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Rewards aplenty as Indian IT firms finally recognise tech talents

On a bright morning recently, the 40-acre Intel India campus in the hi-tech corridor of Outer Ring Road in Bangalore may well have been the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. Except it wasn’t the Oscars, and the superstars walking the red carpet weren’t actors. This was Intel’s innovation jamboree, Intel India Innovation Day, which included a specially-designed felicitation ceremony for its newly-appointed five Principal Engineers and two senior Principal Engineers along with their families. As these celebrated techies walked the red carpet with their family, beaming under the arc lights while the upbeat music amped up the mood, about a 1,000 employees in the audience broke into thunderous applause. 

Intel India is but one example of a massive shift underway in the Indian information technology (IT) industry where technical talent is increasingly being recognised, much more than ever before. Many leading technology companies are now bestowing a lot of focus and visibility on their senior technologist roles which are becoming highly aspirational among techies.

For an industry that is known to extravagantly reward its sales teams, which are the revenue generators and thus the ‘stars’ at companies, experts believe this is a tectonic shift.

“As markets mature and consolidate, this phenomenon (of attaching importance to technology teams) is bound to happen because the initial euphoria is replaced with quality, speed and prediction, for which people with strong technological understanding would be needed,” says Elango R, chief human resources officer for mid-sized IT services company Mphasis. 

And that is what Intel is trying to achieve with its felicitations of its in-house talents. “Intel India has a deep focus on not just developing leaders but leaders with world class technical expertise and strong understanding of the industry…They are well respected and their contributions are immensely valued by the organization,” said Kumud Srinivasan, president, Intel India.

Earlier this month, Infosy, India’s second largest IT services company, announced 5,000 promotions mainly to rein in steep employee attrition. According to sources, most of these out-of-turn promotions are being given to technical talent.

Specialists are in high demand because in a mature market they can help in winning deals and providing the value that clients see. Thus, specialists will be “disproportionately rewarded and disproportionately recognised”, says Elango.

The recent appointment of highly-accomplished technocrat and thought leader Vishal Sikka as the chief executive office (CEO) of Infosys is indeed a clear testimony of how the Indian IT services industry is maturing as asll as the direction it is headed in, say experts. 
Bangalore-based IT major, Wipro is another example of how companies are moving towards recognising technology talent more than ever before. The company, whose bread-and-butter is coding software solutions for global clients, has created a technical position considered the equivalent of the CEO. The rank and benefits for the position are at par with that of the CEO, bar the external facing role.
“About six months ago, we created something what we called a distinguished member of technical staff. We said irrespective of what happens, if you fit a certain criteria, you can have a job in the technical side, which is my job. You may not be an external-facing CEO – probably you don’t want to be – but your rank and privileges will be equal to my job,” T K Kurien, CEO of Wipro, told Business Standard.

At the same time, Wipro has also created a pool of highly accomplished technical experts who are specialists in certain technologies, who speak publicly on the subject and have filed patents, irrespective of their age. This year alone, Wipro has identified around six such talents who will report directly to the CEOs in certain areas.

“We are creating an entire career for people who are technically very competent irrespective of age. So you won’t have to be 50 plus. You can be 20 years of age but if you are technically good, that’s where you can land up. So it’s a completely different career path,” said Kurien.

Kunal Sen, senior vice president of HR consulting firm TeamLease Services and who tracks HR trends in the Indian IT services sector, also believes that professionals with technical background are increasingly becoming important for companies for several reasons.

“Traditionally techies were used for pre-sales more than sales/account management roles since many did not enjoy the rigours of field selling and were lower on softer skills like presentation skills, negotiation skills, etc required to techno-commercially convince CXOs of large accounts and close orders within timelines. However the situation has now changed with a lot of face-to-face meetings getting replaced by remote meetings and techies working on their softer skills,” he said.

The geeks, it would seem, are readying to rule again. 

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