… that today is Eiffel Tower Opening Day? On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was dedicated in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, the French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, and 200 construction workers. Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the International Exposition’s 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909, but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world’s premier tourist attractions.
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
US President Mr. Donald Trump supports a bill that proposes a massive hike in the minimum salary for those employed on H1B visas, an influential American lawmaker has said while alleging that Indian companies have “gamed” the “flawed” US immigration system. Congressman Mr. Darrell Issa, who recently introduced the legislation, insisted that his move would bring the best talents to the US and help fix the flaws in the existing H1B system. “The president supports the bill. I think we will have strong support in the Senate,” he told a Washington audience at an event hosted by Atlantic Council at the Capitol Visitor Center. He alleged that Indian companies have “gamed the system” and made the “best use of this flawed immigration system”. “You can’t have 75 per cent of a programme going to an Indian-owner, Indian operated, Indian employee visas and not say that this is distortion,” Mr. Issa said, adding it’s common sense to hire the best and not the other way around. “It would be interesting that India would be concerned that a relatively simple change (in H1B visas) that does not target India, somehow happens to be accommodation for India,” he said. “Today 75 per cent of all H1Bs are coming in about USD 60-65,000, which is pretty absurd considering these are high-skilled visas. If they were told to write USD 100,000 and you will get your H1B, they will write that cheque,” he said. The lawmaker from California called for fixing the system and removing the country-based caps. He also said increasing the salary would raise the quality of people coming to the US.
As startups combat layoffs and lawsuits, Flipkart is aiming to buck the trend in FY18 with fresh hiring. The e-commerce unicorn is planning to hire more than 1,200 people for its engineering and technology teams. The company aims to increase hiring by 20-30 percent in 2017-2018, said Chief Operating Officer Mr. Nitin Seth. Flipkart, which is in a battle for the top spot with Amazon, is looking to increase its headcount in three areas. Firstly, the e-tailer plans to expand into new categories such as groceries, furniture and large appliances. Second, it wants to expand its supply chain, and, third, it wants more hands in its technology and engineering teams. The company currently employs 8,000 people on a permanent basis, while another 20,000 work on contract. The new hirings planned will be on permanent basis. The company wants to expand to another 1,000 pin codes in the country, primarily in the North-East region, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar. Flipkart will also try to improve its reach in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities and also increase its logistics arm, Ekart’s share in delivery assignments. Ekart handles 85 percent of Flipkart’s orders. The company currently delivers to 6,000 of the country’s 19,000 PIN codes and wants to reduce its dependence on third party logistics providers. In the engineering department, it is looking to improve the mobile experience and its enhance cloud infrastructure. Flipkart is expected to close a fresh round of funding worth USD 1 billion in the next four to five weeks with participation from eBay and Tencent.
India will become the third largest employer of flexi-staff, behind US and China, by 2018. According to the Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), India will grow to 2.9 million people working as flexi-staff from 2.2 million presently. Flexi-staffing is when a worker enters a short-term contract with a flexi-staffing company (FSC) which sends the worker out to work in another company under a separate contract. China currently has a strength of 8.1 million flexi-staff while US has almost six times India’s strength at 14.4 million. In times when hiring in companies across sectors has slowed down, the flexi-staffing industry has seen phenomenal growth of around 12-15 percent annually. Some leading players in the flexi-staffing business like Innovsource and TeamLease have seen more than 20 percent growth. The flexi-staffing have gained more business after the Centre’s decision to ban high denomination currency in November last year. Earlier, most micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) would hire cheap labour from the informal sector and pay by cash. However, after demonetisation, they are opting for flexi-staff companies. According to ISF, out of India’s total workforce of 406.4 million, around 50.8 million are under formal employment, out of which 28.4 million are working in temporary employment. With companies gaining interest in this form of hiring, the FSCs see good employment opportunities for the 5.7 million educated unemployed in the country. ISF has made an estimation that with every one percent shift from the informal sector to flexi-staff, around 1.5 million people get access to social security as they shift to the formal sector.
Despite government attempts to increase gender diversity in companies, number of women representation in boards is not very encouraging. According to a KPMG survey, proportion of women directors in NSE listed companies jumped 180% between 2013-2016 after the Companies Act, 2013. But there is very little to cheer about this hike, as the jump only translates to a 13.7% representation of women in 2016 from a meagre 4.9% in 2013. The Companies Act, 2013 and guidelines issued by Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) made it mandatory for all listed companies to have at least one woman on their boards—either as an executive or a non-executive director—before April 1, 2015. However, findings of the KPMG survey are not very reassuring. KPMG in India’s Board Leadership Centre and Women Corporate Directors India (WCD) conducted a survey in 2016 to assess the progress and challenges. The survey results showed that many companies are still lacking in gender diversity and there needs to be a change of mindset for it. “In order to achieve greater diversity there needs to be a change of mind sets, voluntary diversity targets, alignment between board composition and strategy, and looking beyond personal networks for director appointments,” it said. The worrisome factor is that the survey respondents feel the need to comply with the regulation has become a primary driver of gender diversity and it is stronger than the belief that it adds value or creates the brand image of a progressive organisation.
Country’s largest public sector lender State Bank of India may go for jobs cut after its five associate bans are merged with it as part of bank’s attrition and digitisation exercise. The five banks — State bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Hyderabad — roughly employ around 70,000 people. At present there are more than 200,000 employees working at SBI at different branches spread across the country. With the merger, the number of employees is likely to go up to 270,000. A report attributed the job cut to attrition, less number of people being considered for hiring and above all the digitisation that has rekindled use of automation. “We have offered voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), there would be natural attritions and every year we may not replace head by head (replacement recruitment). Manpower will also reduce as a result of digital initiatives. There will be a combined effect,” said Mr. Rajnish Kumar, SBI Managing Director.
Information technology services companies plan to engage with their women employees better when they go on six-month maternity leave, contrary to worries of some start-ups. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha early this month, mandates that women will have to be given 26 weeks maternity leave instead of the current 3 months. Some of the start-ups have raised their concerns over the issue citing cost overruns due to long paid holidays for women employees. Mid-size software firm MindTree has developed a dedicated application, Mi Lady, and taken efforts to engage with women employees who will go on six-month maternity leave. The app is aimed at enabling “expecting and new mothers to stay connected, relevant, inspired and build a healthy support system”. “We doubled our maternity leave to 26 weeks to allow women employees spend more time with the new addition in their family,” said Ms. Chitra Byregowda, head of sustainability and diversity, Mindtree. Ms.Byregowda added that simply increasing the leave was not enough and the company realised the need to engage with these employees continuously and when they resume work. “We needed to have a sustained support system in place to engage with employees on leave, make information accessible to them, and make their return hassle-free.” Large companies were already offering a longer maternity leave to their women workforce. Tech Mahindra used to offer an option for as long as one year’s leave. “We will be implementing this (six-month maternity) policy. At Tech Mahindra, we already had an extended maternity policy, where women could opt for longer leave up to one year. Hence, we do not see the need for any specific planning, since several of our associates opted for it earlier. Considering our large workforce size, such situations are in any case built into our resource management plans,” said Ms. Sucharita Palepu, Global Head, People Practices, Tech Mahindra.
Chinese technology major Xiaomi’s founder Mr. Lei Jun said the company aims to create 20,000 jobs in India, which he said was one of the most important markets for the company, the next three years. Mr. Lei also met Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and explained the concept of the “Internet Plus” model, and its benefit for Indian companies. Speaking at the Economic Times Global Business Summit 2017, Mr. Lei said that the company has made major strides in a very short time. Mr. Lei also spoke about China’s “Internet Plus” policy which “the Chinese premier started in 2015″.”Internet plus action plan is a new form of economic plan where internet is integrated with traditional industries encouraging to the spirit of excellence in these industries and drive economic growth,” he said. According to Mr. Lei, the Internet Plus policy elevates internet to become the most important engine of growth for China’s economy and Xiaomi is one of the companies to adapt this policy. Earlier Mr. Lei said after its success in the online market in India, Xiaomi wants to take its offline presence much higher by increasing offline market share to 50 per cent of its sales. However, Mr. Lei said that first, the company had to focus on getting 50 per cent market share in online. Mr. Lei said that Mi Home stores, which the company leverages to keep prices of its phones the same for online and offline despite the high cost of offline retail, could be an “inspiration for India’s retail economy”. He said the company would be looking how to bring Mi Home to India and experimenting with the concept. The scale and future of the move, he added, would depend upon the feedback.
Top bureaucrats and police officers, who retired two years ago, have been set a deadline after which their performance appraisals will be destroyed by the government. This include retired officers of the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service. They can however, make a request to the central government in case they want to have a copy of their performance reports. Existing norms allow confidential reports and performance appraisal reports of such bureaucrats to be destroyed two years after their death or retirement. The rules also allow IAS, IPS and IFoS officers to get their appraisals after two years of retirement, which is the normal period of retention for bureaucrats and police officials. A government order, released by the Department of Personnel and Training, stated that the current “action (being taken) to destroy such confidential reports and performance appraisals” is being done as per the rules and guidelines. It also said that the government has asked the officers who wish to get a copy of their performance appraisals to send their requests to the Ministry by June 14, 2017.
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IIT Roorkee) will not be hiring its own PhD students as faculty members on completion of their course despite their academic and research credentials. “We are not open to hiring our own PhD students as faculty members and would prefer to hire the best faculty from across the country and the globe. Hiring your own students is like marrying in your own family,” said IIT Roorkee Director Mr. Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi. “It is a very regressive practice as somebody who has studied here only will not get fresh ideas as their umbilical cord will never be broken. He or she will have seniors and teachers to support and guide so the person will never develop an individuality despite his academic and research credentials,” he added. The premier institute, however, is welcoming its BTech students to pursue PhD on completion of their engineering degrees. It also plans to hire more foreign faculty members as the government has relaxed norms for hiring foreign faculty in IITs. “There are foreign faculty members in IITs right now as well, but they are just a handful because of stringent government norms. However, the norms are getting relaxed now to let us hire more foreign nationals,” Mr. Chaturvedi said. Foreign faculty in IITs can work as contractual employees for five years. The contract is renewable and though they are not offered permanent positions, they get paid at par with faculty members in India.
HCL Technologies will train 200 high-school students for a year beginning April and absorb them in entry-level software jobs. HCL will, through this programme, provide a combination of academic courses for nine months and on-the-job training for three months to 100 students each in its Lucknow and Madurai training campuses. The students will learn application development, software testing, application support, and infrastructure management services. After completing the course, the students will be awarded a certificate in information technology by SSN College of Engineering. They will also be taken on in various projects of HCL Technologies at a starting salary of Rs 1.8 lakh a year. “This programme will allow young software engineering aspirants to acquire a certified diploma before being deployed on projects. These students can also pursue BSc courses from the Shiv Nadar University or a university of their choice during weekends,” said Ms. Srimathi Shivashankar, vice-president, HCL Technologies. The programme aims to provide opportunities to bright students who do not have access to the right jobs. This will also help the company to create a dedicated workforce. “We are looking at on-boarding young minds,” said Ms. Shivashankar. Industry experts said the practice among InfoTech companies so far had been to recruit students during the final semester of engineering courses. “If HCL is catching them after the school, it may well begin a cultural shift,” said Mr. Pareekh Jain of HfS Research India.
Oculus cofounder Mr. Palmer Luckey no longer works at Facebook, which acquired his virtual reality startup for $2 billion in 2014. Mr. Palmer’s role at Oculus has been in flux since it was revealed in September that he secretly funded an anti-Hillary Clinton meme group. The revelation created turmoil within the Oculus group at Facebook, leading to multiple female employees resigning, people familiar with the matter said. “Mr. Palmer Luckey will be dearly missed,” an Oculus spokesperson said. “His legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”
India’s top software services exporter Tata Consultancy Services will step up local hiring in the United States and has no plans to cut investments there as it continues to expect robust growth from its biggest overseas market. “In the last four or five years, we have been recruiting heavily in the US,” said Mr. Girish Ramachandran, head of Asia Pacific region of TCS. “We are planning to increase the number of recruitments we have in these markets.” TCS, which earns about 50% of its revenue from the US, continues to remain bullish about its prospects in the country as the consumption of IT services remains very high.“ US is the largest market and we expect that to continue to be the largest market,” Mr. Ramachandran said. India’s $150 billion information technology (IT) sector has been bracing for a reform of the distribution of H1 B visas required for the US under President Mr. Donald Trump’s administration. Indian IT firms use H1 B visa to fly engineers and developers to the US temporarily to service clients. Companies see increased local hiring and acquisitions as way to beat any immigration challenge. Indian IT firms use H1 B visa to fly engineers and developers to the US temporarily to service clients. Companies see increased local hiring and acquisitions as way to beat any immigration challenge.
The recent spell of mergers and acquisitions in the telecom sector also portends job losses. Recruitment firms and experts foresee lay-offs, fewer hiring and moderate appraisals going ahead owing to the consolidation in the telecom sector. The sector has been abuzz with mergers and acquisitions, the Vodafone India and Idea cellular being the latest. While the sector is looking at bringing in efficiency through consolidation, employees would have to bear the brunt. Mr. Kapil Gupta, partner, Shella Consultants, said, “The consolidations that we are seeing will definitely lead to job cuts. Most of the telecom companies are bleeding and are not making any profit. From what I see, we cannot expect any large appraisals happening this time or promotions either.” Many employees have already started looking out for jobs, foreseeing the situation ahead, pointed out Mr. Sunil Goel, managing director, Global Hunt. “There will be a surplus of resources because of the mergers. Functions like sales, marketing, corporate services and revenue management hold the largest number of people and this is where the lay-offs are likely to be seen,” he added.
Revised allowances including house rent allowance (HRA) will likely be announced for the central government staff after the ongoing Budget session of Parliament is over on April 12. The finance secretary-led panel, which is giving final touches to the reworked allowances based on the 7th pay panel’s recommendations, will hold its final meeting shortly. The panel met for over three hours to deliberate on the subject. “Decisions are broadly taken on allowances pending a final review. But these will be announced only after current Budget session ends on April 12 to avoid any controversy,” another source said. In the case of the employees in metro cities, the panel was considering to make HRA a little more generous than the CPC’s award. Taking note of employees’ representations, the finance secretary-led panel was looking at HRA of 30% of basic pay for those in cities with a population of over 5 million, against 24% recommended by CPC. In the Sixth CPC award period (2006-2015), HRA was 30% for these cities. HRA accounts for about 60% of the total allowances bill. The secretaries’ panel is reviewing the commission’s recommendations pertaining to allowances including rationalisation of some 196 existing benefits. The pay panel has suggested the abolition of 52 benefits and merger of 36 with existing ones to end their separate identities. The financial implication of revised allowances would be broadly in line with the CPC’s estimate of around R29, 300 crore (including for the railways) in the first year. While the revised pay and pension was implemented from January 1, 2016, allowances will be implemented prospectively. The delayed implementation of allowances have saved the government nearly R33, 000 crore in 15 months.
Engineering students aspiring to join the IT industry are likely to find it less easy landing a job this year as compared with past years, as companies are paring their campus hiring targets. Industry consultants said that on-campus fresher hiring dropped more than 20% last year and it might decline further in the current year. Traditionally, IT services majors visit engineering and technical education institutes in August-September. Companies such as Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Accenture, Cognizant and Mindtree hire more than 1, 50,000 freshers from colleges annually. But automation and other new technologies have meant that offer numbers have declined. “The on-campus hiring of freshers has witnessed a steep decline,” said Mr. Kris Lakshmikanth, Chairman and Managing Director, The Head Hunters India. “One of the major reasons is automation. This trend is likely to grow and we will see lesser campus hiring [numbers] going forward,” he said. Industry consultants said Tier-1 colleges would be able to place students in companies through campus hiring, but Tier-2 and Tier-3 colleges will face the brunt as the companies will skip visiting them. “The number of companies visiting campuses has not gone down. But we are seeing a decline in the number of job offers given to the students by these companies. Last year, we saw an over 20% drop in campus offers,” said a placement officer of a college in Coimbatore. “The campuses in Coimbatore or Chennai will see more companies participating in campus hiring but smaller cities like Madurai or Pollachi will not see the same action,” he added. IT industry body Nasscom has also spoken of a decline trend in hiring. Recently, the apex body revised the growth guidance to 8-10% due to slower growth.