As organizations around the world increase their technology adoption in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for technology and software professionals in India has risen dramatically.
“More companies realize now the need to be digital and to get the talent diversity and scale in India,” said Kamal Karanth, co-founder of Xpheno, a staffing firm in Bengaluru that specializes in tech-related hiring. Karanth expects more new tech jobs to be created this year than in any year before the pandemic.
In June, hiring demand by the IT software and services sector was 55 percent higher than it was in January 2021, and 51 percent higher than it was in June 2019, according to Naukri JobSpeak, an index of hiring activity across a range of industries in India.
The tech hiring boom is in stark contrast to what’s playing out in the broader Indian economy, which is still reeling from the adverse impact of a recent ferocious wave of COVID-19 that infected millions of people and disrupted work. Even though many tech industry employees fell sick, most have returned to work, and their employers are pushing ahead with growth plans. The higher demand for tech talent has pushed up salaries, as much as 50 percent in some cases, and companies are rushing to make counteroffers to retain staff.
“Of late we’re seeing a lot more pressure in terms of the talent pool being available,” said Chetan Rao, director of human resources at o9 Solutions India, a supply chain management software maker headquartered in Dallas, and which has offices in Bengaluru.
o9 Solutions has more than doubled its headcount in India over the past 12 months to 800 employees, and it continues to hire to meet future demand as the company’s revenue grows significantly, said Siddhartha Nyogi, director of India operations. “We’re hiring a bit ahead because we are going to continue to grow revenues for some time,” Nyogi said.
A big part of the demand for tech products and services is coming from such nontechnology companies as fertilizer and pharmaceutical companies, which want to make their operations more digital.
“The pandemic has fast-tracked digitization by five to 10 years,” said Sreerupa Sengupta, global head of HR for 3i Infotech, an IT and infrastructure service provider in Mumbai. With 4,000 employees around the world, 3i Infotech plans to hire 1,000 new tech employees within the next year.
Volume of Hiring Has Risen
“We’ve always been hiring, but the volume of hiring has gone up in the last few months,” Sengupta said. Some of the hiring is for new roles, such as edge computing and real-time data analytics, Sengupta said. In addition, a slew of U.S. and European companies are rushing to expand existing technology development centers in India and to open new ones, adding to the talent demand. These centers typically create technology products to be used by the firms’ head offices or their clients around the world.
“When these companies come to India, they only buy talent,” said Karanth, adding that they are willing to pay as much as a 30 percent salary premium to attract targeted employees. “That heats up the market.”
India’s large IT services and outsourcing companies, such as Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys, have also started ramping up recruiting to help fulfill large client orders. In fact, India’s five largest companies are likely to hire 96,000 employees this year, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), an industry body. The IT and business process management industry in India employs around 4.5 million employees, according to Nasscom, while the supply of software engineers, data scientists and others remains limited.
“The gap between supply and demand is even [larger],” said Vishal Gupta, Mumbai-based CEO of Seclore, a provider of technology solutions for data security. That translates into a candidate’s market where talent holds the upper hand, Gupta said. “For the same role, there is a 30 percent to 50 percent salary increase over the last two years,” he said.
Adding fuel to the mix is the demand from start-up firms that are flush with cash and willing to pay multiple times the industry’s average salary, Karanth said. “They disrupt in a different way.”
Online grocery-shopping firm Grofers announced a 33 percent raise for every employee on its tech team starting this month. “We will only succeed as an organization if we invest heavily in tech,” Albinder Dhindsa, the company’s co-founder in Gurgaon, wrote in a blog post.
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Multiple Hiring Strategies
Meanwhile, companies are using multiple strategies to meet their talent demand. o9 Solutions continues to hire new graduates from major Indian engineering and business schools, Rao said. Although it took a while to adapt to virtual hiring from college campuses, “now we’re fairly comfortable in being able to source, attract and hire the right kind of talent,” he said.
At 3i Infotech, Sengupta said they are thinking of hiring nonengineering graduates, since the amount of coding work needed is not as pressing. She is also talking to part-time workers, gig workers and resident entrepreneurs. Sengupta said the company has worked with such talent in the past, but it now plans to do so on a larger scale.
“I would like to augment my supply,” Sengupta said.
Shefali Anand is a New Delhi-based journalist and former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. You can follow her on Twitter.