Narayana Murthy suggests executive pay cuts to save IT jobs

N R Narayana Murthy, the doyen of Indian IT industry, has suggested that new recruits in the industry should be properly trained while the industry looks for new areas of employment to preserve jobs at a time when the industry prepares for rapid automation.

Amidst the spectre of lay-offs in the IT sector spurred by US President Donald Trump's America First policy and increasing automation, Murthy said that jobs of junior executives can still be protected if bosses take pay cuts.

"I have a feeling that it is possible for us to protect the jobs of youngsters if the senior management people were to make some minor adjustments - adjustment of taking salary cuts," the co-founder of Infosys said to news channel ET Now.

"Let me give you example of Infosys itself. When the market became very tough and it shrank actually in 2001, we all sat together with senior management and then we said - look let us make some sacrifice and ensure that we protect the jobs of youngsters," Murthy said.

Murthy cited the recent disputes between the management and founders of Infosys over pay hikes of as much as 60-70 per cent for top bosses and severance packages for others, which, he said, are "grossly unfair to the majority of the Infosys employees."

IT outsourcing has long been one of India's flagship industries but the increasing levels of automation, failure to keep up with new technologies and US President Donald Trump's clampdown on visas have combined to create hurdles in the industry's progress.

While the government and the industry publicly deny any large-scale job losses, several IT firms, including the bigger firms, are gradually laying off thousands in one pretext or the other.

Research has also claimed that hundreds of thousands of jobs could disappear in the next four years, although the companies themselves have refused to comment on numbers.

The industry employs nearly four million Indians and rakes in revenues of more than $150 billion, according to trade body National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).

Murthy said the industry has survived major setbacks in the past and gloomy forecasts are not valid. "Let us remember we have gone through this several times in the past. We went through that in 2008, in 2001. So, this is nothing new. Therefore, there is no need for us to become extremely anxious. We have had solutions to such problems in the past," he said.

Meanwhile, HfS Research, a US-based business advisory firm, estimates automation could mean a 14 per cent decline in India's IT workforce with 480,000 jobs at risk by 2021.

Nasscom has dismissed widespread reports of thousands of layoffs but conceded that the rate of hiring was slowing.