If the IT Industry, with access to the best of talent and financial resources, did not anticipate its future and re-skilled its own people or guided the institutions to produce what they wanted in all these years, who else can be blamed?
The recruiter in me has been baffled for the last few months. The media tells me thousands of IT workers are being laid off, and to make matters worse, it seems the robots are coming to make many more redundant. At the same time my friends in IT recruitment tell me they are finding it difficult to find quality technology professionals to build products. Are Microsoft, Google, Apple laying off people too?
We know the answers here, the classic product vs service debate. Yes, it is necessary to be worried about the pause button the IT industry is threatening to press on engineers’ fresh out of college. After all, there are about 1.5 million of them graduating every year. If all we want them to do is sit in AC offices to code stuff to maintain some dated systems, I guess we are not doing any justice to this talent. If the IT Industry, with access to the best of talent and financial resources, did not anticipate its future and re-skilled its own people or guided the institutions to produce what they wanted in all these years, who else can be blamed?
Also, isn’t it ironic how many IIT graduates in Computer Science, Electronics and such subjects move to the IIMs and find their first jobs in investment banking?
Yes, a few services companies are course-correcting their manpower numbers, but that doesn’t make it an industry of doom. Just look at the number of vacancies that companies have in the product space right now. Recruiters are struggling to find analytics professionals, full stack developers and iOS developers, to name a few. We might never be able to find much of this talent locally. The only way to fill these gaps here is to manufacture talent by re-skilling existing talent. Not too long ago the same IT companies were utilising 70 per cent of the workforce. In the interim can they not treat some of these talent as bench again and train them in new technologies?
Yes, we have $150 billion reasons to be worried about the 4 million people this industry employs. Don’t forget, the IT industry has brought many riches to the neighbourhood. Most kids who wouldn’t have gone beyond their city of birth have travelled globally as soon as they joined work. It is a significant contributor to the export services. This is a cycle we need to accept. It happened before - after Y2K, 9/11 and the 2008 recession. But the IT industry bounced back each and every time, so let’s give it time to find its equilibrium
Let’s also think about the remaining 10 million youth who are joining the workforce. The pain the IT services industry is going through is transitional and even necessary to create a more balanced ecosystem of career choices in our society.
We have been over-obsessed with one industry for far too long and as a society we have been pushing our kith and kin to be engineers so that they can fossilise in the large IT services companies.
Have you quietly seen how many new small and medium-sized banks have come up in the last couple of years? Have you ever calculated how many direct and indirect jobs they have created and shall create? Certainly, far more than the jobs that will ever be lost through IT. Do you know how many people the pharma & FMCG industry needs to manufacture and sell its ever-growing portfolio of products? The increased penetration of insurance has ensured substantial growth of hospitals and healthcare chains. Every year 140,000 beds are added. This means more healthcare professionals, and no, we are not talking just doctors and nurses. Guess how many new universities have sprung up in the last five years and how many more are coming in the next five? Who do you think should be working there?
At malls that we frequent, have you noticed the people working there who give you an experience that apps can’t provide? Did you know that almost 10 per cent of India’s workforce is employed in the construction/real estate sector? For the balanced growth of the economy, all these sectors too need to grow in equal measure. In each industry, we have a good mix of high-paying jobs. It’s time we get rid of elitist mindsets and started looking beyond IT and consider careers a little more holistically.
Also, India – as a job market – is advantaged with diversity of talent, education and several geographic pluses which enables several industries to co-flourish. It is not one of those economies which depend heavily on a couple of trades and are thus exposed to high contingent risks in employment cycles. In a longer term, economic growth is likely to be more sustainable and resistant to short-term shocks if employment market risks are hedged through strategic diversification.
Let’s grow amongst sales guys, teachers, bankers, healthcare professionals, artists ... The opportunities were always shining beyond IT, it’s just that we were myopic. Should we buy ourselves a new pair of glasses to see them?
Kamal is the Co-Founder of Xpheno, a specialist talent solutions company that offers direct hire, IT staff augmentation and engineering professional services. Xpheno brings people and companies together, to contribute to the creation of high-performing specialist workforce. Kamal holds a Bachelor degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University.