Digital sector continues to see hiring amid tough economic conditions

With brands becoming more and more digital-savvy to reach out to the TG, save costs & build mktg innovations, this is one sector that holds promise for media professionals

e4m by Maneka Tanwani
Updated: Aug 21, 2013 9:34 AM
Digital sector continues to see hiring amid tough economic conditions

A few days ago, we threw light on the hiring scenario in TV and radio broadcasting. The report highlighted that the sentiment is currently subdued due to the economic slowdown and regulatory changes, among other things (TV and radio broadcasters take a cautious approach to hiring). We now take a look at India’s burgeoning new media (read digital) to see if it is equally hit like traditional media or has hiring in this sector remained unscathed.

Today, almost every company is or aspires to be ‘digitally cool’. Marketing spends on digital is increasing like never before. Does that mean recruiting of young, digital-savvy talent is on the rise or at least there’s a status quo?

“The hiring sentiment in the digital advertising agency business is what could be termed ‘moderately bullish’. There is the ire of the slowdown that one can see, but also the opportunity of a shift in spends towards digital during a slowdown. At this point in time, we are seeing business as usual and hiring being fairly routine,” observed Venkat Mallik, President, Tribal DDB and RAPP India.

Though the constantly depreciating rupee and overall inflation has forced companies to tighten their purse strings, some sectors are more affected than others. Industry reports have highlighted that sectors such as BFSI, FMCG, IT and some parts of media have taken the most hit. A number of others have their heads firmly above water. But the negative sentiment does prevent investments ahead of the curve or on growth initiatives.

Digital and other measurable and direct forms of communication have typically benefitted during slowdowns due to a shift in funds from mass media towards new media. We are seeing some of that in India as well. However, even for the new media businesses there are postponements in terms of new initiatives/ long-term strategic investments, etc., which do impact revenue, explained Mallik.
“I believe the sentiment would be company-specific and may not follow a universally homogeneous trend. For market intelligence, one is given to believe that there is a bit of a slowdown in hiring in some digital agencies. However, at ibs, this year has been the most aggressive as far as hiring is concerned. We have already added 30 people in the first quarter and have vacancies for 40 more positions across servicing, media, technology and mobile,” shared Sabyasachi Mitter, MD, ibs.

From talking to experts, what can be derived is that jobs are available at junior levels. Companies are also actively hiring freshers for two reasons – one is that they bring in new way of thinking as digital is second nature to millennials and more importantly, they come at a fraction of the cost.

But the situation looks gloomy for mid- and top-level professionals as hiring is conservative there.

“At mid- and top-levels, while hiring would be going on, we are being much more selective on the profile to the extent that existing mid and senior managers are being pushed to handle more work to increase profitability,” said Mitter.

Where should young blood look?
Along with broadcasting taking the heat, print industry in India is also not exactly in great shape. Reports of magazines (Marie Claire, People) and newspapers (Crest) being shut down is enough cause for worry for media professionals. In such a scenario, digital does look like the knight in shining armour.

“We don’t want to add too many numbers. As the costs are spiralling out of control, it is important to keep a close watch and tight rein on recruitments too. We will recruit only for key requirements, including replacements and only when exceptional talent becomes available. The downtrend has now been there for a while, so tough actions cannot be postponed,” said Arun Anant, CEO, The Hindu.

So, where should young talent seek opportunities? The Asia Pacific region on the whole is extremely upbeat about digital media, with news of new companies being launched and mergers and acquisitions taking place very often. This sentiment has seeped into India as well, though definitely not with the same aggression.

Independent digital agencies
With new agencies popping up with regular frequency, they should definitely be an area of focus for youngsters. Independent agencies are not constrained with traditional way of doing business and come without the baggage of belonging to a network. This does not essentially save them from the dim conditions, but at the same time it does not arrest their growth as it would of large agencies.

Traditional structures that have stayed abreast
Traditional agencies that have re-skilled to make them fit for the new world of communication will be a good place to be. “There are still a number of opportunities for growth in the digital communications market. We would see some growth in headcount if things go as per plan. We have been hiring over the last few months. We believe that people in the digital/ new media side of the business don’t really have that much to worry about as long as they have the right skill-sets,” shared Mallik.

Digital owners
Digital owners, especially e-commerce portals, have bloomed in India in the recent past. With intense competition, these companies are on the look-out for the right talent to help gain an edge.

“As e-commerce has grown, there has been an increase in hiring. However, as the services and consumers rise, we are looking at specialised hiring. Everybody is looking for candidates who are jack of all trades,” said Praveen Sinha, Co-Founder, Jabong.

“In general, we are not aggressively hiring. We are not going ahead of time. There is no worry as e-commerce is a young industry and people want to hire as they grow,” added Sinha.

With brands becoming more and more digital-savvy to reach out to the target audience, save costs and build marketing innovations, this is one sector that holds promise for talent. We are not saying that all is hunky dory here, but at least the digital industry is not feeling the heat like other sections of the media.

With inputs from Priyanka Nair, Saloni Surti and Abid Hasan

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