Temp zone talent is HRs new focus

Written by Reema Jose | C Jayanthi | Updated: Mar 30 2008, 03:57am hrs
India's burgeoning IT-BPO industry has generated scope for employing more part-timers like housewives and students who can add to the talent pool of the skilled work force. As the industry appears set to grow by over 33% and touch the $64-billion mark by the end of the current fiscal, flexi-timings for those who may not wish to be fully employed has become a distinct possibility.

For instance, Infosys BPO has recently introduced a policy to increase the number of part-time employees in the company. Infosys vice-president and group HR head Nandita Gurjar says the BPO now aims to have 1% to 2% of its fresh recruits as part-timers in the next financial year.

According to her, part-timing helped expand the available talent pool, meet requirements for jobs that do not need full-timers, and take care of the women staff that cannot work full-time.

Currently, the temp staff in the industry would be 2% of the total work force, according to experts, and the share of part-timers would be far less although the IT sector is one that does not seek major educational qualifications of aspirants for them to earn big bucks. You could, for instance, be a college student with basic computer and vocabulary skills to draw a monthly salary of over Rs 10,000. But that's not all in terms of opportunities.

The chairman and managing director of TeamLease Services Pvt Ltd, India's largest temporary staffing company, Manish Sabharwal, says, IT/ ITeS companies have not really needed to have variable pay or temporary employees because for them, it has been a one-way rocket to the moon due to steady growth in revenue. However, over the next five years, a large number of IT companies will start using temporary workers as the market is getting a little saturated.

TeamLease vice-president Rajesh AR says, With cost-cutting becoming everyone's priority, companies may explore part-timers as an alternate talent pool, since billing is on an hourly basis. Part-timing is an on-demand type of employment. Youngsters who want to earn while they learn and also mothers who want to return to work after their maternity leave, prefer part-timing. For the employer, it is an option to save on wages that he might have to pay a full-timer during off-peak hours. For Teamlease, less than 0.5% of its associates are part-timers.

In comparison, for long, 20% of the IT and call centre work force in the US has been temporary workers, according to industry experts. Generally, in India, the non-technical staff over decades has been hired on a temporary basis.

The main reason behind the number of part-time staff not escalating so far is that government regulation and statutory requirements such as income tax and provident fund are based on monthly wages and do not support part-timing, which is billed on an hourly basis, feel experts. Moreover, a part-timer does not get the same benefits full-time employees enjoy.

Says Sabharwal, We supply 82,000 temporary employees in 670 cities across India. They get social security benefits such as provident fund. About 50% of my employees go on to get permanent jobs within a year. About 70% are graduates and the average age of employees is 22 years.

According to the ministry of labour in India, 80 million of the 400 million workers are temporary or contract workers.

According to IT-ITeS industry body Nasscom, direct employment in the sector has grown from 2.84 million (20 lakh) in 1999-2000 to 16 million (1.6 crore) in 2007. The revenue being generated by the BPO industry is set to touch $60 billion (Rs 267,526 crore) by 2009-2010, with domestic companies showing double-digit growth and global companies outsourcing to India. This possibly means jobs for 50,000 IT professionals and 1.4 million BPO workers.

Industry experts agree that part-time assignments are given out for work involving transaction processes and in some cases, training. However, core functions of companies that require decision-making cannot generally be assigned to a part-time staffer. Says R Sankar, executive director, HR Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Across sectors, only 2% of the work force is on contract or temporary. Senior executives, even in IT companies, are not usually part-time workers. In IT companies, part-timers are engaged for very specialised skills such as desktop publishing and designing. It works out well for people who do not wish to climb the ladder and, instead, prefer flexi-time.

It is felt that another reason for the slow growth of part-time employees is that telecom laws do not allow personal computers at home to be connected to any local area network. Says Raman Roy, CEO of

Quatrro BPO Solutions Pvt Ltd, The epicentre of this industry is not going to shift to part-time staffing in a hurry. Out of an average of 2 million jobs in the IT industry currently, only 100,000 would be part-time. The required skills are not there. Also, a part-time employee is not allowed to telecompute, which allows a home computer to connect to office LAN, due to archaic telecom laws.

Sangeeta Singh, executive director, HR, KPMG, says, In a growing economy, part-time employment cannot be a large-scale or a long-term option. While part-time employment may work out for young mothers and students, unless the reality of broadband in India is accepted by the government and laws changed to suit the landscape, speedy growth of part-time employment in the IT sector may still be a far cry.