As the global economy stared at a chaotic meltdown in the closing months of 2022, the tech industry, known for its explosive growth, confronted unprecedented challenges. As IT giants and startups scrambled to sustain profitability and viability, employee layoffs became a common strategy. However, India's IT industry defied the trend, emerging unscathed and even stronger while global tech giants grappled with the crisis.
This pattern is not unprecedented. Over the past three decades, the Indian IT industry has consistently demonstrated resilience during global downturns. Following the apprehensions of a slowdown post Y2K, it emerged even stronger. Similarly, during the IT bubble burst in 2001 and the global economic crisis in 2008, the Indian IT industry defied the global trend.
However, the pressing question remains: Will history repeat itself? Is the current situation any different from the past?
The answer is no.
Considering this, what are the realities that employees should reckon with? Will the global tech layoffs in the USA and other countries affect Indian professionals, or can professionals avoid them by taking proactive measures to stay relevant?
In past global crises, the Indian IT industry managed to emerge stronger and grow in demand because of the huge pool of quality talent, cost arbitrage, and resilience. When the West was desperately thinking about how to rationalise the cost, India emerged as a great option for shifting jobs because of these reasons.
Fast forward to today, and the Indian IT industry has transformed. Indian professionals deliver much more than they did in the past, both qualitatively and knowledge-wise. Consequently, customer expectations have shot up. The cost of talent has gone up significantly compared to the past, especially with the changes we saw in the last couple of years. With this, India is no longer a market with a huge cost advantage. When it comes to decision-making on cost rationalisation, Indian IT professionals get compared to their peers in the Western world.
In the cycles of ups and downs, the current uncertainty will finally taper off, but there may be more challenging crises in the future. Further, the nature of work will undergo phenomenal changes with tools like ChatGPT and other models developed using emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. The nature of work that is in demand today might become obsolete in the next couple of years. Companies will always be under pressure to remain profitable. There might be issues with fine-sizing and finding people conversant with the new tech tools. Hence, the only way for professionals to stay relevant is through upskilling and learning new skills. The years of relevant experience do matter, but more important will be the ability to do more, and the willingness to learn more to adapt to newer things. That will decide a professional’s demand in the market.
The current crisis has spawned another problem for professionals. In the last two-three years, perhaps the number of people who lost their jobs in the Indian IT industry has been meager. But there have been significant changes in the functioning of organisations due to new situations like high attrition. Skilled people can walk into any company and land a job. However, the situation is such that professionals do not really get to enjoy their environment due to the air of instability. This is especially applicable to professionals whose work output depends on the work done by others. Professionals who enjoy work are those who are more “content rich”, which means they work and lead by knowing and enjoying what they are doing rather than being just people managers.
For a professional, it is also important to be part of organisations that take people's decisions into account, not just the overall financials for a particular year. It is always more enriching and fulfilling to work for a company that takes a long-term perspective on people's decisions.
The latest round of economic meltdown was definitely fraught with seminal consequences for the tech industry, but it was not without silver linings. India’s tech industry has proven that even a crisis of such magnitude can be effectively cushioned. The COVID pandemic had one of the most critical lessons for companies: digitise or perish. Companies across various sectors are now pumped for further digitisation. This makes the role of technical experts critical, and there will always be opportunities for technically competent and willing-to-learn professionals.