Calcutta lost its title as the capital of India almost a century ago, and its prestigious status as India’s industrial engine sometime in the 1950s. Today, Kolkata is pretty but shabby, it is perhaps the only Indian metro to stay untouched by the country’s 20-year success story. It’s sad to see the lively city, which was once a thriving business centre during the British Raj, remaining latent for years together.
Several agencies point out that while Kolkata is fighting a talent crunch, so are other cities. But are there any specific reasons that are intensifying the talent crunch in the city? Let’s understand and find out if Kolkata can attract professional talent again, as in the past.
The city saw the dawn of India’s computer era way back in 1956 when the first computer arrived at the Indian Statistical Institute. But the trade unions in Bengal, at that point of time, branded “automation” and computers as job-destroying ‘demons’, an anti-labour conspiracy. The outfits, backed by the then government, prevented the installation of computers in nationalised banks, LIC, and other institutions.
It took nearly two decades for Bengal to recognise the global IT revolution, which was, in fact, a huge generator of employment with a placement capability of almost eight indirect jobs for every direct IT job created.
Although a late starter, Kolkata joined the IT bandwagon with tremendous energy, enthusiasm, and passion. The creative minds of Bengal collectively worked together 24/7 to get things right, and in quick succession, there was Sector V – the IT hub of Kolkata.
Today, there are close to 100,000 people working in Sector V alone. Big names like Capgemini, IBM, Cognizant, TCS, Wipro, and Tech Mahindra have set up state-of-the-art facilities, employing thousands of IT professionals from all over the country. Other top names that manage their global delivery centres from Sector V are ITC Infotech, Deloitte Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Acclaris, TCG Group, Skytech, and Genpact to name a few.
However, the IT industry needs an extremely agile and cosmopolitan workforce. Taking into account the city’s previous image, how challenging is it for industries to attract the cosmopolitan workforce to Kolkata? The industry’s take on the same is quite optimistic and positive, largely because Kolkata, for years, has been the hot-seat for quality talent.
Presently, there are several government engineering colleges of great repute in the state, in addition to a large number of private ones. Out of seven engineering colleges shortlisted by the Union HRD Ministry for IIT status, two are from Kolkata — Jadavpur University’s Engineering & Technology department and the Bengal Engineering College. Apart from this, there are colleges like Presidency, St Xavier’s, Loreto, Brabourne, etc. that are regarded highly not only in India but also internationally.
“The quality of talent available in Kolkata is great,” — Ajoyendra Mukherjee, vice-president, TCS was cited in a Dataquest article. The technology firm, for instance, is one of the few IT companies to have its facility in Kolkata since the mid-nineties. Mukherjee agrees Kolkata’s single-largest strength is its diverse professional talent pool.
“Our experience in terms of the captive talent pool in the state has been very good so far,” affirms Amitabh Ray, vice president, global delivery of IBM in Kolkata. IBM Global Services has a workforce of 40,000 in two of its facilities in the city.
Homegrown software company RS Software, which operates out of offices in Kolkata and the US, is deeply impressed by the local talent pool. “According to our experience, we feel the local talent offers a lot more stability in addition to quality,” states Raj Jain, managing director, RS Software.
Siddharta Mukherjee, VP operations Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) said, “Cognizant set up its operations in Kolkata primarily to tap into the high-quality talent pool, availability of good office space, cost of operations, expeditious support from the state government and nodal agencies like Webel.” Lately, CTS has signed a MoU with Calcutta University, wherein the University will train 400 CTS professionals to make them industry-ready.
Kolkata Is Uniquely Positioned to Harness the Evolving Opportunities
One of the biggest intangible assets of Kolkata is its profound commitment to diversity, plurality, and tolerance. The city’s indomitable spirit cannot be weighed down by religious bigotry, caste, or parochial divide. Kolkata will shine again and attract the best talents like a magnet if it preserves its inherent advantages of diversity, inclusiveness, and harmony.