‘In era of disruption, tech industry beat its employment target’

Clients are eyeing next level of impact from new tech: Nasscom chairman

July 14, 2019 10:50 pm | Updated 10:50 pm IST

As a turnaround specialist, Keshav Murugesh has helped raise fortunes at both Syntel and now WNS. In the 9 years he has served as CEO of WNS, its shares have risen 4-fold to $60. In an interview, Mr. Murugesh, who is also the chairman of industry body Nasscom, spoke on changing pricing models, need for new skills, and how spurring exports can help increase employment in India.

With growth having slowed these past few years, is there anything significant coming up for the IT-ITES industry?

Technology has become a core part of every business. It is impossible to separate technology from that core.

Then there are firms looking at the next level of impact coming from analytics, robotics, all of these other things. As a result, I think that demand trends for the foreseeable future look very positive for the industry.

Anyone now looking to integrate technology will ensure they are able to capture the market leveraging technology-based solutions, or gain deeper appreciation of customer-spending habits or behavioural habits; they’re integrating a lot of analytics into it.

Along with that, they have the opportunity to integrate much more advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic processes and the like. That augurs well, whether it is for IT services players or for business process players.

Boutique players in the West and insourcing trends were tough to compete with, a few years ago. How has that played out?

Customers have become clear about what their core competency is. They are realising they have to focus on what’s best for them and not really try to do everything at the back-end when there are others much better at doing it. What you saw, maybe 2-3 years ago, has changed.

Talent shortage continues to plague the system.

Even in the U.S., there is a shortfall of 6 million people annually and 37% of those are needed with technical skills, as per the U.S. Department of Labor. Place that in context with the noise around the H-1B visas, which comes to only 85,000 people for a whole year.

We need to have the right skills, the people who are proficient in these new technology areas, in soft skills and who can make a presentation, make upgrades...

So, all companies have integrated very strong internal skilling and training programmes that go beyond the traditional domain-based skilling. The WNS Education platform offers our over 40,000 people access to training in new generation digital skills, machine learning and the like, all right at your desk.

Nasscom’s target for last year was 110,000 jobs, but we actually created 170,000 in the country. In an era of disruption, we actually beat a target.

Isn’t the IT industry still absorbing fresh graduates slower than earlier?

First and foremost, growth will continue to be strong. The days of 30-40% growth rates... that’s over because the base was small.

At the same time, I think the future is going to be about the right skills. If somebody comes out of some engineering college and expects a job automatically, that’s not going to happen.

The focus now is on curriculum, and of course development case studies, giving the people the opportunity through internships.

The Government of India has introduced very good schemes that allow people to start experiencing jobs in these companies before they’re actually absorbed.

The government’s mission of a $5 trillion economy means exports have to continue to grow, and IT has always done well for Indian exports.

The government has been very supportive; understanding the opportunities, appreciating the challenges the industry faces, taking inputs from Nasscom and individual companies in terms of all the new generation changes in law that they’re looking at, such as data protection and data localisation.

Aren’t industry profits growing faster than revenues, indicating cost control rather than new business?

There are two reasons to this: one is that we are leveraging technology and changing the way we deliver processes. The second is that in some of the older processes, we change the model with the customers.

You make it much more of a variable costing model with the client. So the cost declines.

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