Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009-the year that was!

I am delighted I am starting 2010 with an advantage!!

Reflecting on the first post of 2009- I guess I don't have to spend too much time making resolutions for 2010. I just need to carry forward them over to the next year :)!!

As I quickly flipped through the 60 other posts I made -I now see a pattern. Initially, for a while, there was a sense of denial, followed by exhortations to change the way we were approaching the whole slowdown, before the realisation came that there needed to be a paradigm shift in the way we needed to get our act together.

In retrospect, it seems that 2009 did turn out to be much better than we anticipated-at least in India.

- It helped separate the wheat from the chaff in that companies with credible track records and clear strategies managed to thrive! Those of us -who hadn't built up too much flab, found it easier to cut costs and get back into shape.

- The job market witnessed a return of sanity after the three year bull phase. Career moves have come back for lot more due diligence than the short term gratification mode that was prevalent for the period!

-Compensation levels witnessed very modest increases (if at all!) during the year and we now see a larger portion of variable compensation as companies prefer to pay more for performance.

What were the lessons we learnt from the year?? Keep it simple.

That's right!

Cash is King.
Follow your instincts, not the herd.
Be social.
Engage.
Network.
Not just about building knowledge. But having the wisdom to use it!

2009 was the year to get back to the basics!! There isn't any short cuts. And as Samuel Goldwyn said "the harder I worked, the luckier I get"!

Here's wishing all of us a great 2010!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cleantech industry in India-Quo Vadis?

Earlier this week, I was fortunate to attend a one day Cleantech conference . Organized by TiE Hyderabad, and slated to be the largest gathering of Cleantech companies in India, it was a great chance for me to get a ringside view into a 'unsung' domain.

Very professionally managed, there were about 175 delegates-in an ecosystem that allowed about 27 companies make presentations about their business initiatives, plans and challenge, and about a dozen investing companies-apart from the other entrepreneurs/wannabees who used the opportunity to network!

To me, a layman, it was an extremely enlightening day! And as the day progressed, I was able to relate to the different specialisations of the Clean tech world-in four different sessions dedicated to

a) Energy Efficiency,
b) Smart Grids
c) Recycling and Transport, and
d) Renewable Energy

Each session had about 4-5 companies making presentations. And what was unique was that-almost all of them had been in operation for over 5-15years-not just able to sustain themselves, but gearing themselves as Globalisation is throwing open 'Green World' initiatives.

There were two other macro level presentations-by Ashok Das of The World Bank and Razvan Maximiuc of The Cleantech group -who put the perspective right!

(One can access a wealth of information on Climate Technology Program here and the initiatives by Govt of India !!)

My take aways from the program?

It was indeed an eye opener. I was not aware of the magnitude of the investments being made in India-for the future!

-While the global need for new energy sources is undeniable, India is a major focal point of new energy development with a likely investment of over a 100billion USD expected!!
- With over 200 clear sunny days in most parts, India can become a Solar Energy superpower by 2022-by its sheer size and considering that only 2% of the potential has been tapped by now.
- The barriers hitherto for growth of Cleantech in India, namely 'lack of capital' or 'Policy Constraints' or 'Lack of Enforcement' seem to be manage-able!

I am bullish now, more than ever, that finding high-quality management teams with operating experience and business acumen is no longer a major challenge. Much of the human capital in cleantech companies in the US and Europe employ talented Indian-born engineers and executives migrating from telecom and IT into cleantech.

And yes, there is a huge opportunity to lure some in the Indian diaspora, either NRIs (non-resident Indians) or Indian-origin foreign nationals, to return to India to participate in this growth sector :-)!!

PS- Here are a couple of entrepreneurs-who found the conference exciting -or in their own words.... most productive and 'people talk my language, the green language'!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hot jobs this [email protected] IT sector

Here's a quick round up of some of the 'not so confidential' positions my colleagues at Options are handling this week!

Finance:

Head of Finance- Engineering Firm @Hyderabad. CA, ICWA with about 15years of experience in a manufacturing industry handling working capital enhancement. Product/process costing exposure essential, apart from familiarity with taxation, customs, VAT etc.

Head of Finance, MNC Telecom player @NCR Region

Internal audit and Shared finance roles @Chennai

Sales:

Sales Manager- India for MNC in the printing inks business

Circle Head-MNC Startup -Education Domain @Hyderabad

Zonal Business Manager- Education [email protected]

Manager -Sales, Industrial Sales @Chennai

Manager Sales-Government [email protected] Chandigarh

Technical:


Coal based Thermal Power projects pan India


Wimax project roll out

Civil /Electrical engineers for Power plant in Andhra Pradesh

Marketing:


General Manager -Marketing -Telecom company @Chennai. Leading a team of 10, will be responsible for all marketing activity, branding, marcom.

Manager [email protected] -Desired exp in Brand launch in consumer/retail industry -specifically BTL Activities. Prior experience in handling events, promotions, road shows, and handling creative agencies a must.

Others


Content Management- experienced professionals who have developed content for K-10 segment based on NCERT guidelines, have subject knowledge and are creative in their approach.

Subject Matter experts to handle course ware for Mathematics, English, Science and Teachers training.

For more jobs please refer http://jobs.optionsindia.com/

Of course, please feel free to reach out to [email protected], and I shall be glad to keep you abreast with some specific opportunities keeping in line with your profile!

What makes a smart recruiter?

I haven't blogged for a week now, and the pressure has been mounting: a la the slog overs in the cricket-every dot ball increases the strike rate and induces a sense of panic:-)!

I borrow the headline from a recent contest that was conducted by recruitingblogs.com -where in at least 75 recruiters have waxed eloquent about their bit.

I am not sure if the origins of this post was seeded in my mind for a while now:

-pre-empted by a blog post written by Gautam Ghosh earlier this week about leveraging social technologies to build talent communities.

-courtesy the discussion I had with yesterday with an aspirant(A premier institute MBA with about 3 yrs HR experience in a large software firm, wanting to get her teeth into a recruitment role) wanting to join Options. .

-deliberations with a prospective client in a sunrise industry-looking to attract professionals from 'old economy' companies who wish to transplant their experience!

-deliberating on a proposed write up I had promised to make last month, for a local MBA college-to convince their students to intern with our firm for a few months-as against their penchant for some dummy projects in the big branded employers in a bid to decorate their resume!!


So, here I go-trying to attempt to articulate some of my thoughts today about a good recruiter:

1.Has to be a people's person.

No one is indifferent to a recruiter!It is amazing that you can touch the lives of every person you can possibly meet -every day! For either one is a potential job seeker-or a potential hiring manager. The social connotation is so high that almost everyone would know of someone who 'might need a job'-if not a better job and would like to know how to go about it.

Abilities required: ability to listen, empathise, understand, communicate, share, network,...


2. Has to be hungry for knowledge.

Adjectives taken for granted here are general awareness, curiosity, research, update. Whether one is a generalist or a specialist, there is a constant need to be abreast of what's happening around the world!

It's not just what you know that matters- its who you know that helps one stay ahead! At least one must know someone else who might put you on to someone who knows!

3.As a result one gets into a position when one can potentially advice, those who seek your counsel-be it job seeker or a client .

However, if I were to single out any quality-it is the temperament!!

For recruitment isn't really rocket science. Its all about the right matches, simple -right? In real life however, it boils down to taking those 'chances'!!

As a recruiter, while every single job aspirant is place-able, only 10% of them would be so-within the kind of clients/assignments you handle-and maybe one ends up placing one on ten. So the crux is that in 99 out of 100 cases, you are mostly either setting expectations, or passing on 'no, not yet, nothing now' messages to candidates. And 9 out of 10 times handling a client, one is parroting ' am working on it, shall get back to you asap' kind of assurances!!

One therefore has to be a constant bundle of positive energy through out the day...with good stamina and the alertness to capitalise on every chance possible. Like a football player-who has to be active all through the 90 minutes of game, running up and down, and be mentally alert to convert even the slightest of opportunities-even if it is passing on to another member who is better suited to score.

It helps if one has a sportsman spirit! If one enjoys playing, you accept that you are bound to encounter some better players on any particular given day. Like the famous quote Confucius quote "Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising every time we fail"!!

I am sure you have your thoughts, opinions...Please feel free to share them here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hiring Sentiments up!! More than meets the eye?

India’s job market is yet to recapture the highs seen in 2008, but it seems set to outdo 2009—a year when the economy slowed down—if the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for the first quarter of 2010 is any indication.

India’s adjusted net employment outlook for this quarter is 39%. The outlook is the difference between the proportion of employers who say their headcount will increase in the three months to March and those who say it will decrease, adjusted for seasonal variations.

Other reports on the survey highlight:

-This number is the highest it has been in five quarters, an indication of a return to normalcy in the job market.
- 2010 will see a mix of replacement hiring, to fill up vacant positions and hiring for new positions, signifying expansion.
- Employers in 25 out of 35 countries reported positive hiring intentions for Q1. The most optimistic employment forecasts after India were reported by employers in Brazil, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia.

Is it as hunky dory as it sounds? After all one must differentiate the 'intent' to hire-and the willingness/ability to hire, right?

Whats the ground reality? Take two of the biggest employment sectors in India that drive the frenzy.

a) IT industry: The financial results in the last 2 quarters indicate that IT companies seeing a drop in consulting income! Global majors such as Accenture and IBM, both large players in consulting, saw decline in that business, as clients deferred investments. Ditto with the revenue for 3 major Indian IT majors (TCS, Wipro and Infosys ) saw a decline in the September quarter compared with the corresponding quarter last year!!. (Recall that was before the Lehman fiasco and the subsequent events!!).

Reasons being attributed by their global customers behaviour:

-caution about launching new large programmes and instead opting for more phased and flexible approaches;
-slower pace of ongoing projects and deferment of decisions to expand work beyond current commitments.
-some pressure on pricing.

b) Telecom industry: Airtel reported a lower-than-expected profit as a brewing price war among India's mobile operators depresses margins-as Tata DoCoMo, offering per second instead of per minute billing and Reliance Communications slashed its rates. Rajesh Jain's blog captures the mood for mobile operators well!

Uninor recently had an All India launch, and that meant quite a decent number of replacement hiring in the respective companies.

However, the entry of new players and the launch of third-generation, or 3G, services are also expected to expand demand for people.

My observations as a recruiter who is waiting for the marriages to happen more often!:

1. Thickness of the Times of India Ascent -supplement is directly proportional to the hiring activity!

The good news -it was 8 pages this week-compared to the 4 pages in the recent months.It was a delight to see 4 half page colour ads.

However analysing them further, one gets into the bottom:.

Infosys-HR leaders for over 10yrs exp in talent acquisition, OD and Business partner HR team.
Virtusa (architects and solutions specialists with 5 to 15yrs exp!)
IBM( across board with 3yrs plus exp and at least 4 for SAP, testing, web development, DBMS, Application innovation services!)

2.There is increased activity...not resulting in higher offers though!

No tearing hurry as in the hey days! Our experience- while companies go thru the different rounds and rounds of hiring process of screening before and finalising the shortlist, and even negotiating the salary to be offered-there is a certain reluctance to sign on the dotted line. There is an underlying assumption that lot of talent is available..so let us wait for a "Sachin Tendulkar' to come along, and lets be more patient :-)!

The media hype has had the job aspirants in a tizzy. Perhaps it has to do most of the professionals being shortchanged out of a decent hike in 2009-reckoning that it entitles them to a higher negotiating posture. Most of them expect up to 30% to 40% hike while changing jobs-little realising they are out pricing themselves :-)! They have no compelling reason to change at the conservative figures clients are willing to pay in the 'present market'!!

3.Strategic hiring! It is interesting to note that in the last 12 months, one has seen a range of activity from the clients in India. First, they stopped hiring. For a while, there was firing 'non performers'. A period where most companies did well to extract the best of the rest-till a recent phenomenon when companies are finally hiring for 'vacant' positions. Cautious but studied hiring.

We at Options are working on a wide variety-Finance manager(Gurgaon), techno functional consultants for infrastructure(Hyderabad), Sales Manager (Punjab), Commercial Head (Mumbai).You can have a glimpse of the 'not so confidential' positions here!! There are a couple of other CXO level positions that I am personally handling-that aren't mentioned here for obvious reasons. (RSVP [email protected]!)

I recall listening to a speech by Mr Subroto Bagchi. Frustration happens when there is a gap between ability and aspirations. Two choices to bridge it. Either increase ability. Or reduce aspiration!

Time will tell -who will blink first-the corporates wanting to hire? Or the job aspirant willing to give in!!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Hiring in India -the differences

This post is the last of the 3rd "Hiring in India' series that I attempted over the last weekend to look at a slightly macro level view of 'why we do what we do' on a daily basis :-)!

I must however attribute the same to the discussions triggered by a client of mine-a MNC company with operations in over 20 countries, and embarking into the Indian territory for the first time. A senior professional with over 25 years of experience in large companies, in pharma and telecom domains across the world, the wealth of experience was a great insight to me. We spent a major part of the hour and half discussing on the specific issues relating to operating in India-bordering around some statutory/mandatory requirements stipulated by the Government, some customs and local traditions, and some on the best practices in the trade!

So, is indeed hiring issues for companies in India very different from Europe/US?

I shared these thoughts on a few online online communities/yahoo groups, related to just the hiring process for any new entrant and got the following endorsements/ comments!! :

1. The time taken from the time of acceptance of an offer -to the person joining- in India !! The
notice period is about 2-3 months here. Elsewhere people can join in 2 weeks after offer acceptance.

(Gagan Bhatia):Western countries mainly have "Employment at will" and hence employees can leave their previous organizations in virtually no time or within 2-3 weeks depending on the level of responsibility and seniority. Whereas In India, the notice period usually ranges from 2-3 months and hence results in a very long lead timefor hiring. This poses as a major challenge for hiring managers. Also it puts an additional liability to the hiring company in case employee is foregoing the "notice pay" and the new employer has to pay for it.

(Ravinder Bhan) In India is there anything called a severance package in case of involuntary separation? Notice salary is no compensation for an employee whose services are no more required. While the employer may quote the employment contract and the terms therein, any sensible court will throw the contract out of the window for the simple fact that its one sided and the employee has no say whatsoever in changing anything it.

Joining period of 2/3 months is not unique to India; it depends on the candidate’s terms to conclude the existing employment contract. In fact I would be very suspicious if a candidate agreed to a 2 weeks joining period.

2. Higher expectations of a salary when changing jobs !!(up to 25% over last drawn salary)

Perhaps it has got to do with the inflation rate in India, annual increments are typically 6-10% here-while they are more modest elsewhere.And more -in fast growing industries, where there is a premium for proven track record-as a retention strategy.

(Gagan Bhatia) Additionally, a substantial portion of hiring in western countries is through the temp or contractual route which still is considered as a social taboo in India. Candidates always prefer a permanent job even if it pays 20-30% less.

(Anil Kumar Singh) :Increments in Indian industry are a direct function of EBITDA of the business. For instance telecom had EBITDA of 40% & thus increments were obscene. Manufacturing/Process may not be able to offer the same. I clearly see this even-ing out when the business matures.


3. Sheer number of applicants for any given positions! And the sensitivities involved. As a recruiter-in response to a Vice President role advertised, I have seen innumerable applications from even junior/ entry level aspirants as they are quite positive there would be more openings in the pipeline :-)!

(Gagan Bhatia):the number of applications in India is extremely high with an average of more than 10 applications for one position. This leads to a greed in recruiters to interview more people to find the best possible.. Considering that the next candidate may be marginally better than the previous.

(Ravinder Bhan). Number of applications could be huge because the job advertisement is not rightly crafted. In my opinion if an advt. mentions what the employer is exactly looking for – lot of applicants can be spared the trouble to apply

4. Tenure spent with each employer. I have had some uncertain moments trying to convince some of my MNC clients when they screen resumes forwarded by us. They tend to look at a resume with suspicion if they have changed more than 2 jobs in the past decade:)!!.

Today an average Indian job seeker tends to change a job once in 3yrs!!This is something which has changed in the past 16-17years -and can perhaps be attributed to the post liberalisation days of Indian economy. And interestingly, perpetuated by all the stakeholders in the process!

a) Increasing number of passive jobseekers, as they are open to looking -lest they miss out on any opportunity that could catapult them to the next level

b)More companies have been entering India-and are less patient to 'farm talent' -often preferring to 'poach talent' from competition-and not only have access to someone with a proven track record, but also weakening a key rival in the process!!

5.(Mitul Mehta)Working from home is a popular work culture in corporations in the US. However it is almost unheard in India with the exception of IT industry.

Juxtaposing the impact of cultural connotations, I am beginning to think that we in India, are in a different world?!!Nothing connected in the context of the cost arbitrage that off shoring or outsourcing is connected with?? Are we taking too many things for granted?

I shall be glad to be corrected!!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Hiring in India-the challenges

Earlier this week, I had an email from my good ole pal Jim Stroud, introducing me to Gerry Crispin, Chief Navigator, Career X Roads :

“travelling to India on Sunday for 10 days with 25 other HR leaders. The SHRM lead delegation will be studying HR practices for 10 days in 2 cities and are meeting with dozens of firms, the government and the heads of several schools. Gerry is very curious to understand what its like to recruit in India and was wondering if I knew anyone he should connect with”

Well, to me it was a double delight. Gerry Crispin is someone I have been following –courtesy his blog and twitter messages. And I recall Gautam Ghosh tweeting about the visit ! To get connected and explore learning as we interacted, seemed exciting. And more so, it gave me fodder to write this post too.

Sitting back to articulate the differences, meant getting down to the first principles. The basics. I tried covering some of the cultural context issues in a post last night. Here are some of the thoughts I shared with Gerry.

The single most difference in India-is the sheer number of huge applicants. With a country of a billion, you will be surprised that the recruitment process is unique-in a way where the luxuries of excesses force one to 'reject' candidates before one reaches the position of needing to select!!

Fortunately, companies too have been trying to play the economies of scale -and hire large numbers-and as a result, there is enormous focus is on keeping ‘cost per hire’ lower than perhaps in the west!

Lots of company have an internal recruitment department- as distinct from the HR department-and one would see the multipronged media of hiring -namely campus hiring, internal hiring, internal referrals. apart from third-party recruiters. You could be surprised that the share of third party recruiters would seldom go over one-third- as compared to the West-where it could be the other way round!!

Two other issues come to my mind

1-Among the billion people, we have about 60 million who actively use internet-and perhaps one-eighth of it adopt broadband in India

2. However we are among the fastest growing telecom markets in the world-and since that cuts thru to even the illiterate section, the opportunities are just mind-boggling. I recall reading recently that we add 12 million subscribers a month!!

Infact, I realize there is one more issue that slipped my mind then. I had sent out a bulk mailer to some of the candidates we have from the automobile manufacturers-about some job opportunities and was appalled at the very low conversion rates of interests. It wasn’t until it dawned on me –that most of the aspirants work at the shop floor-and so do not have access to internet or checking personal email as easily as their counterparts in the new economy!!

Mobiles (more than 400 million) outnumber the personal computers (PCs - slightly over 30 million) concentration in India. A big part of the population accessing internet going ahead would do so on a mobile handset and so we need to offer enriching experience to these users!!

An experiment of sending SMS to their cell phones-post the email, significantly improved the response quality and quantity!!

As 45% of the Indian population is below 25yrs of age, and their lifestyles and habits are distinctly different from the rest of us in India, there is a need to change every bit of communication to them- and be more ‘conversational' henceforth? Do we see social media recruiting more effective in India in the near future?

Do let me know your thoughts, comments, feedback-and criticism!! Have a great weekend!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Hiring in India-Importance of Cultural context

Earlier this evening, I was fortunate to listen to a talk -organised by the Ad Club of Hyderabad-by Mr Tarun Chauhan, President of Lowe Lintas-speaking on the "Importance of Cultural Context in India".

Tarun began with a background about the diversity within India, and the complexities involved in communicating to a potential consumer, especially in the recent past with the divide between the rural & urban customer disappearing-thanks to the penetration of the mobile technologies through out India. Almost 'half of India' is aged below 32 years, and so appealing to the youth, Tarun questioned the futility of marketeers trying to position their product to a homogeneous segment of people. He followed it up with some of the outstanding pieces of advertising campaigns in the recent past that sealed the concept of 'cultural context'. Eg The 'Jago Re' awakening campaign for product one consumes as one wakes up, the concepts of numbers and education in the "what an Idea Sirji' campaign, apart from the Camlin Permanent Marker and ICICI Prudential selling insurance-a product category which is usually sold more than anyone buying it!!

As I drove back, I was reflecting if these cultural contexts were relevant in recruitment too!! Was there any difference in the way companies hired in India-compared to the global practices? I usually try to 'set expectations' when I talk to my overseas clients-when they want to embark into the subcontinent.

Here are a few I can relate to, offhand, topics that come to my mind as I key in...and not necessarily in any order of importance!!

1. Title Consciousness.

(Am not sure if it has got to do with the colonial hangover or not!!) There is a huge premium given on the designation of the roles in India-as there is a lot of social status attached to the title. I have advised several of my MNC clients to change the title from a "Sales Representative-India" to "General Manager-Sales" if the role was to have a countrywide responsibility to introduce their products /services in India. The visiting card simply had more weight :-)!! And one can easily get through the clutter of hierarchy and meet a senior management decision maker-with a fancier designation!

2. Employment vs Contract.

Elsewhere in the west, one has been used to seeing several life cycles of recession and industrial boom. Perhaps it has also got to do with the fact that most developed economies provide social security to their citizens- and so people are used to the fact that one can get 'laid off' from work a few times in one's career!!

In India, it is almost a social stigma -the connotation is that people get laid off -for reasons of 'personal incompetency' more than a 'system failure'. While abroad, there are a lot of professionals who are 'independent contractors', here in India, only the 'permanent' employees have secure jobs! Those in contract-aren't as 'valuable' as those who hold permanent jobs!!

3. An intimate decision

Seeking a job in India-at least in the middle and senior management levels, is a very sensitive and intimate decision. Most professionals do not like to be 'known looking for jobs' as it indicates that one is either 'not doing too well at his/her job' or being 'asked to leave' and is often ridiculed for 'not being able to even hold on to his job. As a result, job boards aren't as effective while looking for senior talent-as much as it is for entry /junior level management.

4. Social acceptance of secure jobs

In an earlier blog post, I had indicated the reluctance of professionals embracing 'entrepreneurship' as the social acceptance of a MNC job or the assurance of security in a Government job is much higher. The dowry or the 'bargaining prowess' in the marriage market is in itself a good indicator of the stability that is associated with it!

Even today I saw a tweet from a young lady acquaintance of mine-a person who had picked up a Master's degree from the US and returned, to 'follow her heart' and work in a NGO Sector, wondering aloud how she could convince her relations about her career plans :)!!

May be I am wrong!! There are an increasing number of double income wage earners in India. Moonlighting or freelance positions may be soon accepted. I am not sure if a 'sabbatical' is considered as a considered decision of 'choice'....

I shall be glad to have your observations!