India’s top four IT companies hired 1,940 employees on a net basis in the third quarter of FY23, down 93 percent from the previous quarter.
Net addition by Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, and HCLTech reduced 45 percent to 28,836 employees in the second quarter from the first quarter, when 52,842 employees were recruited.
This declining trend in headcount addition comes in the backdrop of a cautionary demand environment, a challenging environment in certain verticals in major markets such as North America and Europe, and a slowdown in discretionary spends.
Even though a slowing hiring trend is often considered a sign of easing demand, top executives of IT companies don’t believe this is the case.
Situation at Indian IT firms
TCS said its headcount dropped by 2,197 employees from the previous quarter.
Wipro said there was a reduction of 435 employees.
This was the first time in 10 quarters that the headcount at the end of a quarter for both companies was lower than in the previous quarter.
Infosys added 1,627 employees.
HCLTech hired 2,945 employees, the most among the four companies.
Net headcount of Infosys, TCS and Wipro has declined in each quarter of FY23.
Utilising excess talent
The companies blame the lower or negative net headcount addition to talent investments they made previously and said they are now working to make that talent productive.
In the case of TCS, chief human resources officer Milind Lakkad said the company invested in fresh talent along with talent development to make them productive, and that investment coupled with tightening led to a negative headcount.
“That does not indicate anything on the demand side. Demand is high, we are just operating very efficiently right now,” he claimed.
Infosys CEO Salil Parekh said the company wants to ensure that all the talent it has hired is trained and ready to be deployed.
The company’s quarterly annualised attrition is trending downwards and in Q3 of FY23 it was at the lowest in seven quarters.
It added 11,000 employees in Q4 of FY22, which dipped to 2,089 in Q1 of FY23, spiked to 8,359 in Q2 of FY23 and again declined to 2,945 in Q3 of FY23.
Chief financial officer Prateek Aggarwal said the company has focussed on hiring freshers and lateral hiring has reduced.
Chief people officer Ramachandran Sundararajan said net addition is a function of attrition and campus hiring in the previous quarter, when they took in a higher number of freshers.
He said gross hiring will be moderated when there is a significant drop in attrition.
On the topic of whether this was an indicator of demand, he said it looks at net headcount addition on a rolling 12-month basis and projecting a one-quarter snapshot for future quarters may not give the true picture.
“We need to look at it on a trailing 12-month basis, so I don’t see this as an indication of any moderation to growth,” he elaborated.
On fresher hiring, Sundararajan said that HCLTech hired over 22,000 freshers in FY23 and is approaching its target of 30,000 freshers for the year.
Having an optimistic outlook, Sundararajan said, “We may fall slightly marginally below that [fresher hiring target] and that’s a moderation that we’re doing because of the improvements in the retention rates… The extent to which we have seen attrition drop quarter-on-quarter for the last couple of quarters, I think that’s significant and it is very encouraging”.
Wipro is expected to close with hiring 22,000 freshers as against an initial target of 30,000 freshers for the year.
It added 3,000 freshers in Q3, and about 5,000 are expected to be added in Q4.
CHRO Saurabh Govil said the company had invested in talent ahead of time and has low utilisation.
“We have a bench (strength), where utilisation can go up. We have headspace of four or five percentage points by utilisation.
We are hiring and training them and keeping them ready to manage demand. From a supply-chain perspective, we don’t see a challenge,” Govil said.
Meanwhile Infosys hired about 6,000 freshers during the quarter, and TCS around 7,000.
Saran Balasundaram, CEO of tech recruitment firm Han Digital projected Campus hiring in FY23 to be significantly lower than last year.
“Last year, about 4.8-5.2 lakh were successfully hired. This financial year, successful campus hires will not be more than 3.8 lakh,” he said.
Anshuman Das, CEO of Careernet, expects campus hiring in calendar 2023 to be hit as companies honour offers they have already made.
“A lot of the company’s campus hiring plans are reasonably muted, 50-60 percent down from last year’s number,” he said.
Lateral hiring, too, has come down.
There were 1.3 million job changes in FY22 and in the first three quarters of FY23, there have not been more than 800,000 job shifts.
Das of Careernet said a lot of the hiring used to happen for attrition, however doesn’t expect a situation where hiring slows down further.
TeamLease Digital CEO Sunil Chemmankotil opines that companies went overboard in some areas when the market was bullish and those attritions are not getting refilled.
Now, since discretionary spending is slowing down, companies may not backfill all attrition, he said.
How IT spending is distributed
About 20 percent of all IT spend happens for legacy system replacements with the latest technology, but those budgets can be deferred, he added.
The remaining 80 percent is when they work on actively building products and maintenance.
“There they will refill, but I think since discretionary spend budgets are not at the same level as what it was in the previous year, refills may not happen to that extent,” he commented.