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Unsure of future, telco staff seek opportunity elsewhere

Thousands of employees at Vodafone IdeaNSE -7.97 % and Bharti AirtelNSE -0.90 % are looking out, after the telecom companies posted unprecedented losses and stare at huge statutory dues, recruiters said. Despite some relief from the government and tariff hikes, employees are still seeking other opportunities, the recruiters added.

Take the case of an area sales manager at one of the telecom companies, who has approached a Bengaluru-based search firm. “I have to leave because I was not  sure what the future of the company and sector will be in the coming years. I was advised to take a 25% raise at the very minimum but am so eager to leave that I can (go) for a 10-12% hike,” the employee said.

Kamal Karanth, cofounder of specialist staffing company Xpheno, said that over the last few weeks, some 7,000 profiles of Vodafone Idea and around 5,000 at rival Bharti Airtel’s have been out in the market. Xpheno aggregated data from candidate resumes that were updated or added on job portals, social media sites and sent directly to the staffing company.

This means about 70% of Vodafone Idea’s roughly 10,000 staffers and over 30% of Airtel’s nearly 16,000 employees are looking for jobs. The government has said it wants both the telecom companies and the sector to flourish, and that it backs three private telecom players in India.

“Overall, around 40% of the people (in the wider telecom sector ecosystem) are looking out,” said Karanth, speaking of a sector that employs 180,000 workers directly in telecom, tower companies and vendor firms, among others. These numbers are only expected to increase.

Recruiters cite data on job portals to point out that telecom professionals in areas such as sales, marketing, accounts, administration and HR make up for a bulk of the candidates looking to shift out. They may find it  easier to get jobs in other industries compared with those in niche profiles like network integration.

Airtel and Vodafone Idea did not respond to emails seeking comment. An Airtel executive, however, said it was work as usual. “The spirit within the company is good, the company has faced many difficult situations in the past and come out stronger,” the executive, who did not want to be identified, said. “Business leaders in the circles are visible, driving the business and all our key leaders in the head office are also travelling and teams are highly engaged. It is business as usual for the Operations."

Recently, Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said it would have to shut if it does not get any relief on the over Rs 53,000 crore adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues that it owes to the government.


Soon after, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal said that the telecom industry was facing its worst crises ever and urged the Centre and the judiciary to give “sympathetic consideration” to the industry’s appeal for relief, after the Supreme Court’s order on AGR left companies struggling. Airtel also faces AGR dues of over Rs 35,500 crore. “The operators will now have to look at ways to ensure future viability of their company, which includes investments in network rollout, technology upgrades, expansion plans and manpower costs,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of lobby group Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). “All details regarding compensation such as increases, retention, stock options and headcount right sizing etc., will be up for review.”

In this backdrop, selling a job profile in the sector has now become tough as well, say recruiters.


A Mumbai-based IT professional who worked in a food technology company cleared all rounds with Vodafone Idea before the AGR verdict was announced. After seeing the scramble for government relief, however, he declined the offer to join at the telco’s Mumbai office, the recruitment firm working on his profile said.