f o r    m a n a g i n g    t o m o r r o w
JUNE 17, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Rupee Rise
Though an appreciating rupee is a cause for concern for many industries, it is proving to be a boon for some, particularly those that have large foreign currency borrowings. A weaker dollar is making repayments cheaper. Also, state-run refineries and those in the aviation sector are well-positioned to benefit from the stronger rupee. The Indian currency is up 8 per cent this year and is Asia's strongest currency against the dollar in 2007.

The ECB Route
The cap on maximum external commercial borrowings (ECBs), an annual ritual for the government, is fast losing its significance. Since the bulk of the foreign borrowings is raised under the automatic route by companies, it is becoming difficult to enforce the cap. The government had raised the annual limit of ECBs last year from $18 billion (Rs 81,000 crore) to $22 billion (Rs 99,000 crore). Now, it seems that total inflows will cross the $22-billion mark.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  June 3, 2007

IT's An Equal World
The information technology industry in India is trying to charm the woman workforce like never before. Up for grabs are flexi-hours, sabbaticals and, above all, career growth.
"I can watch my son grow up in front of me and not worry about leaving him at a distant crèche"
Sherin Sebastian
Associate Consultant/MindTree Consulting
Engine For Growth
Help, Tarun!

When Sherin Sebastian, Associate Consultant, MindTree Consulting, comes to work, she brings her son along. Working long hours and managing a stretched schedule, she meets her son over lunch and tea breaks. "I can watch my son grow up in front of me and not worry about leaving him at a distant crèche," says Sebastian, 31, who chose to work for MindTree mainly because of its child-friendly policies.

Forget salaries; work-life balance is the new perk for women in the information technology (it) industry. As jobs become complex and roles get diverse, employee motivation is top of mind among it companies. And with more women coming into the workforce, child-friendly and women-centric policies are gaining ground at these organisations. Women now constitute almost a third of the workforce at Sapient India, Infosys Technologies and Cognizant Technology Solutions, a fourth at TCS and one- fifth at IBM and Accenture.

Technology major Infosys has been among the early movers in this respect. It set up an office in the heart of Bangalore's business district to shorten the commute for young mothers. "Gender-friendly policies help us manage career life-cycles effectively, and also optimally use the work support systems available for advancing in the organisation," says Geetha Kannan, Associate Vice President and Head-Business Partner hr, Infosys.

"Flexi-timing helped me balance work and personal life during a crucial phase"
Rajashree Natarajan
Director (Process
and Quality Group)/Cognizant

Adds Joji Sekhon Gill, hr Director, Microsoft India: "Women have unique and special needs. It's important to build an environment that allows her to balance work and family." Microsoft reaches out to its woman employees with days like "Bring Your Child to Work".

it companies were among the first to offer child-friendly policies in India Inc. In mid-2006, Bhanumathi J., an hr Associate with Perot Systems, decided to take a break from work due to a personal crisis and also to spend more time with her year-old infant. Rather than lose a loyal and capable employee, Perot decided to give her an extended three-month break to settle her issues and return to work refreshed. Earlier, the company had allowed her to switch her workplace from Whitefield to J.P. Nagar, a thriving suburb in southern Bangalore, when she was pregnant. This gave her respite from a back-breaking commute. "Workplace flexibility is a key attraction for women in the IT industry, since we often have to manage both home and work and need to judiciously juggle our time," Bhanumathi explains.

When Rajashree Natarajan, Director (Process and Quality Group), Cognizant, was offered a flexible work hours option after she delivered her second child, she readily went for it. "The flexi-time opportunity came in handy and helped me balance work and personal life, during a crucial phase," she says.

A peek into how IT companies hope to catch the fancy of women workers.
Accenture: Incentives include cash for referring women
IBM: Breaks to meet family commitments
Infosys: Flexi-work hours, satellite office for pregnant women and young mothers
Sapient: Spouse referral programme, work from home
Microsoft: Flexi-work hours, child-centric events
HP: Self-defence classes, mentoring programmes and flexible work hours
Perot: Work from home, long leave, shorter work weeks

Meenakshi Setia, a Programme Management Manager with Sapient, was not so lucky. "Six years back when I had my baby, I had to literally work till the day of delivery. After my seven-month sabbatical, I could not go back to the same company and had to re-establish myself," she says. Things have changed for the better for her. "With flexible work hours and a work-from-home option at Sapient, I now get to spend quality time with my six-year-old daughter," she says.

One of the biggest issues before the IT industry today is attracting and retaining high quality talent. "It is well-documented that women are less prone to switching jobs and are often better at managing disparate teams," says Mohan Sitharam, Associate Director (People Function), MindTree Consulting. That's why companies across the sector are reaching out to women.

"Workplace flexibility is a key attraction for women in the IT industry"
Bhanumathi J.
HR Associate/Perot Systems

Industry requirements have also evolved over time, prompting it companies to devise innovative strategies to retain women. Agrees Ritu Anand, Vice President (HR), Tata Consultancy Services: "Gender diversity is key to creating a culture of innovation within an organisation."

Rekha Menon, Lead Executive (India Geographic Services & Human Capital and Diversity), Accenture India, agrees. "Diversity is no longer 'nice to have', but 'necessary to have' as it has implications for business success and high performance. If a company fosters a supportive, inclusive work environment, it will increase its talent pool, tap and attract high quality talent and retain people with a progressive set of values," she says.

Incentives to achieve this may vary but the goal remains the same. While a host of it companies pays its staffing vendors a higher fee to recruit women, companies like Accenture offer incentives to employees who refer women for jobs.

It has also set up Vahini, a women's support network that leads efforts and initiatives related to networking, mentoring, communication and counselling, according to Menon.

As women ready themselves to take over the IT industry 'man'tle, a new role awaits them-that of it industry leaders. The signs are already there. "Women have always been key members of our leadership teams not just across different functions of our organisation but also in our global company leadership team," says Soumya Banerjee, VP and MD, Sapient India.

With over 14 years at IBM, Kalpana Margabandhu, Director- WebSphere Development, India Software Lab, ibm India, is a classic example of why it companies have begun to lean on their women employees. "I've been with IBM for this long since I got opportunities to grow and play several roles during my tenure." She adds: "This industry has set benchmarks in terms of equal opportunity and woman empowerment."

"With flexible work hours and a work-from-home option at Sapient, I now get to spend quality time with my six-year-old daughter"
Meenakshi Setia
Programme Management Manager/Sapient

At TCS, 10 per cent of senior management comprises women. "TCS is an equal opportunity player and encourages women to be a part of its global workforce. We do not believe in a glass ceiling," says Anand.

IT companies are specially catering to the career growth demands of their woman workforce. "I got into handling a major account within a few months of joining. It gives my career and commitment a boost when the company believes in me," says Puja Mehra, Programme Management Manager, Sapient.

HP has launched a mentoring programme to identify and nurture high-potential women employees in India. "This helps us to proactively address the aspirations and development needs of key talent," says Ganga Sharma, Country Manager for Employee Relations, Diversity and Culture, hp India.

A beneficiary of this programme, Sarala Ravishankar, Director, HP-STSD (Systems Technology and Software Division), hp India, says: "The atmosphere inculcated by diversity initiatives provides opportunities for women to achieve their potential." The Infosys Women's Inclusivity Network (IWIN) provides a platform to discuss issues with like-minded colleagues. Says Kannan: "The organisation is empathetic to our 'special' needs and everyone-starting from chief mentor Narayana Murthy-believes in giving women employees the encouragement needed to reach the highest levels in the organisation," she adds.

So, ladies, if it's a caring employer you're looking for, the IT industry is waiting.

Engine For Growth
Auto parts industry is hiring by the thousands.

The automotive components industry in India is in top gear. The sector has recorded a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 per cent over the last five years and is expected to clock sales of $18.7 billion (Rs 76,670 crore) by 2009. India has become a manufacturing hub for cars and components. Says Kallol Chakraborty, Director (hr & Industrial Relations), Federal Mogul Goetze India: "International companies are setting up operations in India, leading to a manufacturing explosion and huge employment growth. But the industry needs more technically-qualified talent as there is a supply-demand imbalance at present." Says Pratic Ram Kumar, Automotive & Logistic Practice, Elixir Web Solutions: "There is a surge in jobs across specialisations. The industry is scouting for sales engineers, MBAs and, people with sales and marketing background."


WHO'S HIRING: Hero Motors, Michelin Tyres, Apollo Tyres, Delphi Automotive Systems, Federal Mogul Goetze India, Trelleborg Automotives Systems, Minda Industries, Denso, Schefenacker Motherson, Sona Koyo, Rico Auto, Laxmi Prescision Screw, Tyco, Continental Engines (Baxi Group), Subros, among others

WHO'RE THEY HIRING: Sales engineers, MBAs, people with sales and marketing backgrounds, and production specialists

AT WHAT LEVEL: At senior, middle management and junior levels

AT WHAT SALARIES: General Managers can expect Rs 12-20 lakh p.a. Mid-level packages range from Rs 5-8 lakh p.a. and junior level salaries range from Rs 2-5 lakh

WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS LIKE: At least 15 million jobs will be created through direct and indirect employment across the automotive sector over the next five years

Help, Tarun!

Q: I work as a commodities reporter with a news agency. I want to do an MBA to improve my prospects in this field. Which stream should I specialise in?

I will not limit my recommendations to your current narrow field-if I look at financial journalism as your field, then an MBA with a finance specialisation will be the way to go. This will also allow you to get into the financial world at a later date if you feel like leaving journalism and do research, analysis or even trading.

Q: I am a B. Tech in electronics. I am currently working with a software firm as a programmer. I want to move into IT services from products in future. What should I do?

IT services companies are always looking for people, so it will not be difficult for you with your qualifications, to get a job in that field. I don't know how much experience you have but I am assuming that it is not much. If it is less than a year, then you can look for a job in another company which is in it services, even if you are taken as a trainee. This way, you will get into the field you want to be in, though you may waste a bit of time going back to being a trainee. If you have more experience, then you can apply directly to it services companies.

Answers to your career concerns are contributed by Tarun Sheth (Senior Consultant) and Shilpa Sheth (Managing Partner, US practice) of HR firm, Shilputsi Consultants. Write to Help,Tarun! c/o Business Today, Videocon Tower, Fifth Floor, E-1, Jhandewalan Extn., New Delhi-110055.