No Reason to Panic, says Top Brass, But Staff Fear for Jobs
Recruiters say some functions could undergo rationalisation
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.
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