HR Heads become rolling ball: 30 changed jobs in past six months
India Inc. has an HR problem at the top. The tenures of human resource heads are getting shorter with a large number of them quitting in three years or even less. According to data collated by executive search firm EMA Partners International exclusively for ET, more than 30 HR leaders have quit to join another company in the past six months. HR market watchers confirmed the trend.
Among the big e-commerce companies, both Flipkart and Amazon are looking for HR bosses. Flipkart has been looking for an HR head since COO Nitin Seth, who also handled the department, quit in May 2017. CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy is currently in charge of HR. Raj Raghavan, director of HR for the Asia-Pacific region at Amazon, is in the process of moving out to join InterGlobe Aviation, which runs IndiGo airlines. A volatile business environment and paucity of talent are cited as the main reasons for the churn.
"Companies are now changing business strategies way too often," said K Sudarshan, CEO at EMA Partners International in India. "Talent is key to achieving business goals, and the demand for senior HR executives is high, resulting in attrition. In some instances, HR heads find the requirements of the role totally different from what they were roped in for. This leads to a disconnect." There have been several high-profile exits in the past six months. January alone has seen around half-a-dozen changes: Raghavan will join IndiGo as senior vice president, HR; Sameer Wadhawan, formerly of Coca Cola, joined Samsung as India HR head; and Kaustubh Sonalkar moved to Essar Group from the Future Group as president, HR. "Generally speaking, HR has become an important business partner," said Navnit Singh, chairman and managing director of India for Korn/Ferry International. "Almost everyone is looking at upgrading existing talent or hiring more senior people. Like any other function, there is a shortage of good HR heads. Salaries are on the rise and large Indian conglomerates or mature ecommerce companies are paying HR heads anywhere between Rs 4-6 crore." Then again, some companies are looking to experiment with younger people who have the potential to grow into the job, Singh said. The problem of HR head attrition is more pronounced in new-age companies that usually look for HR leaders who can bring in the processes and maturity of seasoned industries, and understand the nuances of running startups.
Flipkart said enhancing its organisational culture through a robust HR organisation was a priority. Flipkart has senior leaders heading each of the half-a-dozen sub-functions within HR such as learning and development; talent acquisition; compensation and benefits; and business partnering. "So, it's not by design that we do not have an overall HR head; we are looking for one. Currently, the HR mandate is looked after by our CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy," the spokesperson added. According to Raj Raghavan, in the last decade or so, HR has converted itself into a business function rather than being an enabling one. "If HR fails, it is probably going to impact a lot more than any other function, especially in today's business environment. That's probably why good HR heads are getting invited to go do bigger things," he said.
Raghavan said Amazon is yet to appoint his successor and will look for one both internally and externally. Since November 2016, Amazon has lost two top HR executives--Raghavan and Kinjal Choudhary, head of HR for India operations. Ex-PepsiCo hand Choudhary had been in Amazon for one-and-a-half years; he is currently group CHRO at Eicher Trucks and Buses. Across sectors, other departures in the past six months include that of Vishpala Reddy, formerly of American Express, who joined Uber as chief people officer for India and South Asia in August; Anuranjita Kumar, ex-CHRO (chief human resources officer), Citi South Asia, who became MD, HR, international hubs, at RBS in September; and Sudeep Banerjee, group head, HR, at L&T Financial Services, who joined from DHFL Pramerica Life Insurance. In November, Pragya Kumar joined as chief people officer of GirnarSoft in November from Yatra; the Renault-Nissan Alliance appointed Jayakumar David as Alliance HR director India, and Ashutosh Telang, ex-CHRO, Marico, took over as chief people officer of True North. The churn continued in December with the likes of Joyeeta Chatterjee joining as executive vice president of HR at Punj Lloyd Group from the OLX Group, among others.