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$108-billion Indian IT industry enters 'middle age', Infosys, Wipro, TCS losing advantage

Jan 30 2014, 11:05 IST
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The 3-mn-strong IT workforce is getting older, making it harder to extract some of the cost advantages of the young, cheap labour. The 3-mn-strong IT workforce is getting older, making it harder to extract some of the cost advantages of the young, cheap labour.
SummaryThe executive suite is not the only place that is greying in the Indian IT industry.

The executive suite is not the only place that is greying in India's 40-year-old IT industry. As the $108-billion industry enters middle age and its growth slows, the three-million-strong workforce is also getting older, making it harder to extract some of the cost advantages of the young, cheap labour for which it is known.

Firms have had to change in order to attract and support employees with a more mature set of priorities, as the bright youngsters they recruited years earlier have become earnest family types.

"Middle-aged or married couples prefer to go back home on time, so don't like to stay back at work till late or do weekends," said Megha Jain, 34, a Bangalore-based employee of an Indian IT company. "There is more focus by the company to fine-tune policies around work from home and overtime."

LESS PARTYING, MORE PARENTING

The likes of Bangalore-based Infosys and

Wipro were built on a young, cheap and educated workforce that also drew global giants such as IBM Corp and Accenture to the country.

And the vibrancy of the new industry was epitomised by a corporate culture that was far more influenced by Silicon Valley than traditional Indian attitudes.

In India, many in their first jobs continue to live with parents, whereas working in IT often meant moving to another city, such as Bangalore, Hyderabad or Pune.

Organised weekend outings for staff were a common way of building bonds in the workplace for IT firms whose employees had mostly come straight from college.

Some firms also gave employees free movie tickets and let them expense meals with boyfriends or girlfriends.

Flush with money and new-found independence, these IT staffers were known both for working late and partying hard.

"There were not many mothers, or not many parents," Kingshuk Sanyal, a management consultant at Booz and Co, said of those early years in the industry.

Now, many Indian IT firms have tied up with childcare centres to help working couples manage. Some offer flexible working hours or extended time away from work, options that exist with few other Indian employers.

Market leader Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which once had ad hoc policies around flexible hours and vacations, formalised them about four years ago as the ranks of older staff grew, said HR head Ajoyendra Mukherjee.

MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD

IT firms in India are placing increasing emphasis on training and developing existing staff, while slower growth means they no

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