With global companies shifting their R&D base to India to achieve greater cost-efficiency and domestic firms increasing their spending on these activities, experts feel hiring in the segment will increase by up to 20% in 2012 vis-a-vis the current year.
"Total global spending on research and development [R&D] is anticipated to increase by 3.6%. With this, the momentum in the hiring has gone up," Elixir Consulting Executive Director Kanika Vaswani said.
"With India becoming a destination of choice due to its cost-competitiveness, hiring by multinational companies is at an all-time high. There is a talent war for engineers and technical professionals," she said.
The country is an emerging destination for auto R&D, with companies like Renault-Nissan, Maruti Suzuki and Honda pressing ahead with plans to set up centres in 2011 and 2012. This has not only given a boost to hiring, but has also led to attrition in established R&D companies due to the new entrants, she added.
In addition, pharmaceuticals and auto R&D have been hiring steadily, while other segments like defence recently increased hiring, she said.
Talking about pay packages, she said in the R&D space, pharma and defence are the better-paying sectors.
Echoing the view, Executive Search Firm Symbiosis Management Consultants CEO Vinay Grover said R&D is witnessing large investment not only by MNCs, but domestic players as well.
"India, positioned as a land with plenty of talent pool at a low cost, has gained the attention of MNCs. In domestic companies, pharma and automobile have realised that in their ambition to globalise their operations, they have no recourse but to spend on R&D," he said.
Despite the lull in hiring in most sectors, R&D recruitment is on an upward trajectory and is expected to increase by 15-20% in 2012, he added.
The positive trend in R&D hiring started picking up in 2010 and peaked in 2011 and is expected to continue through 2012, he said.
"The hiring is on at all levels -- junior, middle and senior. There are a lot of positions available at the levels of technology manager and programme manager that can go to the level of director," he said, adding that IT and healthcare are among the highest paying sectors for R&D professionals.
Planman Consulting Director Deepak Kaistha said organisations in India are realising the value of a strong internal research centre to back them with ideas that could be turned into reality.
"Hiring has touched its peak in FY11 and is expected to grow another 20% next year," he added.
Many organisations are also providing funds to PhD students for R&D and offer such programmes to employees in collaboration with top-notch institutes to attract talent, he said.
The FMCG sector is showing great potential and plan to hire more R&D techies next year, he said, adding that Japanese firms aim to work closely with Indian universities and collaborate with companies to make hiring a smoother process.
When it comes to salaries, he said the IT and FMCG sectors offer the highest packages and R&D hiring is mainly happening at higher organisational levels.
Executive search firm GlobalHunt Director Sunil Goel said for the last few years, there has been a lot of focus on real R&D and companies are trying to innovate world-class products and technologies.
He added that though market conditions may not be that great in 2012, hiring in the sector will remain steady.