The dichotomy in India’s job market

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He is on a hiring spree. “We have at least eight positions to fill. We just can’t find people,” he says.

Earlier, open positions would get filled in about 2-3 months. Now, it easily takes 6-8 months. And at times, even that isn’t enough. He has been looking for a senior technical architect since January and is yet to find one. Earlier, mid-level developers (with 3-4 years of experience) could easily be hired in India for an annual salary of about 17 lakh. Now, Agarwal can’t get them even for 25 lakh. Multinational corporations (MNCs) and well-funded firms are in fact willing to offer even 50 lakh. “How can I ever compete with that?” he says.

Remote hiring is opening up a new battlefront in this talent war. Agarwal says now his employees are getting poached by companies from the US with fat pay packets. Agarwal is now re-configuring his hiring strategy. He has removed both the salary and the location filters on the job portal listing to widen the pool of candidates. He is also running monthly “hackathons” to penetrate deeper within that community of cyber security nerds while looking for fresh talent in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. More recently, in a first, he hired someone in Bangladesh. Agarwal’s hiring challenges represent just one side of India’s unfolding job market story though.

Living under the same roof, Agarwal’s father inhabits a completely different world. Until March last year, Agarwal senior was running a successful silverware manufacturing unit in Gujarat. But amid lockdowns, his factory was shut down, business was ravaged, and he had to lay off all the staff. With the future looking bleak amid recurring covid-19 waves, Agarwal senior has moved to Bengaluru to be with his son. “Now, we are thinking of shutting down my dad’s factory altogether,” he says. Agarwal’s home is a microcosm of the dichotomy that is playing out in India’s job market today.

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