July 27, 2005

India’s Tech Boom Sparks Recruitment Rush

BANGALORE, India -- On a hot summer weekend in India's technology capital, 28,000 young graduates converge on a suburban indoor stadium and create a stampede for jobs in the exploding software and business service industries.

A large board advertising Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. falls to the floor with a thud, jostled by a crowd of graduates clutching their resumes in search of a big break with the Nasdaq-listed company.

Cognizant was among 24 companies taking part in a job fair organized by The Hindu newspaper last month. About 100 of its executives sifted through resumes, interviewing candidates for quick selection and offering jobs to 150 people.

"It is like speed dating," said Gautam Sinha, managing director of recruitment firm TVA Infotech.

"Speed is becoming critical because resumes are perishable, like fruit and vegetables," he said. "If you sit on them, they start to stink."

Popular weekend job fairs enable companies and headhunters quickly to hire young workers, often with little or no experience, to fill tens of thousands of vacancies created by India's outsourcing boom.

India's software and business service industries, from computer coding and call centers to accounting, equity research and engineering design, are expected to grow 32 percent in the year to March 2006 from $17.2 billion last year.

Similar growth will follow in these industries' English-speaking workforce of 1 million.

Industry officials say services like retail and telecoms will create two million jobs in India in the next two years. At the job fairs, many of these positions will be offered on-the-spot, subject only to reference checks.

"The entire process is done here," said Kalyan Mohan, vice president of Cognizant, which had 45 interview panels grilling youngsters who had earlier taken a written test in the stadium.

"We are able to recruit without intermediaries and the fair is important for branding as an employer," Mohan said.


As more new graduates are hired, more experienced managers are required to supervise them.

Sinha's TVA Infotech runs "Aspire Lounge," which lays on discreet weekend sessions in plush hotels that allow mid-level managers to find new employers away from the job fair queues. Companies are segregated on different floors to maintain secrecy.

"The best part is to be able to meet, on a weekend, more companies with a career counsellor," said a manager selected by Accenture Ltd., who asked not to be identified.

"The response time is fast and presentations help you avoid going through Web sites to know about employers," he said. "It was cozy, nice and comfortable."

Hewlett-Packard Co., Computer Associates International Inc. and Wipro Ltd. are some of the firms that make use of such lounges, Sinha said.

He said his company was planning a "Platinum" model for more senior managers, who would be taken by recruiters for expenses-paid family holidays.


Demand for workers to fill temporary jobs in India's 60 million-strong telecom services industry is also huge, with large numbers often needed at short notice for expansion or marketing campaigns.

Companies are not limiting their recruitment drive to job fairs alone. Adecco PeopleOne, the Indian unit of the world's biggest staffing group, Switzerland's Adecco SA, is displaying posters in trendy coffee bars to seek talent.

"We are trying to put up kiosks at college carnivals and events," said Sudhakar Balakrishnan, chief operating officer at Adecco PeopleOne. "We drive traffic to our offices. At any point, we have 100 walk-ins in our major offices."

About 100 buses ferried youngsters to last month's jobs fair, where caterers did brisk business. Roadside vendors sold raw cucumbers to those cooling themselves amid their quest for jobs.

But not everyone was happy in the crowds of the indoor stadium. Faced with huge numbers, some companies asked new graduates to drop their resumes in boxes, while those with some experience were interviewed at once.

"This is not useful for fresh graduates, only for experienced people," said Anish Thomas, a 24-year-old just out of engineering college.

"People started pushing us around. I think it is better to drop the resumes on the Net."