As he settles into his new role as CEO of Randstad India, Viswanath PS is clearly excited about the human resources specialist’s growth potential in the country. "India is the land of opportunity," he points out. Randstad is going through a major transformation in India as it looks to expand its consulting business in the world’s second most populous country, he says.
"There have been different phases where we had to kind of transition out from an entrepreneur-driven family business to a large multinational corporation culture," he explains. Viswanath has also had a transitional period professionally, moving from Randstad’s CFO – a role he had held for five years – to take up the CEO position in July 2021.
"It’s been quite a journey, right from building the culture, setting the bar to global standards, and then also repurposing the team, answering questions like: why do we exist in the first place?" he says. Although the transition is still ongoing, he has been pleased with the results so far, both financially and in terms of staff engagement and satisfaction. Randstad finds itself in the sweet spot in India, which is rolling out new labour laws for companies and millions of workers.
"The sheer size of the market and the population in the country offer a plethora of opportunities. For a long period now, we are seeing a stable government, which is focused on reforms." MAKING A DIFFERENCE Compliance is still a big issue in India – making sure people get their rightful minimum wage, along with the smooth running of the Provident Fund and state insurance benefits.
"This is where Randstad can really make a difference, because these are our guiding principles," Viswanath shares. He says a big part of India’s HR services industry is still in the unorganised segment. With Randstad in the organised segment, he sees this as an opportunity to ensure people get paid fair wages and have basic social security protection. "We have a strong purpose for existence, so I feel very good about it," he adds.
The talent needs are changing. What is aspirational for them today may not be something that would remain relevant six months down the line.
According to Viswanath, the country’s HR services industry is fairly fragmented, with more than 25,000 recruitment companies, boutique permanent placement agencies and small buddy shops. He estimates the top five players in the segment control about 20 per cent of the market. "There is a lot of opportunity for us to improve our market share and grow. And then generally, as the industry grows, it’s also about how proactive we are in the market to capitalise on those opportunities."
The Indian government has also been rolling out a number of initiatives to grow the economy and upskill its workforce. These include the Make in India initiative, devised to transform the nation into a global design and manufacturing hub. Given its young and large workforce, the technology sector offers much potential for companies to tap into.
"The digital tsunami that we see is really driving the need for engineers. So basically I would say it’s a land of opportunity," Viswanath explains. While technology is a major focus, Viswanath is quick to point out India’s strengths in other sectors too – particularly retail, pharma, health care and the emergence of ecommerce as a growing industry.
Perhaps driven by gen Z and the tech titans of Silicon Valley, there is a growing trend for flexible roles over permanent ones. "Nowadays people are open to temporary jobs, but I think they obviously look at companies that can give them the right level of social security and also job security. Temporary jobs are no longer a taboo in India," he says.
Talent is changing
India’s IT sector is attractive for flexible workers as it offers them opportunities to work from home, along with Tier-2 or Tier-3 cities. "The talent needs are changing. What is aspirational for them today may not be something that would remain relevant six months down the line, and they are vocal about what they want," Viswanath says. "So we believe in continuously engaging with the talent."
Randstad carefully monitors its placements, checking in at career milestones and acting like a "career buddy". Randstad’s optimism is in part due to the size and relative youthfulness of India’s workforce – 400 million strong and with an average age of 28. Viswanath sees huge value in keeping this workforce happy and healthy, as he believes it leads to improved productivity. And nowadays, ‘healthy’ refers to both physical and mental wellbeing.
"We put over 60,000 people to work, and we help them take care of their mental wellness through initiatives like Be Kind to Your Mind, in association with external wellness partners," he reveals. "It’s also about how we keep them engaged. For us, people are the cornerstone of our success."
Viswanath has put his money where his mouth is, and added a new metric to performance targets called "return on compassion". Why? "Because it’s not just about showing empathy. It should be something beyond that," he insists. "At Randstad, we truly believe that a job doesn’t define who we are. But who we are defines the job we do. When we find the right job for the right candidate, I think that return is going to be tremendous. We call this human forward." In a post-pandemic world, this kind of thinking could go far.
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