The business world is being disrupted by the combined effects of growing emerging economies, shifts in global demographics, ubiquity of technology and accountability regulation. Infosys believes that to compete in the flat world, businesses must shift their operational priorities.

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October 20, 2006

Talent Wars, cont'd...

by Richa Govil, Group Manager, Infosys Technologies

It seems that some readers disagree with my statement about increase of unprofessionalism among talent in India.  However this is a trend that goes beyond my personal experience.  Recent studies have tried to measure “employability” of graduates including qualities such as ability to work in teams (e.g. see NASSCOM, McKinsey, and others).

To me this trend seems an inevitable consequence of the simple laws of supply and demand. 

Some readers have pointed out that employers need to be equally professional in their relationships with employees.  I agree.  When the tables are turned, employers in the past have been known to treat their employees with little regard.  Having seen two close friends go through lay-offs, I can attest to the callousness (deliberate or otherwise) that can be involved when the situation is not handled correctly.

However, none of this negates the fact that employees are now hitting back, collectively as it were.  No longer loyal, willing to switch at the “drop of a hat”, and unwilling to keep commitments, talent has now firmly entered the realm of unprofessionalism.  I have had multiple cases where after accepting an offer in writing, prospective employees have not informed the company that they will not be joining after all.  These days you can be sure that you have actually filled an open position only when the employee shows up on Day 1.

Business communities in any country (at least at the mid to senior management levels) tend to be small.  Even India with its billion people, relies on a much much smaller business community and business graduates to run its companies.   It seems that young workers in India have not yet developed the maturity to realize this fact.  With the over-abundance of opportunities this behavior appears to be the right choice (or even the logical one by some calculations).  But this will prove to be a short-sighted approach when the economy turns as it eventually must. 

Attracting the right talent (not just the right diploma/degree) in emerging economies is a challenge for all global companies (with Indian origins or otherwise).  It becomes even more frustrating for companies unfamiliar with the local situation or with a weaker brand locally.  And in India, as other growth industries such as retail accelerate hiring, the supply of skilled talent will only become tighter. 

But this is exactly where “thinking flat” comes in.  Companies have to look beyond traditional organizational structures and recruiting models.  They can consider alternatives such as hiring talent where best available, stretching reporting & collaboration lines across continents not just for the senior management levels as is already common, but even deeper in the organization.  Or, they can hire internationally mobile professionals.  In some cases, they can look to “Tier 2” cities for employees (e.g. JetBlue’s customer support centers or Indian IT companies’ development centers). Or going to the source of the problem, they can expand the talent pool by working with colleges and universities to make the graduates more employable.

Many of these approaches are being used by leading companies (Infosys included). For examples, see the Oct 17 New York Times: “In a Twist, Americans Appear in Ranks of Indian Firms” and “Skills Gap Hurts Technology Boom in India.”

October 13, 2006

The War for Talent Heats Up

by Richa Govil, Group Manager, Infosys Technologies 

The October issue of The Economist features the war for talent as its cover story.  The article mentions how the shortage of talent has become a top issue and “how the war for talent is shifting the balance of power from companies to workers”.

In fact I have encountered some of the most unprofessional behavior in my own search for talent.  Engineering and sciences being the most sought after careers in India means that the softer skills are harder to find.  And that means that the balance of power is definitely on the side of the worker.  And it can lead to some unbelievable outcomes.

Recently I had set up a phone interview with a candidate who did not pick up the interview call.  He called me 45 minutes later saying in a nonchalant manner, “Oh, I had a missed call from this number so I am returning the call.”  When I informed him of the missed interview, his response was a surprising “I was driving”.  When I asked him whether he was aware of the interview time, he responded “Yes, but I was on another call”. So within a matter of 45 seconds he had given me two different reasons for missing the interview, neither of which sounded convincing by any means.  Needless to say, he will not be hearing from me ever again.

I am sure we can all relate ‘war stories’ when it comes to recruiting.  What is disconcerting is that such scenarios are no longer becoming the exception but the rule as Indian workers realize that the balance of power lies with them. 

But unprofessionalism can’t be good for either side in the long run.  

October 8, 2006

The Missing Technology Edge

By Richa Govil, Group Manager, Infosys Technologies

The October issue of HBR includes an insightful look into the competitive strategies of emerging companies.  While the article discusses three strategies, it misses one important one.

Titled "Emerging Giants: Building World-Class Companies in Developing Countries," it covers the strategies employed by companies in emerging markets to compete in domestic and global markets.  The three strategies  described are: (1) understanding of unique local customer needs, (2) superior knowledge of and access to local talent and capital, and (3) filling institutional voids such as accounting firms, market data/research firms, and rating agencies.

However, I believe the article missed one important aspect – namely, the emerging companies’ ability to “leapfrog” conventional technology and operating models. 

Just as consumers in emerging markets “leap-frog” technologies (e.g. consumers skip landlines altogether in favor of mobile phones), emerging companies can do the same.  They have the luxury of designing their operations with the latest technologies and global operating models in mind. 

A good example is ICICI Bank, which relies on its strong technology and systems to financially outperform its global rivals.  The bank has recently entered the UK and has plans for further expansion.   Additionally, its ability to profitably handle smaller transactions will make it possible for the bank to penetrate rural markets sustainable.

Of course all startups (whether in emerging economies or not) have the option of skipping generations of technology, but the emerging economy companies can combine technology with a forward-looking mindset and global operations to create operating models that can deliver a  competitive edge across the globe.

October 4, 2006

Existential Questions

by Richa Govil, Group Manager, Infosys Technologies

Over the last two weeks I have been going through some of the feedback from readers of this blog.  Readers asked about the purpose of this blog, who I am, what my role is, who will be posting here and why, etc.  I will attempt to answer these questions below, so please excuse the long post.

When we launched the blog, we had planned for the bios of all the bloggers to be displayed.  However, at the time of launch we had to prioritize development of other blog features over the author bios.  The bios are going live in about a week or so.  But in the meantime, let me introduce myself. 

I am a Group Manager with Infosys Technologies in Corporate Marketing.  I am responsible for the development of Infosys point of view and go-to-market for the Think Flat initiative.  I have been with Infosys for over two years and before that I was with Bain & Co. in the San Francisco bay area, doing corporate strategy and business consulting primarily with hi-tech clients.

Given my previous background and professional interests, I find the topic of how the business world is changing very interesting.  Different people may call the phenomenon by different words, but the underlying fact remains -- global trends are changing fundamental assumptions that companies make about their operations.  With all the changes happening this is a very interesting time to be in business.  That is why I offered to anchor this blog.  Obviously, the opinions I express here are my own and not necessarily those of Infosys.

I see this blog as a forum to have meaningful discussions about issues facing companies worldwide.  My role in the blog is as the anchor of this forum.  Periodically I invite executives within Infosys to contribute their thoughts and experiences.  And as we build this blog, you are also going to see executives outside of Infosys (whether clients or not) commenting about related issues from their respective businesses.

Regular readers of the blog commented on my silence over the last couple of weeks.  That was partly due to excessive travel and partly self-imposed.  I wanted to spend the time going through emails and feedback that we have been receiving to see how we can make the blog more useful to business professionals.   So, please continue to send your comments and ideas, and from my side I will try to post more frequently.