With formalisation of WFH, would smaller cities become new job hubs?

With many organisations seeking to bring many digital jobs under a remote-working arrangement, talent strategy is in for a significant transformation

February 17, 2021 08:57 pm | Updated 09:08 pm IST

Representational picture only. PHOTO: AD RANGARAJAN

Representational picture only. PHOTO: AD RANGARAJAN

Last June, at the height of the pandemic, P.V. Usha put in her papers deciding to return to her ancestral village, Dharmasthala in interior Mangalore, and focus on taking care of her children as they were home 24/7.

With an alternative plan for her, Usha’s employer (a logistics company) rejected her resignation.

“I was planning to search for a new job, and I was surprised to learn that the head office in Mumbai would let me work from my native village,” says Usha, an assistant manager in a sales function that allows her to connect with clients online.

Usha’s case is by no means unique anymore: Jobs that can be handled digitally are increasingly becoming location-agnostic.

“Once things normalise, I will have to visit Bengaluru once a month,” says Usha.

Now, to source talent for jobs that can be handled “working from anywhere”, some companies are turning to tier-2 or tier-3 cities, even small towns, as hiring from geographies can reduce salary spends.

It is a win-win situation as the hires do not have to relocate on account of work.

“Over the last six months, we have observed that job postings in tier 2 cities such as Jaipur, Chandigarh, Coimbatore have rebounded much faster than the Tier 1 cities,” says Sekhar Garisa, CEO, Monster.com.

To The New, a digital tech company would soon recruit 400 people, and many of them could work remotely. “A stable broadband and a 4G connection on mobile for backup are among the main hiring criteria,” says Satya Sharma, CHRO and co-founder, TO THE NEW.

At Instamojo’s, a full-tack solutions provider for MSMEs, 50 per cent of the new hires in the last four months are from places like Krishnagiri, Kolar, Dehradun and Sitapur, and these are largely from tech, marketing and product development.

The company is offering either a permanent work-from-home or flexi-work option, which allows employees to choose to either work from home or office.

Shekhar Sanyal, director and country head, IET India, points out that talent sourcing from small towns and cities will gain greater momentum once more organisations have a clear picture of the jobs that fit into various remote-working models. TCS and Unilever have already drawn up hybrid and work-from-home policies. Some organisations are working on the HRA component, lowering it for employees choosing to work from smaller cities, adds Sanyal.

Says Garisa: “Some do not mind taking a pay cut to be able to work from their hometown. Recently, a candidate with expertise in an emerging technology made it clear he would take up the job only if he got to work from Bharuch, his hometown.”

Garisa points out that companies are going back to the drawing board to revisit their talent strategy, which includes figuring out how many jobs need to be location-specific, and how many can be done from anywhere.

Hometown calling

“If given a challenging and interesting opportunity, people are ready to relocate and settle down in tier two cities and these are the kind of talent we are looking for too,” says Saravana Kumar, founder and CEO, Kovai.co., a Coimbatore-based SaaS company. Of the 100 people Kovai.co onboarded in 2020, 50% were in the mid-level and 20% in senior roles.

HCL is running a “comeback home” campaign, encouraging local talent to take up opportunities in their hometowns. As part of this, it had a mega recruitment drive at Vijayawada recently; another is coming up at Nagpur, where it would be creating 1000 jobs in Engineering and R&D services, Application Development and Infrastructure Management services.

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