IT firms see low or flat salaries for 2 more years

Ruchi Hajela, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 08, 2009
Against expectations that the job market and compensation levels might begin to show signs of recovery by next year, senior executives in the country’s top information technology companies expect compensation levels to remain low over the next two- to three years. “The market is cold and there are fewer jobs, for the next two or three years, salaries will be low,” TV Mohandas Pai, member of the board and director of human resources at the nation’s second largest software exporter Infosys Technologies, told Hindustan Times.

The economic slowdown has adversely affected all sectors, including information technology, which relies heavily on demand in the West, especially the United States, which is India’s largest market.

“Good people will not be laid off but the key challenge is compensation,” Pai said.

Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest software exporter which employs over 1,00,000 people, is also eyeing a scenario where wage hikes will not be significant. “We expect salaries to remain flat in financial year 2010 while demand for specific skill sets will drive salaries over the next two-three years,” a TCS spokesperson told Hindustan Times.

However, experts at staffing firms, interpreting industry statements, say IT companies probably do not want to set high expectations for their employees amidst uncertain economic conditions and that the job market might well improve by the end of the year. “We expect the market to improve by the end of the year and organisations probably do not want to raise their employees’ expectations,” said Rohit Ramani, director at staffing firm EmmayHR, part of the Dutch Randstad group.


Videocon shuffles staff in Rs 300-cr saving drive

Ruchi Hajela, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 16, 2009
Consumer durables firm Videocon Industries plans to save Rs 300 crore by December this year by enhancing productivity to overcome a sales slump.“The overall market has slowed down and we are trying to overcome by increasing quality and productivity innovation by 30 per cent,” Kwang Ro Kim, vice chairman and CEO told Hindustan Times.

For instance, the company is working towards manufacturing standardised remote controls that work with all television sets rather than model-specific ones. The company has also outsourced manufacturing of its new products like invertors and batteries to contract manufacturers.

“We will be consolidating our 500 authorised service centre across India and provide training to the staff at these centres to improve the quality of service offered to consumers,” Kim said.

The company employs a total of 9,000 people with about 5,000 on its pay rolls and the rest on contract basis. “We advanced our annual appraisal this year and have identified 12 per cent of our permanent employees as below average performers,” Jyoti Shekhar, vice president – corporate HR at Videocon Industries said.

While the better of the lot are being redeployed in the company’s other businesses, the rest are being laid off. Of the total 600 employees under the scanner, Videocon has already redeployed about 185 employees in its other group businesses.

The company’s profits fell from Rs 250 crore in the October-December 2007 quarter to Rs 60 crore in December 2008. Over the past one year the company’s share price fell by 70 per cent and is currently trading at Rs 84.9.

Nano Effect: Philips plans cut-rate volume products

Ruchi Hajela , Hindustan Times

New Delhi, March 24, 2009

Going for markets based on affordable prices that provide high volumes seems to be a buzzing trend. Much like the Tatas making the Nano car, Dutch multinational Philips Indian operation plans to target consumers in smaller towns with low-cost appliances.

The company plans to launch small appliances like mixers, grinders, rice cookers and electric irons at a price lower than current prices by up to 50 per cent. These products are likely to have only critical features without frills and are likely to be introduced only in India for the moment.

That would be Philips’ way of tackling competition from Korean giants like Samsung and LG, much like in the car business, where Hyundai is a key player. Philips plans to have special zones in retail outlets to highlight its products.

Philips’ net sales grew by about 19 per cent in 2007 before the economic slowdown hit the country and the company expects it to be lower for the year ended December 2008 for which data is yet to be released.

“We will roll out small appliances that are cheaper in the range of 30 to 50 per cent for the value conscious consumers in the metros and those in Tier II and Tier III cities across India,” Mahesh Krishnan, vice-president and sales head at Philips India’s consumer lifestyle division.

The special showcase zones will court both traditional retail stores and modern retail chains to highlight  Philips’ consumer lifestyle, healthcare and lighting products. In the first phase, the company is testing out these zones across 40 retail outlets in the National Capital Region.

“The plan is to have similar zones across 400 outlets by the end of 2009,” Krishnan said.

Hot season for electronics

Ruchi Hajela , Hindustan Times

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The Indian Premier League may have shifted locations but consumer electronics, an industry that thrives on both product sales and ads linked big cricketing events, is not missing its chance.

L.K.Gupta, marketing head at LG Electronics India, said April-May was “prime season” for some categories and his firm would have a separate advertising budget for the IPL season.

Samsung Electronics India expects up to 35 per cent increase in sales in its television category and plans to launch close to 16 colour television models, besides mobile phones and refrigerators.

“We have coincided product launches with the cricket period and will be promoting the products through television advertising as well,” said Ravinder Zutshi,  its deputy managing director.

Whirlpool India plans to launch refrigerators and air conditioners in April and is evaluating IPL as a vehicle to promote new products.

HBP comes to India

Ruchi Hajela, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 27, 2009

Harvard Business Publishing (HBP), the publishing arm of world’s leading management institution Harvard University, has set up a wholly owned subsidiary in India, its first outside the United States, through which it plans to “Indianise” its content in work executed with local management professors and corporate executives. The unit also plans to publish new books involving case studies. HBP brings out the renowned Harvard Business Review magazine, besides management books and corporate training related material. “We want to acquire content and ideas from India and it was important to have local presence here,” said David A Wan, chief executive, HBP. “India has come far from being a cost effective labour market to one with innovative ideas on leadership and management.” The books will be priced almost a third of that overseas and the ideas from India will also be incorporated in international editions.

Now, Gmail in five Indian languages

Ruchi Hajela, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 01, 2009

If you couldn’t send an email to your grandmother because of the language barrier, now there’s reason to cheer. Google has come up with transliteration engine in the “Compose” box of its free email service that converts English text into phonetic-based script in vernacular languages.

It means that you can simply type in English and the mail will be converted into the desired language. Users can enable the feature in their Gmail ‘settings’.

At Present, the service is available in five Indian languages — Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam — but Google plans to add more. “A small set of population is online at present and we want more people to be online.Once the market develops, monetisation will follow,” Rahul Roy Chowdhury, product manager at Google India told HT.

“We built this new feature using Google’s transliteration technology, which is also available on Google India Labs, Orkut, Blogger and iGoogle. I hope you find this feature useful to communicate with those of your friends and family who prefer to write in their native language, and it will be available soon to businesses and schools using Google Apps,” Chandramouli Mahadevan, software engineer, wrote on the Official Google Blog.

Google, under its innovative Labs initiative, was already offering web-based transliteration for its services like Blogger, but that involved cutting and pasting regional language text from the site to the e-mail box.