Is it safe to work for IT Captives?

Have you given a thought to work for IT Captives in India? Before we get into the matter lets understand what India Development center and how it operates for an IT organization of a company. In general what we see is that companies give work to Indian IT services companies and these IT services companies take the ownership of work and deliver it from Offshore, on the other hand many traditional companies have shifted their entire IT operations to India and operate these centers on their own. These centers are called captive or India Development center. Few examples are: Sony, JP Morgan, Target, S&G, BnYMelon, John Deer, Bosch, Sabre, Travelport, Amadeus, Volkswagen, Hitachi, Tesco etc.

These Captives have been opened to provide variety of benefits to parent company like:

  • Full control over operations and quality, rather than service providers
  • Full Transparency in day to day work, working with service providers is frustrating
  • Cost effectiveness: although initial setup cost is high but later pay’s off
  • Uniform processes across functions and match to overall objective of organization
  • In some cases these center’s get perks and rebate from Govt of India based on jobs they generate

There are around 850 Captives in India and more than 500,000 people work for these captives. These captives work on very ambitious projects, R&D, Product innovation and are mostly focused on their business, contributes in job market by opening up opportunities at all levels and in fact many people joins them from IT services companies like Infosys, TCS, CTS, Tech Mahindra, HCL and Wipro. Although these captives have moved up the value chain from providing only cost advantage to global R&D to innovation led offerings, anyone who is aiming to be part of these captives need to be cautious and carefully evaluate the offer before he decides to start his stint with such centers. Lets take a look at benefits these captives offer to its employees:

Working for these captives are like direct payroll on these big brands, it’s a good feeling sometimes

  • Healthy completion, since everyone who joins the company comes from strict selection process and capabilities
  • World class ambience & Facilities- These captives invest huge when it comes to look and feel, their office would be at a very known place, big cubicles, fee coffee/tea, play area, free food, complementary services etc
  • Better pay package and better transparency when it comes to take home salary
  • Working on some of the world class technologies and teams around the world.

Now comes the part which is the core of this discussion, why these captives are not safe from the career perspective?

Everything is driven from homeland:

Since most of these companies have operations outside India they usually plan their work according to homeland market. Anything popular in homeland need to be worked and delivered through these captives. Influence of local leadership is very limited to execution only and thus they follow what is asked.

Open source is a big mess:

Companies wish to get best of everything and therefore seriously look into open source market for their innovations & cost effectiveness, you would notice that open source tools are more easily adopted by these captives rather than services companies given the nature of ownership. Open source is ever changing and technical resources have to keep up the pace of change, in reality it comes like a new project every 6 months where new skill may be required. Unlike IT services companies these captives are not fully equipped with right skill, right people and right amount of bench to fulfil this rapid change thus throws a big challenge on stability perspective. In Captives mostly individual contributors are required thus one has to be always relevant with technology changes and hands on.

Talent management plan:

Usually in Services companies maintains a bench of resources which can be quickly deployed onto any new project however these captives don’t really maintain a bench. More over after finishing a project these captives are not sure if the team members continue to be required. Rotation policy is also not that strong using which someone can get work internally in these captives. Not much of training exposure in these captives ( Now a days which company irrespective of captive or IT service budget for training to its employees religiously? )

Talent fulfilment through IT services companies or job consultants:

Captives are now relying on these services companies to fulfill rapid resource demand and what I have seen mostly IT services companies go wish a mind-sets of showcasing every possible capability but get only staff-aug work. In this arrangement time to prove yourself as a good resource is very minimal and at the same time you won’t be feeling attached to the work. It would be such that in a team of 10 people 4 would be from a CTS, 3 would be from Tech Mahindra and 3 would be from Infosys, very dynamic environment it becomes and survival is very hard due to lack of co-ordination. One interesting point I noted about one captives is that every 3 quarter they would be rolling out advertisement for the same job role, I always think are they getting too much work, projects etc or people are leaving the job since its not interesting. Point to be noted is that this captive easily equate a test manager with AVP level role and proudly publish the advertisement, people get swayed?

Project Visibility:

In the above mentioned open source point I mentioned open source tools are more adopted by these captives than IT services companies, many a times it’s a challenging scenario where homeland leadership is experimenting with a new technology, has a limited budget and beyond a certain time line no visibility of work. Considering no rotation policy, multivendor ecosystem it is very hard to say that you will sail easily. Point is not that you are a talented resource or not in fact this highlights whether you will be heard?

Onsite travel:

Consider this, in an IT service company if you aspire to work from onsite locations you can tell it to your bosses and there would be opportunities one or the other along with ample time to appear for various interviews, (most of my friend have taken up onsite role through IT service company) but for Captives it’s not such a case you would be confined to your role and may travel for a shorter duration only not for long term to mint money (well so called).

Limited exposure on one domain, one project/product:

People are hired for specific skills for specific time duration and by god forgives Open source offer something disruptive your services will be called off within no time. On the other hand I have met people who are proud of having expertise in one area and have served the captives for years together, I really want to appreciate them however post only one question; what happens if your technology becomes obsolete? We have seen in case of Mainframe technology, Well you need to follow the principle “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket” and that kind of exposure is provided in much better ways in some of the IT services companies and that calls for future secure or employee friendly. One of my friend working for a large consumer durable company’s captive in Bangalore was last year asked to leave the job because his technology was obsolete luckily on his last day some colleague called up and said he has one opportunity in different technology well my friend got trained on that technology( from his own pocket) so picked that up. This kind of luck may not work for everyone in a captive.

“Process” really?

Well these captives are quick enough to get together and produce something for the organisation leaving behind big gap of processes, documentation and detailed approach, I would say that’s where the IT services companies provide better managed projects with focused transparency and strong processes. IT services companies even place domain experts in these projects to take care domain as well as technology. You as successful professional need both exploratory and methodical approach in this world.

At the end I believe working for a Captive should be a well thought decision by analysing current position of the parent company, the amount of budget a Captive gets in a year, the attrition level, the role and various career level opportunities and various other factors only then I think it should be considered as a viable option.

In this article I have drafted my experience with at least 6-7 Captives which I have interacted in last 2-3 years, I noticed some of the things are very common in these captives like resource planning, technology adaption, answering to market trends, hurry for GoToMarket etc. I would have worked with them for a new opportunity or a small consulting role or a job for myself or my friends and read news/material available in public domain.

Amit Mishra

About the author

Amit Mishra is an IT professional around 2 decades of experience in Software Industry. He brings deep experience in Solutions, Quality, Sales, Marketing. He is mentor to MBA students at JAGSOM Bangalore and always helps people with varied career aspirations.

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