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Many companies in India put expansion plans on hold last year as they tried to reduce costs amid slowing economic growth. Kuni Takahashi / Bloomberg
Many companies in India put expansion plans on hold last year as they tried to reduce costs amid slowing economic growth. Kuni Takahashi / Bloomberg

Tough climate for India's jobseekers

India Dispatch: With employment opportunities in India not growing at the necessary pace, competition for work is fierce.

Slowing economic growth in India is taking its toll on the country's job market.

"As an overall market it is currently cautious," says Uday Sodhi, the chief executive of HeadHonchos.com, a job search website aimed at senior professionals, which offers jobs with salaries typically ranging from about US$45,000 (Dh165,290) to more than $200,000.

"The number of options are not expanding at the pace that they should be. It is a tough market - there's no doubt about it."

A recent survey by HeadHonchos.com found that 49 per cent of companies surveyed planned to freeze or reduce their headcount during the six months up to March, as expansion plans were put on hold and they tried to reduce costs amid slowing economic growth in India.

GDP growth slowed to 5.3 per cent in the quarter between July and September, which is significantly below the 8 per cent growth that is widely believed to be required to create the jobs needed for the millions of Indians entering the workforce each year.

"Some companies are approaching us for outplacement solutions, where we help companies place some people who they're letting go of," says Mr Sodhi. "We can see that there are some companies who are reducing their workforce. The sectors which are cautious are those like telecoms, media, entertainment, banking, financial services. Some of the sectors which seem to be hiring right now include pharma."

Prateek Oberoi, 30, a design manager, explains that he was fortunate in being able to take up his old position in the company he worked for in Mumbai after returning from a stint working in Dubai. While there are plenty of jobs advertised, competition is fierce, says Mr Oberoi.

"It's a huge issue, the way the population has grown and with everybody becoming educated. Everybody is now trying to speak English. There are more opportunities but there is more competition."

Sonal Aurora, the managing director of the Indian recruitment consultancy Perfman HR, says that the hiring trends vary greatly depending on the sector.

"The banking, financial services and insurance sector is not doing that well. Hiring is not happening to that extent there" she says. "Telecoms is also down."

But hiring in retail is reasonably active and other industries are also faring better.

"IT again is hiring," she adds.

Ms Aurora stresses that there are jobs available in India for those with the right qualifications.

"For skilled labour people have no difficulty finding jobs. I think there are enough jobs, but it depends on the candidate."

Many more Indians who have been working abroad are looking to return to India, say recruitment consultants.

"Not only from the Middle East - but also UK, Europe, America, a lot of people want to come back to India," says Ms Aurora. "The salaries are good now and India I would say is in a pre-golden era. Everybody wants to come back."

Milind Mutalik is the senior director of human resources at Synechron, a global information technology company, which has its development centres based in Pune. The company is actively hiring in India and plans to grow its workforce in the country by 30 per cent, but Mr Mutalik says that it is a major challenge to find candidates with the right skills. The company has to scour the country to try to find the right resources.

"There are jobs, but the skills that are required are typically lacking."

He explains that it often takes several months of training to get new recruits up to speed, even if they have experience.

Training fresh graduates from scratch seems to be a burden for many companies in the current environment, he adds.

"If you ask me what are the trends as far as the 'freshers' hiring, the engineering graduates, there's a bit of a slowdown on that front. It's a cautious outlook because you need to really invest in those people to train them to make them ready."

The company actively targets Indians who have gained experience abroad, he adds.

"We are finding there is a lot of talent that wants to come back."

He says that there has been a "wait and watch" attitude in India in general, as companies await the outcome in the Union budget of India, which will be revealed next month, while employers have also been keeping an eye on developments in the United States and Europe.

"As far as India goes generally, there is quite good hiring happening, though I would not say it's at the high peak which there was in the years like 2010," says Mr Mutalik.

Mr Sodhi says that things could improve after March, which is the end of the financial year and after which companies will introduce their new budgets.

"Post March [companies] are fairly optimistic that things will open up."

Ms Aurora is hoping that the market will pick up.

"I think this year hiring should be better than last year. I'm optimistic about that."


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