Outsourcing: India's army of bounty hunters fill jobs

Staff cash in on employee referrals to plug skills gaps...

Many firms in the West reward staff who successfully introduce acquaintances to fill internal vacancies. But Indian outsourcers have taken this approach to a new level, says Saritha Rai.

Six months ago in Cochin, a picturesque city on the southwest coast of India, software engineer Gopikrishna Munnoorpillil, 28, joined Wipro, the country's third largest IT services firm, in the retail domain. Since then, Munnoorpillil has been something of a recruiting whirlwind for his company.

He has referred six of his friends for various positions at Wipro, all in the same retail domain. Three of these were hired, one was rejected and the other two are "in process". Munnoorpillil says: "Wipro is a good company and my friends are well qualified, so why not?"

In a sweetener for Munnoorpillil, Wipro's long-standing employee-referral programme will hand him a cash incentive for each new hire he refers. "I will make a reasonable sum of money," says Munnoorpillil, who himself joined through a friend's reference. He says it is not about the money or friendship: "They are all proven technical talent that will fit in very nicely in the company."

Circle of acquaintances
In another southern Indian city, Hyderabad, Wipro's senior software engineer Narayana Gowda has successfully referred half a dozen candidates from his circle of acquaintances. Gowda himself joined the company seven months ago when the Hyderabad unit of a European software services firm shut down. Since then, he has drafted several former colleagues to Wipro's telecoms teams.

"Sure, I was helping out my friends," says Gowda. "But I was also lending my company a hand in a domain where good people are in short supply."

Many large Indian outsourcing firms are targeting hires through employee referrals

Many large Indian outsourcing firms are targeting a third to half their lateral hires through employee referrals
Photo: Shutterstock

Employees like Munnoorpillil and Gowda are the new soldiers in the fierce talent war being waged in India's labour-challenged technology sector. As companies leave behind the recession and get back on the hiring fast-track, employee-referral programmes have come into renewed focus. Many large organisations are targeting a third to half their lateral hires through such programmes.

Employee-referral programmes are not new to India's IT sector. But, as Indian companies have grown in recent years, their hiring too has climbed to...