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IT hiring is back in fashion : JAYA BASU (Indian Express) JUST one year ago, lay-offs and retrenchment had become the buzzwords for the Indian software profes­sionals and the domestic in­formation technology (IT) industry was down in the dumps following 9/11 attacks.

But the last few months have changed all that. The IT industry finally seems to be getting back on its feet as the business looks up, and hiring by these companies is back in fashion.

According to a study, hiring of professionals in In­dia's top eight hardcore IT companies has gone up by 29 per cent during the last quarter of 2002 (September-December) compared to the same period in 2001. The growth during July­September, 2002 was 19 per compared to the July-September quarter in 2001.

The recruitment figures for all the companies also show an improvement dur­ing the second half of 2002. Between July to December, Wipro added 878 people, Infosys Technologies hired 2,754 new heads, Satyam recruited 578 people, HCL Technologies another 1,325 while Polaris hired 1,433 people. But the story was very dismal in the second half of 2001. Between July to December 2001, Wipro and Satyam actually re­duced the number of their staff while IT icon Infosys had recruited only 716 pro­fessionals.

Thanks to the signals in global IT business for the current year most companies have announced big re­cruitment plans. As stated during the announcement of its financial results, due to improved business re­quirements Infosys Technologies will be hiring pro­fessionals this year with 600 already in its campus in the first  15 days of  2003-04 while between January to March this year, Infosys re­cruited 1298 compared to only 948 in the correspond­ing period in 2001. Polaris is planning to hire 2,000 software professionals by the end of the year while Microsoft has also added 1,500 heads as part of hir­ing drive.

The CEO of placement firm ABC Consultants Tarun Bali says that "for most of the IT companies, business is looking up which is why they are going on a hiring drive of both software de­velopers as well as support staff." But Bali also adds that there is not much in­crease in salaries. In fact, they are more realistic now with high variable perfor­mance-linked indicators and stock options have be­come thing of the past.

The resurgence of IT industry is apparent from the campus placement as well. While engineers are still to be brought on the payrolls, most of the management schools have witnessed an increase in IT recruitments. Says Prof Ganesh Prabhu of India's top business school Indian Institute of Manage­ment (IIM), Bangalore "our campus has seen a 55 per cent increase in placement offers by IT companies to 84 this year compared to only 54 last placement offers in 2002."

In IIM-Calcutta IT came back in a big way while the firms hired graduates across functions from business de­velopment to finance and marketing rather than being limited to purely IT related activities. Information Tech­nology made a comeback in Faculty of Management Studies too while IT con­sulting emerged strong in IIM-Lucknow with 24 per cent of the jobs bagged in this sector by companies like Infosys, Wipro, TCS, HCL Tech and PCS.

Nishchae Suri, head of measurement practices, In­dia and South Asia in Hewitt Associates while agreeing that the domestic IT industry is picking up, feels that the demand is limited to very specific programmes like ERP, Unix or mainframe."

The National Association of software and service companies (Nasscom) is hoping that worldwide un­certainty in IT sector is drifting away.

Talking to The Sunday Express, Nasscom president Kiran Karnik said, "With lot of reconstruction in Iraq, US economy is expected to take off again leading to high IT spending by US."

USA constitutes nearly 60 per cent of India's IT export market and it has come of its irrational exuberance and is looking at more cautious spending, says Karnik.

Though most of the lead­ing domestic IT companies have reported less profits than expected during the fiscal 2002-03, Karnik does­n't seem to be perturbed. He says "after growing at a fast pace for last few years, most of the companies have acquired very large base. The present growth rate is a correction and more realistic even if it has not been able to lift the market," he says.

He mentioned that Nass­com had noticed a pick-up in the recruitment scene in the industry right from the second quartet of the fiscal 2002-03.

The demand was pri­marily in the area of soft­ware analysts, domain spe­cialists, information security, integration special­ists, database administra­tors, network specialists and communication engi­neers among others.

While the association is still putting numbers together for the fiscal 2002-03, according to its earlier projections, Nasscom sees a 24.4 per cent rise in IT jobs to reflect a 24.4 per cent growth during the fiscal. The industry projected to employ 6,50,000 profes­sionals by March 2003 com­pared to last year's figure of 522,250 personnel, accord­ing to an annual NASSCOM survey.

Of the total estimated number, almost 2,05,000 are working in the IT software exports industry; 1,60,000 are employed in the IT-enabled services (ITES); 25,000 in the do­mestic software market and over 260,000 in user organization, according to the survey.

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