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India Inc asks new recruits to 'stay home'

By Pavan Lall & Dev Chatterjee
April 02, 2020 23:08 IST
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Many firms have asked those joining on April 1 to delay their on-boarding by 2-3 months. The outlook for the airline, tourism, hotel, and media industries is bleak too.

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Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

Several firms are asking new recruits, including top management hires, to defer their joining date till the pandemic subsides and not quit from their current organisations.

The development comes amid drying cash flows for India Inc.

 

Chief executives (CEOs) and head-hunters say that besides an across-the-board freeze on hiring, a salary cut for staff starting April is a possibility.

Many firms have asked those joining on April 1 to delay their on-boarding by 2-3 months.

“While we have on-boarded several staff digitally who were hired earlier in the year, there is no plan to hire anymore till the end of lockdown and until there is visibility on cash flows,” said the CEO of an infrastructure firm.

The outlook for the airline, tourism, hotel, and media industries is bleak too.

“Forget new hires, paying salaries to existing staff is a problem, given the entire aircraft fleet is on ground,” an executive of an airline said.

Pallavi Kathuria, managing partner of Egon Zehnder India (an executive search firm), said hiring has been especially hit in the process and manufacturing sectors.

“We do not have a clear view of how things will develop in the next few weeks, but are expecting a slowdown in new CEO appointments, even as offers for non-exigent roles have been postponed to July,” said Kathuria.

“Companies that don’t lay-off or have smaller teams are unlikely to cut bonuses or salaries as of now, but it’s early days.”

For a CEO to be hired by a stakeholder, several meetings must happen ‘face-to-face’, which will be pushed back at least a couple of months.

This is especially tough for MNCs not based here. Besides, on account of the quarantine of incoming passengers, many expatriates have delayed their joining dates.

Ritu Kochhar, who leads the financial services and boards practice at Spencer Stuart India, said issues like continuity, running a business, and succession are those that are driving searches to still be made.

“Private equity-backed firms that need a CEO or CFO are also not stopping, but are pushing the actual hire date.”

Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of Teamlease, said: “Most organisations have not assessed how much of an impact this will have on their operations, and when recovery will start.

"So, what we see is entities creating two business plans - one in a coronavirus-extended world, and one in which there is a quicker recovery.”

Business for most of March was as usual, until the first “voluntary lockdown” happened, after which there has been a slowdown in hiring and staffing, she added.

Sonal Agrawal, managing partner at Accord Group India, said existing searches continue, though some have slowed down.

“Interestingly, we have seen three C-suite e-joinings during the lockdown, one of them in quarantine.

"At the junior level, most firms have gone into a freeze mode, with offers delayed or cancelled, and increments and bonus being pushed back or cancelled.”

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Pavan Lall & Dev Chatterjee in Mumbai
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