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'If the rupee continues to slide, we could have another crisis'

Should only Americans and Europeans be worrying about their jobs? What's the employment scenario like in Mumbai? With conflicting reports emerging every day, can you be certain your job's safe? And if you're job-hunting, can you afford to be picky? We asked Naukri.com's Hitesh Oberoi

At the very outset, Hitesh Oberoi, CEO and MD, Info Edge (the company that has a presence in 31 Indian cities, Dubai, Bahrain, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and owns Naukri.com as well as a host of other online classifieds companies that offer matrimonial, real-estate and education services), is quick to assure us that companies are still hiring people here. So, while on the one hand, the IIM graduate admits, "There is certainly a slowdown in hiring activity," he also points out, "We are still growing so it's not like it was back in 2008." Here's a clearer picture of what's to come:


Hitesh Oberoi, CEO and MD, Info Edge, the company that owns Naukri.com,
at his Delhi office. pic/ Rajeev Tyagi


The big question on everyone's mind is what's 2012 really going to look like? Will there be enough jobs to go around or are people going to get laid off? Are pay-cuts in the pipeline?
We started the financial year on a very positive note; the first and second quarters have been very good. On the whole though, we have seen a slowdown in (hiring) activity. It's not like a recession, not as bad as 2008 and 2009, but there is a slowdown in company growth. So while companies are still hiring employees, they're not hiring people like they were before. For instance, if a company was hiring 200 people a month, it may be hiring 40 people a month now. Still, very few companies (such as Telecom companies who've been badly hit, for instance) may actually resort to laying off employees. Salaries are not going to be as good as they were last year but double-digit increments may be on the cards if the economic scenario improves. We do expect hiring activity to slow down for one or two quarters (the next three to six months), after which, it's hard to predict what will happen because there's a lot riding on the budget, government policies, public sentiment and the international economic scenario.

Are employment opportunities more likely to diminish in certain sectors and if so, which ones?
The Internet space is very hot. So there are a lot of job opportunities out there and you can afford to be a little picky in that line of work, but if you're employed in the manufacturing or telecom industries, I would caution against being too choosy about positions in the current environment. There will still be ample employment opportunities for marketing graduates, for employees looking for positions in consumer and pharmaceutical industries and IT professionals, but banking jobs will be limited. Big international banks used to hire a lot of people but with the global economic slowdown and stock markets still struggling to recover, hiring is likely to be reduced in the financial sector. Sales jobs may also be negatively impacted at entry levels because if companies don't expect rapid sales they won't add to their workforce and engineering jobs in IT companies may be impacted negatively too.

What's the hiring-activity like in Mumbai specifically?
In Mumbai, most months of 2011 saw higher hiring numbers when compared to 2010. In fact, barring October where the index dipped to 814 (a dip is typical in the festive season each year) all the other months have seen healthy hiring rates here. The key sectors of Mumbai -- BPO, Banking, Pharmaceuticals, Oil and Gas, Construction and Telecom - have seen a fair amount of activity on the recruitment front. The January 2011 job index for Mumbai showed that the hiring activity was 14 per cent higher than the previous year's. Around March the index crossed the July 2008 numbers for the first time, which means that hiring numbers were higher than the pre-recession levels (The index was started at 1000 which means that jobs created in July 2008 was indexed to 1000).

What about opportunities overseas? 
Around the world, economies are getting more and more protectionist. The Saudi Arabian government is pushing for companies to give jobs to locals and this is happening across the board in the Gulf -- there is pressure on the governments to create jobs and this pressure naturally trickles down to the companies. Immigration to these markets is likely to diminish but they will still need workers and labourers; so opportunities in higher positions are likely to stay the same or reduce. The US has been attractive for IT professionals mainly, but again, even there, a lot of protectionist noise is being made and with an upcoming election, it's hard to predict what policies the government will adopt. There are certainly more restrictions now and it's harder to get visas; so it's difficult to send people to work in the US. There are opportunities abroad, but not nearly enough to make up for any slowdown in the Indian market. Africa presents some employment opportunities too, for instance, but again, we're only talking about hundreds of spots. I don't see foreign markets welcoming Indians in a big way at all.

But is there any reason for job-seekers to be really worried?
Worry about Europe; if the Euro depreciates sharply, we will have a Lehman-like collapse here. Something like that would have severe repercussions across the globe and that's just not something we can control. The value of the rupee is another factor � depreciation of the rupee benefits export companies on one hand but it also adversely impacts import-centric organisations like manufacturing companies, MNCs who import and sell goods here, as well as companies who've taken huge foreign loans. So, if the rupee continues to slide we could have another crisis.

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