to farm and track talent? Poaching is the name of the game. Little realising that it ain't a one-way street!?

Yet, if one were to look around in the industry-recruitment is a task -the execution of which is delegated to an entry level HR professional -even as she/he is eyeing those coveted roles in OD, training, C&B, HR operations !! Job descriptions seldom are the KRAs that hiring managers are looking to evaluate prospective employees. And as ease or convenience -it all boils down to those vital 'keywords' in the resumes that get parsed by an automatic resume management system. (Of course the same is used to check 'duplicity" of resumes -when the scores of third party recruiter pump them in- from the ubiquitous active job seeker-as a method of reducing 'cost of hire" :-)!!).

The past year has given all of us the breather-to think, review and plan for the future. If 'top line' is vanity-bottom line is sanity? Time for us to invest in the right processes-in order to get the right people for the right jobs.

Business is all about connectivity-right? Connect with customers. With employees. With potential jobseekers. With the other stakeholders.

Imagine if the recruitment exercise of any company were to incorporate social media tools to reach out to all those in the ‘catchment area’, and find reasons to engage them on a regular basis, would they not have access to a pipeline of talent?

Here is an interesting job description of a Community Manager!! Will this be the person spearheading the recruitment drive for identifying the new leaders of tomorrow?

We are at the crossroads. The recession has got over. The 'yellow' light has come on. Can we look at the future and drive?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who's to bell the cat?

The setting was familiar. I had been to the Godrej CII, could recognise Sramana and Praneetha from an earlier Cisco Telepresence Sramana Mitra roundtable, -and D Murali of BusinessLine. Half way thru the discussions, a couple more faces I have followed online for about a couple of years also joined- Pradeep Gupta & AtanuDey! The others on the table were from Indian Express, Financial Chronicle, India Today, Financial Express, Vaartha, and representatives of the ecosystem (Microsoft, The Smart Manager, Yourstory, Nasscom, ..)

Sramana had mailed in her latest article in Forbes -to set the tone for the agenda. India presently knows of role models of only two kind of celebrities- the cricketers and Bollywood. There wasn’t any first generation young entrepreneur in India-who could inspire the youth-or worthy of emulation. Her call to the media was to explore and engage how the same could be done

In hindsight, I hadn’t given it much thought when I received the invite from Sramana earlier this week. I thought I had a lot to offer and share-thanks to my being a three-in-one -an entrepreneur, a recruiter who was very much in the thick of things with the respective stakeholders (corporates, job seekers and fellow consultants)-and as a fairly periodic blogger in the social media space!!

As many expressed opinions about the set mindset in India, and were skeptical of an overnight change-the general theme was to popularize some of the lesser known success stories..

I offered the following impressions.

1. "Media should stop glamourising the news of day zero campus placements of IITs and IIMs. It is the obscene salaries that prevent freshers from entering the world of entrepreneurs."

I could immediately see Pradeep Gupta shaking his head disapprovingly "you can't stop companies paying high salaries. One must allow market forces to operate"

Undeterred, I went on to make the next observation.

2. "Look at the best professionals. Doctors, Lawyers, Chartered accounts- the best don't join the corporate! They practice. Why do the engineers and MBA's rush to corporate careers-it's the sheer comfort of a huge salary"

Now, now..fortunately there were only three screens that could be seen-and so I can see more disturbed faces! I realise I am running out of time-and so play a copybook frontfoot defensive stroke as I complete my hypothesis!!

3 " Mr Naik of L&T has publicly deplored that an entire generation of engineers -civil, mechanical, electrical, from 1995 to 2005 -were lured into the IT world -away from the core engineering functions".

I could see no one wanted to acknowledge me :-)!

As I drove and got back home at 11 in the night- I reflected -had I blown the plot ?

Reflecting on what had been said-I realised I had been talking from my heart-as usual.

May be I had an identity crisis?!

Truly, as a recruiter-I ought to be the last guy to complain about high salaries, right :-)!? As a blogger, I always had this feeling that media could change the way people thought., and not just be restricted to reflecting their thinking!!

Had the entrepreneur in me blurted out? Flashback of the attempts to hire for my team in Options across the 17yrs of existence.

-How could any startup ever match the salaries that "corporates" offered? Every year, the salary aspirations of even the local tier3 and tier4 MBA colleges grew faster than the inflation rate!!

-Almost all the innovative methods of attracting good talent-freelance, part-time, interns- worked till the 'big brother" then just poached away the 'readymade fully trained resource" paying 'market level salaries"!

I often wonder -why is the Indian IT services industry losing its cost arbitrage? Does it have anything to do with salaries?? Seriously, was there a need to hire engineers to write code in Java or Microsoft technologies, and promote them every couple of years, giving designation prematurely instead of one earning the same?

So I went off to bed, sharing my impressions with the world of twitters.

"Back home after Sramana Mitra press meet courtesy Cisco Telepresence across 6 cities. Interesting exchange! Think I stirred the hornets nest"

"My logic? Media hype on campus placements a huge factor in students choosing career options based on salary! No takers for entrepreneurship"

Within a few minutes, I got this response: from a wannabe entrepreneur??

"summehta: @achyutmenon enterepenuership spirit is not fostered on campus... actully companies try avoiding peopel vid enterprenurial bend of mind"

"summehta: @achyutmenon co's try n avoid independent thinkin people at entry level.. they jus need well educated labours"

I replied

"Entrepreneurship is a mindset-that needs to be encouraged & mentored"

summehta: @achyutmenon guys wid business acumen in dem.still need a few years of corporate experience..hw cn dey get it if dey r honest in interviews

When I woke up this morning, I knew I had touched a chord somewhere!!

"summehta .am sorry 4 being so blunt, dis is a small entrepreneur inside me speaking.. dont mind pls."

My day is made. I rest my case.

Or is it? I can see Sramana's blog post on the meeting.

Well, I need to rush for the Hyderabad Startup Saturday meet- I believe there are more than 100 registrations-in an ecosystem where entrepreneurs thrive. I am quite relieved I would be just another person off the spotlight. I can just be ME :-)!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Time to Change?

For a hungry / starving person, what good is a promise of being invited to a feast next month!!?

Times are changing. And in real time!

The media in the recent past has upped its ante about improving the sentiments "jobs are back". However, if one were to read between the lines, you could see Accenture and Deloitte announcements -are spread across the next few years :-)! A single event of IIM Bangalore -is hyped even as dozens of companies have reneged on their campus offers of 2008 and 2009!

In contrast, a couple of intentions by Wipro - to rehire some of their sacked employees, albeit those with recently upgraded skills, and conduct walk-in interviews this weekend across 7 cities in India -are reassuring.

Needless to say-a lone swallow doesn't make a summer, right? Even as we read this, we read about large scale layoffs in Lloyds Bank, Pfizer, AOL, Adobe, Microsoft,....

If you are looking for a change, change the way you are looking.

The nature of jobs are changing. The needs of the industry are changing. Come 2010 April-and there are likely to be lot of implications on jobs-thanks to IFRS, GST, and a new Direct Tax Code in India which is likely to transform several aspects of a company's operations..It would help professionals being in sync with the changing demands of skill sets !! The time to prepare for them is now.

More and more organisations are making us of innovative talent hunt initiatives to identify and recruit the best of the smart breed.

Companies are increasingly adopting new tools in social media!

Twitter has now being adopted by topnotch professionals and celebrities to learn and share, more than ever before. Imagine a person like Anand Mahindra tweeting to seek ideas before a brainstorming/strategy session with his Bluechip senior executives- (Need yr help fr d upcoming Sr mngmnt conf 'blueChip'.A survey:what was d 1big lesson u learned about the global economy over last 18 mnths?) and following up with sharing some of his learning's online. ( 'Crowdsourcing' What a gr8 term! Is it original&may I use it w due credit?Not sure if I could afford the royalties!)

The speed of change is even faster. Just look at the social media scene LinkedIn -in the last 10 days has brought in the concept of following your connections, launched a collaboration with twitter to cross post status messages!

There is a lot of debate about the social media likeliness to beat the recruitment consultants to death!!

The role of a recruiter, according to Rowan Atkins, is changing "from a sourcer to a person who aids in selection. Recruitment consultants of the future will not be the salesman of old flogging candidates to anyone who'll have them; they will be a mix of occupational psychologists, management consultants and project managers."

Not so much about what you do-but more about how one does it!

We in Options, are also trying to keep up with the changing times. In our own small way, we are adopting some social media recruiting tools differently to strength our relationships. The team is improving its skill and learning to listen, in a bid to engage with professionals a lot more.

We have just created a common blog that lists out a lot of the jobs that we are working at-Options in India and Abroad by integrating the 3 hitherto blogs- pick of the jobs, IT jobs and Non IT jobs.

We are embarking on a new group on linkedIn-to create a community we can closely understand better.

PS Would love it if you can follow me, as I try to keep in step..and let me have your feedback.

Its not about what you do-but how you do it!!

Between Wednesday and Sunday last week, Hyderabad saw at least three leading speakers on the lecture circuit-all well attended, with people thronging and with some even standing .

Dr Tarun Khanna addressed the intellectual elite at Manthan's monthly meeting. He came in late and didn't even have time to go through his presentation slides-choosing to ramble on 2 themes on how China was different from India. (In China, the public interest rights are more dear than private property rights. The right to information being the other.) Personally, I was disappointed as it was such a great opportunity for him to expound on his experience - 18 months since his book launch. Fortunately, my 13yr old daughter Vandana was enamoured with his academics, command over language-and is now aware of what education in a ivy school does.

(The takeaway from the meeting though was the nonchalant extempore presentation by a guest-who doubled in to speak and keep the audience enlightened about his life in China-none other than the US Consul General Dr Cornelius Keur. For a change where an Indian outsourced the talk to an American- and as usual, the outsourcing company upstaged the principal :-)!)

Prof John Mullins stuck to his presentation as the awe struck entrepreneur wannabes were hoping to lap up every 'mantra' as he dwelt on the path of "Getting to Plan B". Again a little disappointing, as the London Business School professor stuck to case studies of Ryan Air, napster, Apple-when so easily he could have shared the 'home grown' Indian stories of Pantaloon and Myntra.

In contrast, Lord Jeffrey Archer just floored the reading and writing enthusiasts!! The Master story teller had hour long Q& A sessions, and actually gave a lot of tips to those who dreamt of a career in writing-while extolling the need for 'knowledge of one's domain', discipline, hours of redrafting, self belief, while still being grateful for a lot of things one usually takes for granted. I suspect he has influenced Vandana more!!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Homecoming Blues

"In reality, it is harder for Indian returnees — in some ways, they have changed too much and in others, the country they left behind has changed while they were away."

Ms Ranjini Manian, in her latest column in Business Line, takes a peek at the niggling concerns of NRIs returning to India, and suggests tips to handle some of them!
-"The colonial hangover still exists. As an Indian expatriate, I get less attention than a white expatriate."
-"I’d like to be seen as ‘just another qualified guy’ and not the ‘foreign-qualified bloke’. How do I get my Indian team to see me as ‘one of us’?"
-"It’s a myth to think that working in teams comes naturally to Indians. How do I make them see the larger picture and make them work towards that?"
-"In India, rank and title determine the kind of response you get. How do I go about making sure that people listen to me without a fancy handle?"

Ms Manian has been associated with the relocations domain for over 16yrs and so, it was an interesting experience to note that the demand for consulting, is not just from expats, but also for RNRIs (returning NRIs).

Personally, I found it a revelation as, it was just over the weekend that I was trying to reflect and articulate my impressions on the 'quality of returnees' over the last year and a half!

A look at the number of resumes one has been exposed to -of those aspiring for jobs in India, the velocity has significantly changed in the past 2 quarters!

While the database I am exposed to - mostly in the senior management level professionals desirous of relocating in the near future, is not a true representative sample of the trend- the data I analysed from a leading job portal was pretty suggestive!!

There has been average of 75% increase in the number of NRI registrations on their portal for opportunities in India from the US alone-quarter on quarter in 2009! While a quarter of them are below the 4yrs experience, it is indeed intriguing to note that over 40% are those with over 8yrs of experience in industry!! ( Majority of them of course from the IT, with a small trickle from the Pharma and Financial services domains).
Looking back over the last 12 months, there have been quite a sea change in the quality of returnees. While one would usually expect the impact on the employers, the extent of the damage caused, due to (lack of) business confidence, on the psyche of the employees is often not documented!

One should also be appreciative of the fact that often the decisions to returning to India-are pretty time consuming-and so there is generally a lag by the time the intention is converted to the act of the movement.
Looking back as a recruiter, there were 3 distinct phases:

-Prior to the fall of Lehman brothers, I noticed quite a few dropouts as some chose to stay back in the US itself and passing over offers from India. A lot of it -had to do with the property prices going southward. Typically a professional with 10-15yrs exp-would have had most of his lifetime savings locked up in property, and as the prices went lower and lower, most chose to postpone their decisions to return.
(Among the 'green card' segment, (also likely to be double income families), the solution was for one of the parents to move back to India-with the kids-while the other stayed put back in the US-hoping for better times to return.)

-Post Lehman till first quarter '09, saw the return of the 'onshore' employees-typically the H1-B person who was grounded back to the parent office in India, as clients started tightening up belt. The supply in India of 'internationally experienced' professionals significantly increased. Companies started cherry picking- looking at candidates-who in normal cases they wouldn't have had access to!!

- In the last couple of quarters-the hot skills have changed!! Cloud computing, social networking seem to be buzz words. And suddenly people who have 'prior proven track record' in developing such solutions are being sought.

I sign off hoping that the recent announcement of US having got out of the recession mode-will signal off lot better the near future!!