View from India: Covid-19 hits spending but hiring holds firm

Novel coronavirus (n-CoV or Covid-19) has triggered a trail of consequences. Collaboration tools are keeping corporate operations on track, and employers continue to scout for professionals with specific skill sets required to execute new age technologies. However, shopping trends have seen a downslide.

Hiring plans appears to be steady for the next three months, though Covid-19 has dampened people’s spirits. Opportunities are expected to remain favourable for candidates with the right skills and flexibility, and employers forecast a steady second-quarter hiring trend. All this and more has been outlined in the ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey released in March 2020. 

“Corporate India is all up with its expectations and hopes for 2020,” said Sandeep Gulati, group managing director of ManpowerGroup India. “Progress of technology along with more macroeconomic stability and entrepreneur friendly schemes is certainly going to pamper the hiring sentiments. While it is too early to predict the potential impact of Covid-19 on global hiring, the reality today is that unemployment remains low in many markets and organisations globally are still struggling to find people with the right skills.”

As of now, Covid-19 has encouraged people to work from home. The quantum of losses across industries has dampened the economic outlook. Yet what remains unchanged is the specific skill sets that new age technologies require. To that effect, we are probably yet to hear of Covid-19 impacting the hiring trend in the corporate circles in India.

Corporate India’s hiring intention is steady as employers open up to innovative and flexible ways of working, besides collaborating with the education bodies to ensure a skilled labour pool in the upcoming years. Currently there is a dearth of talent and companies are ready to pay premium wages for the right talent with the appropriate skills. Employers are also upbeat about up-skilling their existing talent strength. Competency mapping, workforce planning, learning, succession and development are some of the favourite topics of discussion nowadays.

When we look at the sectoral trends, over the last few months, there has been a transformation of the employment pattern and the current trend is to move away from long-term employment to short-term engagement. Technology is disrupting the entire ecosystem of work and the business landscape. And companies are gradually embracing the change.

Industry 4.0 technologies are changing workforce trends. Today’s digital workforce is flexible, enabled with powerful artificial intelligence (AI)-driven devices that talk to each other, update automatically and are easy to set up. On the run virtual meetings are now the basic norm of the millennial. The evolution of workplace owes a lot to the technology advancements.

According to the survey, India’s job market, overall, looks steady when compared to the last quarter. A growing demand for super specialised skills will rule the job market across industries and locations. Rapid technological advancement is touching every corner of business and companies are looking for professionals who are creative thinkers, agile adapters and fast learners. Hiring parameters are, therefore, changing, with increasing demand for higher calibre candidates in the lower age group to fit the job requirements. Those with the right skills and a learning curve will remain relevant in the world of work.

Moving on, Covid-19 has compelled educational institutions to remain closed in various parts of the country, hampering the growth of millions of children. In response to the global health emergency, Avaya Holdings Corp. has announced that it will provide its Avaya Spaces collaboration software for free to education institutions in India till August 2020. This includes colleges and universities as well as non-profit organisations.

As per an official press release, Avaya Spaces offers the tools required to deliver lectures and schoolwork safely and securely over the web. It provides a cloud meeting and team collaboration solution that enables people and organizations to connect and collaborate remotely – and goes beyond integrating chat, voice, video, online meetings and content sharing. It gives users an extensive set of meeting and team collaboration features, including voice and video conferencing for up to 200 participants. As a mobile-enabled solution, it gives users a simple, secure and effective way to track communications and manage tasks when travel and connectivity are limited.

“We are actively engaging with universities and schools to help them coordinate remote worker/education strategies leveraging our expertise and solutions like Avaya Spaces. This solution is recognised for its ease of implementation and the significant impact it can have on organisational resilience and continuity,” highlighted Vishal Agrawal, managing director, Avaya India and SAARC. Since January, the company has seen a 200 per cent increase in video collaboration traffic on its platform.

Nevertheless, Covid-19 has affected buying trends among consumers. As per CRISIL’s Credit Alert titled ‘Covid-19: Credit pressure intensifies for India Inc,’ considering the World Health Organization has declared the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic, an unprecedented global disruption is at hand. The Government of India has suspended all extant visas (barring specified exceptions) up to 15 April 2020. Such drastic containment measures are being implemented worldwide.

The Credit Alert foresees business reducing for airlines, hotels, malls, multiplexes and restaurants. Demand for some products such as eggs and poultry could also be impacted. In the services sector, information technology would be affected because of physical restrictions.

“Lower business volumes and occupancies, and sub-optimal efficiencies will impact the profitability of companies. While some affected companies may initiate cost-curtailment measures, these may not be enough given high fixed costs. That could impair the credit profiles,” explained Subodh Rai, senior director, CRISIL Ratings. More importantly, near-term liquidity is critical to ensuring confidence in timely debt servicing as businesses adjust to the fast-changing operating environment.

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