How to stay relevant in the Indian IT job market

15th May 2018
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“I am fired.” This is the fourth time I heard this line in the past six months. Thanks to the layoffs by the India IT industry, four of my friends, along with 56,000 others, have lost their jobs in 2017 in the sector. Little did we know that the sense of relief and happiness after receiving the offer letter won’t last too long.

After graduating from one of the engineering colleges in India, while my friends were excited to be placed among the top Indian IT companies, I had my own plans.

I still remember one of them rejoicing, saying: “This is it! Mera life toh set hai bhai!” after receiving the job offer letter.

Seven months later, I get a call from the same guy who furiously says: “They made us sit on the bench for the first three months, and after training, we were already on the firing line.” Abrupt firing seems to be the new norm in the industry.

The recently exposed firing call by a Tech Mahindra HR is just the tip of the iceberg.

Needless to say, my friend got fired the very next month and returned home.

While my other pals have continued to work without choice, not a single call goes without them complaining about job dissatisfaction, lack of recognition, growth, appraisals, office politics, insane work pressure, and low pay.

While this is the story of just a few of my friends, it is relatable to several such IT graduates who either got fired in 2017 or are still miserable hanging in there.

Also, thanks to Trump’s new H1B visa regulations, it is safe to say that the current IT field is not as dreamy as it was in the early 2000s - especially for fresh graduates in India.

The impact of AI and Automation

With the advancement in technology, especially in areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud, and Data Science do promise a bright future, the education opportunities in India for these upcoming technologies is still in a very nascent stage and only resorted to premier institutions like the IITs.

In fact, the head of career development at IIT Guwahati, K Mohanty, was quoted as saying: “It is virtually impossible to fix (the demand for AI talent) in India’s 3,300 engineering colleges…The curriculum (in colleges) is not that suitable for AI”.

Added to this, the same AI and automation technologies are predicted to cut IT staff by 70 percent in India in the near future. The immense pressure from clients to embrace AI, and to reduce operational costs, are compelling IT companies to reduce headcount. Gartner’s research director DD Mishra believes that eventually, only 30 percent of the IT workforce will remain relevant.

Needless to say, the primary victims of the ongoing and upcoming “cost-optimisation” programmes will be the thousands of low-to-medium skilled fresh IT graduates.

Digital Marketing - An exciting new industry

With over 460 million users, India is the second-largest internet user market in the world, after China. This number is expected to reach a whopping 500 million by June 2018 and 829 million by 2021,

A study by Google and KPMG shows that by 2021, about 75 percent of Indian internet user base will be in regional Indian languages.

The high cost-effectiveness offered by the digital media, compared to traditional TV and print advertising, has the ability to powerfully target and personalise ads to the relevant audience in the digital networks and increase in smartphone adoption are some other reasons for this emerging trend.

Right from e-commerce, FMCG, to financial and banking services, to the technology sector, every industry needs an established digital presence and marketing strategy today.

However, there is a wide gap of talent in digital marketing not only in India, but the entire world. Studies show that 66 percent of Indian business leaders feel finding the right digital talent is a challenge.

Talent gap has been listed as one of the top digital marketing trends to watch out for in 2018, by Forbes Communications Council. The article says that in order to attract and retain talent, HR managers may have to create customised compensation packages for high-performing individuals who deliver a high return on investment (RoI).

As brands invest more in the digital media, an effective orchestration of such large-scale campaigns demands talented workforce across fields like social media marketing, content marketing, mobile marketing, SEO at both senior and entry levels.

Currently, the average salary of a digital marketing specialist is about 3 lakhs INR PA and whereas that of a professional with over six years experience is above Rs 17 lakh! Since this is a performance-driven career, the money you make is directly proportional to the value and ROI you generate for your employer.

I don’t like to brag, but when I started as an intern at an inbound marketing agency, I had very humble beginnings. As a new disinterested engineering graduate, I took the digital marketing path as an experiment. After much learning, research, and self-training, I was recognised by my employer and was offered multiple promotions within a year. I would definitely have not grown at this rate, had I stuck to a job in my core department.

You don’t need an MBA to learn digital marketing

Currently, there are very few educational institutions that offer digital marketing courses. I learnt that digital marketing is an ever-changing field, and demands practical experience more than theory. It requires you to constantly learn about emerging trends, update your skills, and experiment in order to stay competent - something a traditional MBA programme cannot offer.

Moreover, the quality of most of our management educational institutions is substandard - only 7 percent of management graduates are employable according to studies.

Getting started

A large part of a digital marketer’s job requires logical and analytical reasoning and interpretation of data. Since digital marketing is a non-technical field, it is easy to learn the relevant skills. There are several free reputable digital marketing courses and blogs available online. Certification courses of HubSpot and Google are a good starting point for beginners.

As someone who travelled this path, I would suggest students to look for internships. Internship sites like Internshala or Hello Intern are flooded with requirements in the digital space. Practical experience is the key to success. Agencies are usually the perfect place to kick-start your career since you will get a chance to work in multiple client projects and can learn things super-fast.

Final thoughts

Most IT engineers today have pursued/are pursuing their bachelors either due to parental pressure, peer pressure or because of misinformed decision-making. If your story is also on these lines, take the risk as I did. It’s worth it! The digital world is still booming and set to explode in the near future. Take the early bird advantage before it’s too late!

Either way, I wish you the best in your job hunt.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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Tirumala Vedurumudi
Tirumala Vedurumudi is an Account-Based and Inbound Marketing Strategy Practice Lead at The SMarketers - An India based Inbound and Account-Based Marketing agency that helps B2B companies achieve marketing and sales goals. He is also a contributor for popular business and marketing websites like Jeff Bullas and Business2Community. Feel free to connect with The SMarketers for a free marketing review and strategy setting. You can connect with him directly on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email - shourie8@gmail.com

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