Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Real 'Matrix' - The impending talent bubble in IT India

The impending talent bubble in IT India

Or ‘what will happen to the armies of agents ten years from now’? Those that are L1 skilled today, will many of they become the mass labor class of future? Will we have masses of 40+ old call center agents like we have in the west who we replace? Who will then replace these? Someone from other Asian countries eager to eat our IT lunch? Or, more realistically, someone younger from smaller towns in India.

We usually worry if we can afford to give 10 - 15% y-o-y raise to all professionals, and still keep our edge, and our margins? But a bigger worry should be what skills and growth are we giving to these to bring more value, to them and to the industry?
We should worry if this is a bubble waiting to burst. Remember Maslov’s hierarchy of needs. We are feeding the bottom of the need pyramid and neglecting the higher levels. Hundreds of thousands of call center agents and technical agents (L1 as we call them) are happy with their newfound independence to spend, to live lives of borrowed and temporary opulence.

IT Industry is targeting to hire more freshers to reduce costs. We will be able to find cheaper labor in India for next 20 years. but what will happen to the lakhs of employees? Will they work at lesser increments? Will we fire a lot of them to make way for cheaper workers? Or will they stagnate at a plateau of learning and salary. Not all can become managers or level2 workers. So we will have a vast majority reconciled to their fate of not growing and continuing as callers for the next decade or for the rest of their foreseeable careers.
Does this scare them? or does it spur them on?

But first, are they even aware of this?

Are we as the industry mapping their aspirations or alternatively are we creating a web of false worlds, a feeling of false euphoria, a mirage for them to be trapped in indefinitely. And we are investing in sustaining these mirages because this servers our purpose very well.
We could call this the real ‘Matrix’ with millions of real life Neos, Trinitys and others being kept happy in a virtual world, enticed to stay at status quo because it feeds our system. True, one can argue that we are giving them a job and career where they would have had none in the absence of this opportunity, but what we are not seeing is what will happen when these individuals don’t grow in their careers, en masse, collectively, year after year. We cannot and will not give them an alternative because it suites us and is our interest for them to not know the reality?

The problem is well laid out – but what is the solution?

The employees should be made aware, help them realize that they can move up the value chain and realize their true potential.
If we do this, what will happen? Will there be mass disenchantment and demotivation? Or will they not listen at all? We should attempt to communicate and make them aware, it means securing our future at some cost of the present today. Do we have the guts to do this? what benefit will it bring?

These are some of the questions that beg an answer, and not too soon enough!!