Wipro Redeploys Some Engineering Staff to BPO

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Indian outsourcer Wipro has decided to assign to its business process outsourcing (BPO) operations some of the software engineers it had promised to hire from college campuses.

The move is a consequence of the global economic crisis which is hurting Indian outsourcing companies.

Rather than keep some of these students waiting without jobs, the company decided to offer them the option to work as technical support engineers at the company's BPO operations in Kolkata in eastern India, at the salary they had been promised, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The staff were assured that they would be moved to IT services and software engineering work in about 12 to 18 months, and their experience at the BPO would be counted, she said. Those made an offer also had the option to refuse and wait until an opening came up in IT services and software engineering, she added.

About 95 percent of the engineering recruits offered jobs in the company's BPO operations in Kolkata accepted, the spokeswoman said.

The offer by Wipro created a furor in Kolkata after some students protested Wipro's move.

In India, working at BPOs and call centers is not considered as prestigious as working in software engineering and IT services functions.

If Wipro had not made the offer to campus recruits it would have to hire fresh engineers from outside for its BPO operations, the spokeswoman said.

India's IT services industry will hire 200,000 new staff in the Indian fiscal year to March 31, compared to an earlier expectation of about 276,000 new hires, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) said last month.

Indian outsourcing companies are trying a number of strategies to avoid laying off staff despite the economic crisis and a market slowdown. These companies, which were earlier facing severe staff shortages, find that retaining good staff will also be critical once the downturn is over. Most of them are still seeing revenue growth, if a little slower than in previous years.

Infosys Technologies, another large Indian outsourcer, said that it would not lay off staff, and is on track to take in new hires. As business gets reduced, the company is redeploying staff on internal IT projects, research and development work, and on training, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Wipro made offers to 13,500 students during the fiscal year to March 31 this year. The staff were to be hired during the current fiscal year, and already about 4,000 staff have been recruited, the company spokeswoman said. The company plans to hire the rest, though that may get delayed because of the economic crisis, she added. The company has made 8,000 fresh offers to engineering students since March.

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