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Jobs abound in India's tech sector

Students at India's Institutes of Technology
Students at India's Institutes of Technology

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BANGALORE, India (Reuters) -- Software engineer Prakash just quit his job in Bangalore, but he's not worried.

"The market is booming. I can pick and choose a firm of my choice," said the 28-year-old engineer, who has been in the industry for about five years.

Companies are slashing payrolls in the United States and Europe to cut costs, moving software work offshore and creating thousands of jobs for India's low-cost engineers.

Headhunters are scrambling to fill the new jobs.

"The shelf life of a job hunter has come down to two weeks from about two months," said Gautam Sinha, chief executive at TVA Infotech, which is placing about 90 software workers a month, double the number from the start of the year.

Top home-grown software exporters such as Wipro Ltd and Infosys Technologies Ltd are also on a hiring spree but the bulk of their staff additions are entry-level positions.

India's software sector, including the back-office services industry, added 130,000 -- nearly 25 percent -- to its workforce in the year to March, taking the sector to 650,000. Wage costs are rising but are not yet a threat for a nation that churns out about 200,000 engineers per year, analysts say.

Software workers with two years of experience are paid about 25,000 rupees ($545) a month, roughly one sixth of what their U.S. counterparts earn but a princely wage in a country with an average per capita income of $480 a year.

"Multinational company salaries are 50 to 60 percent higher at the entry-level and 30 percent higher at the middle management level when compared with Indian IT services companies," Bombay-based Kotak Securities Ltd said in a recent report.

Wage hikes

A fall in U.S. employment visas for foreign workers is partly driving the expansion plans of high-tech firms such as IBM, Accenture Ltd and Oracle Corp. in India. Visa curbs discourage Indians from seeking employment abroad and some are returning from a stint overseas.

"Clearly, the romance of jobs overseas is no longer there for most Indian techies," said Pandia Rajan, the managing director at Ma Foi Management Consultants, a leading headhunter.

Walk-in interviews are common in the shining offices of companies in the technology hubs of Bangalore, Madras and Hyderabad in the south and Delhi and Bombay in the west.

India's call centers have been magnets for job-hunting youth in the past few years, but it is only in the last six months that software jobs are flooding the market after a two-year crunch. India's software services exports rose to $9.5 billion in the past year to March and are forecast to grow 26 percent this year.

"Many Indians overseas are uncertain about their tech jobs and are coming back," said Smita Goswamy, who runs HR Solutions, a small consultancy in the western city of Baroda.

International hiring

A full-page advertisement from IBM screams: "The global giant is at your desktop with the opportunity of a lifetime. Can you afford to ignore it?"

Internet media giant Yahoo Inc. and Fidelity Investments, the number one mutual fund firm, are among other large companies moving technical support work to India.

Yahoo, which set up a software center in Bangalore in July, is tapping local colleges for talent, said Venkat Panchapakesan, who shifted from Yahoo's U.S. center to head its software unit.

Accenture and Oracle are expanding furiously but their staff in India is still less than a quarter of Infosys and Wipro, which employ about 17,000 and 21,000 people respectively.

"Overseas firms are even hiring from mid-sized local players," said Bangalore-based Shambhu Agrawal, who handles technology placements at ABC Consultants.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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