Affected workers to be redeployed, says telecom secy Aruna Sundararajan

Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan
The Centre has woken up to the need for a rapid rehabilitation and re-skilling programme for telecom employees in the wake of the fear of large-scale unemployment in the sector. While the government is working towards redeployment of the talent pool, analysts suggest the retail sector is ripe with opportunities for this pool.

“We have to ensure the future of people at the lower level, especially those working in the retail outlets, is sustained. We are working towards stabilising the sector in the new telecom policy, to ensure sustainable jobs for these people,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on the sidelines of the 5G India Conference late on Thursday.

She said the government was opening employment avenues through schemes such as BharatNet and public Wi-Fi. It is also working with the Telecom Sector Skill Council to find ways to retrain and redeploy people and also make them competent enough to work in the 5G network.  Almost 200,000 people are employed in the industry, directly or indirectly.

The new telecom policy is in the final stage of public consultation and will be announced by next month. With 1.18 billion subscribers, India is currently the second largest telecommunications market in the world and the mobile industry is expected to generate revenue of Rs 14 trillion by 2020, reveals DoT data.

Since the launch of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom sector has seen some operators shut shops and others consolidate their businesses as they try to overcome the overwhelming impact of the free services introduced by Jio.  Average revenue per user (ARPU) levels have fallen drastically, with Reliance Jio leading the ARPU race, and other operators suffering huge losses due to reduction in interconnect usage charges (IUC) and international termination charges (ITC).

According to a report by CIEL HR, the telecom industry is likely to see up to 90,000 job losses this year, against 40,000 a year ago. Analysts have already estimated up to 5000 redundant job roles in the merged Vodafone-Idea entity.

“Telcos are not in a position to spend. So there is a surplus of telecom professionals in the market across all organisational roles. But, there are also the likes of Jio, which are growing. Again, there is lower-level growth in consumer retail and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market, which is absorbing a lot of this resource,” said Navnit Singh, Chairman and MD of Korn Ferry India, a global HR firm.

According to the industry sources, last year Bharti Airtel had laid off 1500 workers, Idea axed around 1800, Vodafone let go 1400, and Reliance Communications and Aircel together sacked around 2000 people.

"The skill sets of telecom industry resources are impeccable in the domain of data sales, Voice over IP, network understanding, planning and implementation, signal systems etc. They have good opportunity in the retail and e-commerce sectors. Their skill sets blended with the process and product knowledge transfer will be clearly a huge advantage," said Sudeep Sen, Assistant Vice-President, TeamLease Services.

He added that these set of people had worked in a very competitive market and had very clear understanding of the market strategy. Their knowledge of product and service positioning such as B2C and B2B customer retention, adoption, and usability of technology will stand them in good stead in terms of employment opportunities. 

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