No Rea­son to Panic, says Top Brass, But Staff Fear for Jobs

Re­cruiters say some func­tions could un­dergo ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion

The Economic Times - - The Telecom Files -

Ni­harika Ban­er­jee & Dev­ina Sen­gupta

Mum­bai: On Mon­day, while Idea Cel­lu­lar was pre­par­ing to launch a spec­trum of its dig­i­tal apps, one of its em­ploy­ees got to know that Voda­fone had in­deed con­firmed merger talks with the Aditya Birla owned-com­pany.

He, how­ever, de­cided not to dis­cuss what he had heard. “I am new in my role — what if I lose my job?” said the 33 yearold em­ployee who works as a mid­dle man­ager with Idea Cel­lu­lar. But he per­haps voiced the anx­i­ety of the 30,000plus em­ploy­ees of both firms who have been hear­ing such mur­murs for a while now.

Even ver­ti­cal heads of both com­pa­nies had stepped in to clear the air, and stressed that there was no rea­son to panic. On Mon­day night though, Su­nil Sood, MD and CEO of Voda­fone In­dia Ltd, in a let­ter ad­mit­ted that merger talks were pre­lim­i­nary, and that there was no cer­tainty that the deal would go through.

He also em­pha­sised that em­ploy­ees should carry on with their task and fo­cus on “cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence”.

“I would like to em­pha­sise that our busi­ness con­tin­ues as usual, and we should con­tinue to fo­cus on our busi­ness pri­or­i­ties and reg­u­lar op­er­a­tions,” Sood wrote in an email to the team. Few kilo­me­ters away in Mum­bai, Idea Cel­lu­lar’s MD Himanshu Ka­pa­nia too stres- sed that talks were pre­lim­i­nary. “We were told that this will take time and that there’s noth­ing to worry about for now. We were told to fo­cus on work,” one of the se­nior ex­ec­u­tives of Idea said. The Voda­fone Group said that it’s “busi­ness as usual”. It de­clined to com­ment fur­ther, say­ing, “There’s no cer­tainty that any trans­ac­tion will be agreed, nor as to the terms and tim­ing of any trans­ac­tion.” Idea didn’t re­spond to emails seek­ing com­ment till press-time.

LAY­OFF WOR­RIES

But de­spite both com­pa­nies stat­ing that there was no con­fir­ma­tion of any such al­liance, wa­ter cooler con­ver­sa­tions in both of­fices veered around pos­si­ble lay­offs, dif­fer­ing work styles of both com­pa­nies, and how they will have to adapt to different cul­tures. A Voda­fone em­ployee, who had been with the num­ber two telco for four years, said that

em­ploy­ees are ex­pect­ing a 30% re­duc­tion in man­power if the merger in­deed takes place.

“We are con­fused at the mo­ment. Spec­u­la­tions were al­ways around the merger is­sue, but con­fir­ma­tion by the com­pa­nies proved our fears were right. Many em­ploy­ees have al­ready started look­ing out,” the em­ployee said on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

Re­cruiters such as Kris Lak­sh­mikanth, founder chair­man of search firm Head­hunters In­dia, said that lay­offs will hap­pen but will be re­stricted to se­niors in di­vi­sions such as HR, fi­nance, IT, be­sides cir­cle heads. This is be­cause one brand does not need two cen­tre heads in the same ge­og­ra­phy.

Re­cruiters of both staffing and search firms said that lay­offs may not be in large num­bers as em­ployee costs in telecom firms are about 6%, unlike in IT firms. They are also ex­pect­ing dis­tri­bu­tion cir­cles to re­main largely un­touched. How­ever, re­gions such as Gu­jarat and Mum­bai/Ma­ha­rash­tra could see re­trench­ment as both firms have a strong pres­ence in these ar­eas, reck­oned A Ra­machan­dran, part­ner at EMA Part­ners In­ter­na­tional.

Re­cruiters ex­pect lay­offs to hap­pen at the top level in HR, fi­nance, IT and cir­cle heads

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