Like millions of unemployed rural Indian youth, Kondaiah lived off his mother’s earnings as a farm labourer to make ends meet in a sleepy corner of coastal Andhra Pradesh.
That was until Wipro Technologies hired the 21-year-old student as a software engineer. From Rs 15,000 a year — below the official poverty line—the family’s annual income has now soared to Rs 3.25 lakh, his new salary.
At a time when the IT-BPO industry, which employs two million people nationwide, has been hit by slowing growth, an Andhra Pradesh government initiative is helping rural youth get jobs with industry giants like Infosys, Satyam and Wipro.
Run by the government’s Institute for Electronic Governance, Jawahar Knowledge Centres (JKCs), set up in 645 engineering and degree colleges across the state, are helping institutions impart industry skills to rural students.
Beginning with 1,066 candidates employed in major IT companies in 2004-05, 3,639 young graduates were hired in 2007-08.
Surender Reddy, son of a state roadways bus conductor, is one of these. “Given my humble origins, I never imagined I will work with Infosys one day,” said the native of Rajampet town in Cuddapah district, where Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy first rose to political eminence.
The programme is also helping the IT industry bring down attrition levels since rural youth tend to stay in their jobs longer.
“Unlike students from IITs and private colleges who believe in job hopping, JKC graduates are loyal and tend to stick to the job,” said a senior Infosys HR manager, who didn’t want to be identified as per company rules.
The initiative is also helping IT companies reach out to colleges in small towns and rural areas, said JKC director M Chandra Sekhar.
Infosys, for instance, hired 1,000 students through JKCs last year. This year they have already hired 450.
The programme is proving cost effective for companies that end up handing out higher salaries to graduates from reputed institutions.
“It takes us to colleges spread all over the state and where there is enormous talent,” said Sanjeev Mehrotra, HR manager with Satyam Computers Services in Hyderabad.
To address the slowdown, a skill-upgrade is planned. “To counter the crunch in the IT industry, efforts are on to promote students on IT certifications from companies like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, to improve their chances of getting hired,” Sekhar said.
JKC plans to extend the programme to 1,000 colleges and 2 lakh students every year.