Bengaluru, home to 1.5 million IT workers and called 'the world's back-office,' has dodged the tech winter ripping through Silicon Valley — but experts warn it may not last

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Infosys Building. Getty Images
Indian technicians have tripled salaries during the pandemic on bloated demand for talent.
But the tech sector - especially edutainment - has already started to feel the pinch amid global job cuts.
The worst could come next year, a recruitment expert who predicts a surge in layoffs in the spring told Insider.
As the world adjusted to the pandemic last year, closing schools and sending workers home, India's techies had a big day.
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Firms in Bengaluru, a tech hub in southern India with 1.5 million IT workers and once dubbed the “back office of the world,” have been hiring willy-nilly as they struggle to cope with the surge in global demand for digital products.
"Salaries are going up," Yeshab Giri, chief commercial officer at Randstad India, told Insider.
He recalled one applicant quitting his job with an annual salary of 1.2 million rupees, or $14,700. The technician received five offers from five different companies and over several months negotiated his annual salary of up to 3.3 million rupees or US$40,400, Giri said. That's almost triple his last paycheck.
To put that in perspective, renting a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of India's tech hub Bengaluru costs $1,840 a year, according to data from real estate firm NoBroker.
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"These weren't isolated incidents," said Uddhav Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Lynkit, a company that provides inventory and supply chain tracking services to logistics companies. "Anyone who worked was almost guaranteed to have an offer that was double or triple what they earned."
However, the exploding demand did not survive the pandemic.
Like the US, India's tech boom slowed as COVID-19 measures eased. Silicon Valley has seen a round of layoffs in recent months, and India is feeling the pinch too.
Salary offers are down and at least 3,800 employees in Bengaluru have been laid off in the past three months, according to data aggregated by Layoffs.fyi.
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But India's tech winter has been muted so far, four Bengaluru-based hiring experts told Insider. They see the decline more as a market return to the brink of normalcy and said there's still hope for laid-off techs -- as long as they're active in their jobs.
"The glory days of last year are over"
Recruiters believe the industry reached its inflection point towards the end of the third quarter.
"Gone are the glory days of last year when anyone could get a job if they were even halfway decent," said Anup Menon, vice president of CIEL HR Services. “In this respect, average to below-average talent will have to worry. It won't be easy to get a job."
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"Companies are now very clear about their budget and will only hire within that range," he added.
India's IT sector saw a 41% drop in hiring in September compared to monthly averages in 2022, according to CIEL estimates, Menon said. But he added that companies traditionally also slow down their hiring towards the end of the year.
"If you look at 2018, 2019, these are numbers that are comparable to those years," he said.
Tech workers, particularly those just fired from well-known companies like Twitter or Stripe, are still looking for a "pretty decent quality pool" of employers, Menon said.
But they face fewer perks and lower salaries, he added.
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CIEL found that 77% of all tech companies are ending remote work or switching to hybrid working arrangements, compared to 25% of companies that enforced similar policies in the past year, he said.
Subhashree Ghoshal, a senior consultant at JAC Recruitment India, told Insider that most tech companies making layoffs are mainly looking to shed excess labor as fewer projects come in - not necessarily their core workforce.
"The big setback was experienced by employees who were bank employees," Ghoshal said, referring to employees who are not actively working on IT projects but are still on the company's payroll.
Companies are also trying to hire fresh graduates, who are cheaper, while shedding employees who run small teams like program managers and supervisors, Ghoshal said. Most in the latter category typically have five to 15 years of experience, he said.
“However, the worst could come next spring”
The worst could come next spring, said Ghoshal, who forecast a surge in layoffs early in the first fiscal quarter and late in the second as Western demand for outsourced tech workers dwindles.
At Randstad, Giri estimates that hiring will fall by 25% in 2023. “We read a lot about the West, experts talk about the US financial slowdown. We have to wait and see," he said.
For now, most Indian tech companies have proven resilient to market headwinds and have outperformed their Silicon Valley peers.
Tata Consultancy Services, an India-based mega company employing 600,000 people, reported $1.3 billion in net income for the second quarter of 2022, according to Bloomberg. In the same quarter, Infosys, which employs 345,000 people, reported net income of $65.6 million.
In contrast, Twitter reported a net loss of $270 million in the second quarter of this year, while Amazon reported a net loss of $2 billion over the same period. Meta reported a 36% decline in net income to $6.69 billion in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the same quarter last year.
CIEL's Menon believes demand for tech workers will pick up again in the second quarter of next year after a "much needed correction" in the industry. "It was a little too unpredictable with the job jumps and salaries floating around," he said.
Lynkit CEO Kumar agreed. "There was a lot of false hype about things that didn't add value but continued to expand," he said. "I think we're going to see that slowly being eradicated from the ecosystem."
Industries like edutainment for children have been badly affected
One example of the post-pandemic decline is digital services for children, Lynkit CEO Kumar said. With schools closed during the pandemic, parents began buying education and entertainment, or edutainment, subscriptions to keep their kids occupied.
"Once schools started up again, suddenly these kids didn't have a reason to have these subscriptions," he told Insider.
Education startup Byju's, touted as the largest education tech startup in India, spent $2 billion during the pandemic to buy out other education companies to spur growth. According to Bloomberg, the company suffered a net loss of $575 million in the year ended March 2021. The company blamed poor macroeconomic conditions and said it introduced a new revenue recognition model that caused it to defer 40% of its revenue to the next few years, Reuters reported.
In October, Byju laid off 2,500 employees, or about 5% of its total workforce. Byju's did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on this story.
Lynkit has felt the impact of the third-quarter fallout, Kumar said. The HR department recently received around 1,200 applications for an open product manager position, a position that typically receives 500 to 600 applications, the CEO said.
However, compared to the high-profile layoffs in San Francisco, vacation days in Bengaluru represent a smaller proportion of laid-off employees.
And 2,500 jobs is just a drop in the total number of tech workers in India; Giri estimates that a total of 350,000 people will enter the local IT industry by the end of 2022.
“The layoffs we are seeing are not really mass layoffs. Big companies laid off about 2,500 employees, but we have to understand that they have a base of 50,000 employees," Giri said.
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