Massive layoffs and apologies!

Nikhil Bhave
Saturday, 8 July 2017

These days, an audio clip of a Tech Mahindra employee being laid off is doing the rounds on social media. The clip got so much attention that Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra issued an apology
on Twitter.

These days, an audio clip of a Tech Mahindra employee being laid off is doing the rounds on social media. The clip got so much attention that Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra issued an apology
on Twitter.

What this latest fracas has done is to put the current scenario in IT sector under the lens again. While 2008 came as a cataclysmic event, hardening visa regimes and an increase in automation are taking a further toll. There have been multiple reports about huge layoffs at tech companies. India managed to survive the nightmare and remained in a much better shape than the rest of the world, however, the impact was still massive. There were massive layoffs across various sectors. Now, it seems the times are not changing.

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making progress in leaps and bounds, it is making jobs redundant. As per a report by SG Analytics, Wipro was the first to launch an AI platform, followed by TCS and Infosys.

So what exactly is automation? Like every other application, a software also needs extensive testing before release. Towards this end, a lot of jobs required coding, Quality Analysis (QA) etc. As machine learning and Artificial Intelligence gets more clever, it is doing these jobs earlier done by humans and it is profitable for companies. US-based research firm HfS predicted last year that India will lose 6.4 lakh ‘low-skilled’ jobs to automation. It may be already happening. There was news that Infosys cut 11,000 jobs due to automation, and various other companies seem to be following suit.

The same phenomenon was earlier observed in blue collar jobs, with the advent of robotics. Various jobs previously done by humans were being done by machines a lot more efficiently and at a fraction of the cost, which also ended up making a lot of people jobless.

To further add to the industry’s woes, the new regime in the United States seems to have taken a harder stand regarding work visas. A bill to restrict these visas, which allows foreign workers work in the US, is in the offing, and it is bound to hit the companies’ bottom lines further.
However, this was bound to happen sooner or later. As the economy is getting into a flux, protectionism is fast becoming the ‘in’ word. The incumbent in White House fought his campaign with speeches against outsourcing and issuing the slogan of ‘Make America Great Again.’ Instead of fighting the law, companies will take the softer approach, like hiring from the local populace, which doesn’t bode well for the Indian workforce.

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