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The year you were born

The year you were born has been one of the greatest differentiator between you and your peers in the industry today. though the software industry had its modest beginnings around 1980 with microsoft being in the lead, it was the inception of Infosys in India around 1991 that really set the pace for India Inc to take shape. The engineering batches prior to 1993 were that of yearly courses. It was only from 1993 that Bangalore University adopted the semester scheme which made it easy for the students to finish off with a crisp set of topics for every semester and completing their degree in eight semesters. During these days both students and the software industry were more or less evolving with the same pace in Bangalore. I say Bangalore, becuase this is where the growth story had its start!

I was particularly lucky to have atleast three levels of heirarchical seniors in my academic domain. While the first batch of semester students of 1993 did have a pretty tough time getting the ball rolling, we piggy backed on their experiences to chart out a pre-analysed study schedule for ourselves during 1995. It is worth noting here that these first batch of students did not have any concept of campus recruitments from any company except for one or two colleges in Bangalore. And even if they did the only companies to talk about were Infosys, or Wipro during those days. Having said this, each batch of students had and continue to have their own challenges to face between 1993 until now. But the period between 1997 and 2002 was perhaps the most phenomenal for India Inc in my opinion as most of you would also tend to agree. We dont know how many more such phenomenal years are ahead and only time will say. Why does the title of this post say “the year you were born …” ?

Well, strictly it should have been the year you graduated! I was born in 1977, and graduated in 1999. Whats so great about that you might ask!? For the context of this post, it makes a lot of relevance. People who graduated in the late eighties, and very early nineties founded companies like Infosys in India. At the time my seniors graduated in 1996-7, the old men of the late eighties were millionaires cashing in on the “start” of the impending software boom in Bangalore, leave alone India. My seniors were not that straightforwardly lucky, especially the ones two years older to me. The had no company willing to recruit them, they had not many companies to go about to and market themselves and they perhaps were cursing themselves to be the first batch of jobless engineers in the making. Well time does change everything doesnt it? These guys too found jobs somehow, somewhere and with someone willing to recruit them and they made an extremely modest beginning with India Inc, unlike the millionaires of yesteryears who are the visionaries of today!

Then came the turn of my immediate seniors, older to me by one year who were I should say perhaps the luckiest batch with respect to campus placements. The software industry reared is hissing head and began sounding omniously huge with mega plans to change India as early as 1997-8. As a result 40 top companies in Bangalore (should I say what a growth in one year?) expressed their interest for campus placements in my college alone. You name the company and it was found on my college campus. I could only barely contain my anxiety and enthusiasm seeing this development as the next year it would be my turn.Come 1998-9 and to my luck India Inc took a different turn and things started to go onto the backburner for these companies. Neither were there 80 companies this time, nor were the same number of students recruited as much as for my senior batch.

The culprit : Y2K. Or can i call it pre-Y2k syndrome? There was lot of work going on to save the systems from getting obsolete due the onset of the new millenium. This work alone trasnlated to a mini boom for India Inc as it affected every project and every walk of life. The sheer number of things getting obsolete presented a huge opportunity for India Inc. So then the recruitments for my batch were supposed to have been phenomenal by any indications. But the companies always know the best for themselves and most of them unanimously accepted the grim post Y2K scenario as early as 1999 where all the work after 2000 would obviously drop to real low levels. This only meant enthusiastic engineers newly recruited would meet a nasty end even before they began.

The result: Only 20 companies compared to the 40 the previous year, and double the number of candidates for competition! What a pity for students, though at an analytical standpoint the companies did the right thing I must say rather than to have dealt with the bloated workforce later post 2000. Neither were they willing to take that risk nor were they too well equipped to predict what would lie ahead. Companies decided to wait and watch for 1999-2000 and this was a severe blow for the students of that batch, including me.

Starting again from where I left off in Part-1 of this article, 1999 was my turn to be churned out as an engineer. Except that it wasn’t exactly a budding engineer! Of the 20 companies due to intense competition, I could get in to a firm only at the fag end and the firm was into Y2K maintenance work and not much to my liking as well. And they deferred my appointment by six months to add fuel to the fire. So then began the hard search for a job where me and my friend (who was not so lucky to even have these 20 companies, but only 2) roamed the famous streets of Bangalore literally flooding our resumes to whichever company we bumped into on the way.

One day very early in the morning, I heard a loud knock on my door and it was the same friend of mine who I had gone out with earlier, who shook me and woke me up. There was a walk-in interview schedule in Wipro, one of the top companies in Bangalore. I was nowhere near prepared with anything to take this up, but still my friend thought I should give a try. There were only 15 minutes left to report and I rushed there without anything in my hand but a pen. A huge crowd of nearly 1200 people were in the waiting. They needed a copy of my marksheets, my photos and some other details. I had none of them. Thanks to my friend again he had a copy of all those! (Friends in need are friends indeed). After the first round of this walk-in, 630 people were selected, after the second round 310, after the third round 200 and after the last round only a mere 56 people were on the rolls of Wipro – I WAS THERE! This was for a trainee position, wherein I underwent two months of rigorous (7am-8pm) training and then two more rounds of interview of which a mere 36 people were actually offered a job. I WAS AGAIN THERE! The same Wipro which I could not get into while in college (my first company on campus), I got into now. Thanking my stars was the only thing I could do in these difficult times.

My juniors had more worse times in the waiting. Post Y2k was the dot com bust, which rendered thousands of people jobless, and more of the potential new entrants’ hopes were crashed too. These were for the people of graduating batch 2000 and 2001. Come 2002 & 2003 and they had a much more difficult challenge – the World Trade Towers had just collapsed and this sent the American and subsequently the largely dependent Indian economy reeling. Thousands of layoffs only worsened the matters for new joinees. Their appointments were deferred by almost one year! Call it a curse or whatever. Most Indian companies learnt to reorganize their dependencies on America alone so that no one will be caught unawares in such a situation were it to happen again anytime in the future.

The last three years 2004 – 2007 has seen a strong oursourcing wave in India, making it possible for thousands of people to land jobs quite easily as companies are on the recruiting spree even now. With a host of benefits and large pay packets, and add to it geographical expansions all over the country has made it easy for youngsters to land good jobs. This obviously has to have a caveat and the people who still suffer are those who have been academically incapable (though not intellectually) – (read) people who have scored less in their graduating degree. Companies now want only the cream of people which has still left most others in the lurch. And this is a challenge which is not so easily conquerable as you cannot reverse your adademic scores! The only way then is to study higher and hope that a dual degree would solve your employment problems to some extent. The students are onto it, and companies are also taking note of this progress.

What the coming years would have as challenges are yet to be seen. But if there are any indicators, its wise to take note of them – Reverse outsourcing by companies, Mergers and Acquisitions, Emergence of non traditional sectors of engineering in a big way, Rising rupee costs, the pointers are many. And needless to say only the smartest in the human race will survive. When the going gets tough, everyone gets going is the motto for the Indian IT industry. The only difference is some people scale higher altitudes, the rest go home.

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