As COVID-19 cases drop, hiring at India Inc limps back

Representative image

Representative image

With the pace of vaccination against COVID-19 rising and daily case additions remaining below 50,000, hiring is slowly picking up in India Inc.

While the country is not yet back to pre-COVID levels of hiring, human resource consultants said that some sectors are taking the lead. In the non-IT space, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, followed by the automobile and insurance sectors, are at the forefront of hiring.

The TeamLease Employment Outlook Report for Q2 (July to September 2021) said that volume hiring is back in vogue and is driving entry- and junior-level hiring intent.

“Businesses resuming operations and sales and marketing activity after the second wave intend to hire more frontline and shop-floor staff,” the report said.

Here, healthcare/pharma leads the charts followed by the IT sector. Consumer goods companies and essential retail are among other sectors looking to hire.

At the all-India level, IT is currently among the biggest drivers of recruitment. Moneycontrol had reported earlier that India’s top 10 IT companies together hired 1.21 lakh people in the six months ended June 2021. This is the highest for this period in the last five years, as the COVID-19 pandemic has created robust demand for software services.

Even as core sectors are picking up, those related to travel, including hospitality, travel/tourism and aviation, are seeing a hiring freeze.

When it comes to aviation, the price caps imposed during the pandemic are turning out to be a dampener. An International Air Transport Association (IATA) report said that the sector can see a revival only when these curbs are removed.

Fears of a third wave cast shadow

Overall, there is an environment of ‘cautious optimism’ ahead of the festive season even as fears of a third wave loom large.

Jose Mathews, Senior Vice-President at PayHire HR Consulting, told Moneycontrol that Indian corporates are shy of committing big numbers after the hit during the second wave.

“Yes, companies are hiring, but not aggressively. The country was caught unawares by the second wave in April and May and now there is talk of a third wave in October, which is when the majority of festive-season hiring happens. So, HR managers are treading cautiously and only recruiting for essential roles,” he added.

Moneycontrol gives you the lowdown on how hiring is panning out in major sectors:


Hiring in the automotive industry is done mainly for sunrise streams such as electric mobility, connected services and software development. Ola Electric, Bajaj Auto, Tata Motors, Hero MotoCorp, Fiat Chrysler and a host of other companies are hiring fresh talent that can be used in these new verticals.

With vehicle factories running at peak capacity, the auto component industry is also stepping up supplies with added manpower. The automotive industry is the largest employer in the manufacturing sector.


In the hotels sector, there is a complete freeze on fresh hiring and companies are keen to rationalise their workforce instead. New properties are manned by existing staff who are relocated from other properties. This has led to a reduction in the staff-to-room ratio by up to 25 percent.

Moneycontrol had reported recently on how closed properties and mounting losses have forced premier hotel brands to do away with excess staff in a desperate attempt to stay afloat amid the challenging business environment.

Several luxury properties under the Oberoi, Trident, Taj, SeleQtions, Vivanta, JW Marriott, Renaissance and The Westin banners, to name a few, have rationalised their staff strength.


Pharma is one sector that has increased hiring during the pandemic for both manufacturing and front-end sales and marketing functions.

“We have been hiring a lot, as the company has been seeing decent growth,” said Prashanth Reddy, Director, Optimus Pharma.

The major challenge, according to Reddy, is to get people with good chemistry skills. Chemistry isn’t that attractive a subject for youngsters, so it is challenging to get the best out of a limited pool.

There is also huge demand for people in the biotech and active pharmaceutical ingredients fields across levels. Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing is one of the reasons for the surge in demand. In addition, PE investor-led pharma companies are among the top recruiters, especially at the senior and mid levels, as they build scale and expand portfolios.

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG)

FMCG companies have been hiring across levels. According to Aditya Mishra, CEO, CIEL HR Services, while fund-raising by smaller consumer goods companies has led to a lot of hiring activity at the top level, big FMCG players are also roping in temporary staff for promotion and distribution of their goods, as they try to get deeper into the country.

“Companies are moving away from having employees on a distributor’s payroll and instead are taking them on third-party payrolls,” he said.

In a similar move, Dabur recently moved over 500 people from a distributor’s payroll to its third-party payroll, according to sources. The company recently expanded its rural coverage by 16 percent, from 60,000 villages at the end of 2020-21 to 69,000 villages in the first quarter of FY22.

Tata Consumer Products, similarly, has added 3,000 rural distributors. ITC scaled up its rural stockists and rural servicing infrastructure by up to 3x and 1.2x times in the first quarter of FY22 as compared to Q1 FY21. Experts say that as companies ramp up distribution, several sales and merchandising roles will get created in the rural areas.


This sector continues to bear the brunt of a prolonged shutdown of malls and timing restrictions on standalone outlets.

Shopping malls, which had opened temporarily from November 2020, were forced to down their shutters after the second wave hit in the last week of March 2021.

Maharashtra, especially in the country’s financial capital Mumbai, was among the worst hit. This had a direct impact on existing jobs and hiring.

The Retailers Association of India (RAI) said on July 28 that the prolonged closures have impacted an estimated 50 malls in Maharashtra employing more than 2 lakh people and generating business to the tune of about Rs 40,000 crore.

Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India, said that malls, which are centres of economic activity, need to be opened to revive jobs.


Being a part of essential services, the insurance sector was able to generate jobs in its sales functions as well as agency channels.

Sunaina Maheshwari, MD at Jeevika HR Services, which focuses on recruitment for the insurance/insurtech sector, told Moneycontrol that technology-led roles are in high demand.

“Young graduates in artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital sales are in high demand. This is especially because face-to-face sales is restricted owing to the mini-lockdowns across India,” she explained.

Digital policy sales are the core focus for insurers. Moneycontrol had recently reported on HDFC Life focusing on agency recruitment.

Vibha Padalkar, MD & CEO, HDFC Life, told Moneycontrol that the insurer hired 6,500 agents in Q1FY22. “The fact that we’ve already got 6,500 new agents in the June quarter means that we will be able to build on this momentum and can spend some time on training and then giving them leads and help them in field sales,” she added.

Cement and steel

Demand for cement has been improving from the second week of June, and this has had an impact on jobs as well. Most work in the sector is done by permanent employees. Industry officials told Moneycontrol that there will be a ‘hiring spree’ only when new plants are opened and there is capacity expansion.

When it comes to the steel sector, companies are of the view that a spike in steel demand will impact the job market positively. While temporary staff members are being hired, the demand for permanent employees could take more time, say steel company officials.

Will there be a revival in jobs in Q2 and Q3?

The e-commerce and retail sectors are the biggest recruiters during the festive season, which runs between August and November. In pre-Covid times, between 1,50,000-200,000 jobs were created during this period to meet sales demand.

This year, too, recruitment consultants expect this sector to see strong hiring. Logistics, supply chain and delivery executive roles are expected to dominate.

Moneycontrol had reported earlier that thanks to COVID-19 tailwinds, third-party logistics (3PL) companies such as Ecom Express, Shadowfax and XpressBees have been on a hiring spree across functions, including delivery partners, in recent months.

A report by specialist staffing firm Xpheno said that sectors such as Telecom, Hospitality & Tourism, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Oil & Energy, Pharma, Media & OTT and Automobiles have been seeing a gradual recovery and will hire more people in the months to come.

(With inputs from Moneycontrol’s Devika Singh, M Saraswathy, Swaraj Baggonkar, Tarun Sharma and Viswanath Pilla)