Companies like Infosys Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro and Cognizant employ over a million people in the country, and have been letting go off tens of thousands this year as they grapple with slowing growth and changing business models.
This has even led to calls by IT employees to organize themselves into trade unions and start negotiating with company management.
But whose fault is it, really?
Is it the fault of short-sighted company managements, who bet on wrong technologies and business practices and pushed their employees in the wrong direction?
Or is the fault of the employees who are too lazy to keep their skills up to date in a fast-moving sector like IT?
K Krishna Kumar, the CEO of Kreatio — a Bangalore-based media-tech start-up has interviewed “fifty to sixty” mid-level IT workers for his company in the last three to four months.
In a series of tweets, Krishna Kumar shares his insights into why techies in India’s IT capital are looking to move, and what their strengths are, and what he believes is keeping them down.
Broadly, Krishna Kumar zeroes in on one key factor : Only a small part of the work done by an average mid-level ‘techie’ actually involves any technical work, while most of his or her time is spent in meetings and calls.
As software automates many of these processes, these ‘organizers’ face the axe. Worse, because they’ve slowly moved away from their technical expertise, they find it very difficult to find other jobs.
“The mid level job loss story is real. Many said their jobs are are on the verge. Many have been asked to take up new roles,” says Kumar.
“Last year, consultants were sceptical about getting us candidates from big names in Indian IT. We were too small for them. This year, we are getting candidates from big names. It is not a flood yet, but there is a significant uptick in numbers.”
To probe the reason why these mid-level employees are looking for a change, Kumar says he asked them about their daily routine.
“The answers are almost always the same and the biggest clue to the current joblosses is in those answers. ‘Our mornings go in meetings and our evenings are for generating reports. In between there are calls.’
“What do you do after these meetings and standups? The answers are vague. The means have become the end it seems.
“The minute they become team leader, they start delegating the real work and assume the role of reporting and coordinating. As tasks n tracking get automated, need for people to generate reports n call meetings disappears. This is what is happening,” he added.
So, does he blame the employers or the employees?
Both, but given that the it’s the employee’s career, of course, the primary responsibility lies with the employee.
“Every industry goes through technology updates. Worker reskilling and retraining are par for the course. This time around, this looks more like get-rid-of-the-bloated-bureaucracy opportunity for Indian IT,” he says.
But it’s not just the companies who are reacting in a preset mode.
“The people affected are themselves not ready to accept reality and acquire new skills or adjust to it. One candidate we interviewed, whose team was shrinking and job was under pressure wanted a 50% hike if he were to join us.”
When Kumar asked him why, the candidate said: “Some are getting zero increment. But some must be getting 100%. So industry average is 50% and that is what I want.”
“I am not joking. These are his exact words,” says the CEO. “I just cannot forget them. He was better than most, but..”
LACK OF ADAPTABILITY
The key reason behind today’s situation, Kumar says, is an unwillingness to learn new skills and change their routines.
“One (candidate) was in old tech. Employer was ready to accommodate in another role. He was hunting jobs, preferably using same ancient tech. One worked in a niche area and got zero increment. (There are) only two major players in this. He’s not even considering a new skill.”
In the end, says Kumar, he hopes that predictions of mega job losses in the sector do not turn out to be true.
“The IT job loss is real and it is something we brought upon ourselves in our quest to become managers than doers. As IT organizations grew, overheads were merrily created. When few started feeling the pinch they began shedding over heads,” he says.