You are here: Home » Companies » News
Business Standard

Winds of change in Indian IT services industry

Technology evolution forces private players to downsize operations

Itika Sharma Punit Shivani Shinde Nadhe  |  Bengaluru/Pune 

The information technology (IT) services sector, after having remained India’s largest private sector employer for decades, is set for a change. Several big have begun to downsize operations and go slow on fresh hiring, as a result of increasing automation.

Several multinational have downsized Indian operations. Three of India’s largest services — Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and — have either remained slow in hiring in recent years, hinted at bottom fishing for workforce or ‘restructured’ senior-level staff.

According to sectoral body Nasscom, the and business process management (BPM) sector employs 3.1 million people, including around one million women. At the end of July-September, had a headcount of 313,757, while and employed 165,411 and 154,297, respectively.

TIMES ARE A-CHANGIN’...
  • Infosys' net headcount addition in FY14 at 3,717 employees vs 6,694 in FY13
  • Wipro's net headcount addition in FY14 at 241 employees v/s around 10,000 in FY13
  • Experts say services company now needs 13,000 employees per $1 billion revenue, half of around 26,000 needed till a couple of years ago
  • Earlier in 2014, IBM started restructuring process, which would see 15,000 jobs being cut globally, including in India, Brazil and the European region
  • Yahoo! served pink slips to undisclosed number of employees at its Bengaluru development center
  • CEO says company aspires to grow as fast as TCS, but without as many employees

With automation having increased over the past few years, experts estimate an services company requires only 13,000 employees for $1 billion revenue, half the number needed until a couple of years ago.

“The use of productivity tools and with a substantial part of the business going on the cloud, most no longer require the number of people they once used to,” said Krish Lakshmikanth, founder and chief executive officer and chairman of Headhunters India. “The pace of hiring has been declining in the past few years and will definitely become slower. At the fresher level, students will need to look at software products or e-commerce for jobs because I don't think the services sector will be able to absorb students beyond the top 200 colleges.”

In 2012-13, had said would hire 6,000 graduating students, a sharp drop from 19,000 the previous year. For 2013-14, the company pegged hiring at 15,000-16,000, a pale shadow of 50,000  used to take every year during its heydays.

does not share annual hiring figures but Chief Executive Officer T K Kurien has said the company aspires for a high growth level like that of But with a lower headcount. “Large numbers of people are the biggest worry for us because we believe that at some time, you will hit an upper limit. So, our target is to reach good performance but with the highest level of automation,” Kurien had said in an earlier interview to Business Standard.

Despite slow hiring by and Wipro, India’s largest services company, TCS, has continued recruiting in bulk from engineering colleges all these years.

Last week, sources said, was undergoing a restructuring exercise, expected to finish by February. All verticals have been asked to identify senior staff above the rank of consultant — senior consultant, principal consultant, vice-presidents — who have not been very productive.

Middle-management trimming could become the norm for several other companies, experts said. Lakshmikanth added mid-level employees overseeing operations were facing redundancy from automation.

“I remember, almost a year ago, several CEOs of the services industry were openly discussing if they needed people with 20-25 years of experience because people with 10 years’ experience are capable of handling these responsibilities,” said Sudin Apte, research director and chief executive officer at Offshore Insights. “Either senior-level skills do not matter now in the changing nature of technology or the senior level is more into management of client relations and technical expertise is required at less experienced levels.”

First Published: Tue, December 16 2014. 00:48 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU