If there is one sector in India that is showing tremendous growth as well as potential, it’s definitely telecom. Being recognised as one of the most lucrative markets globally, the Indian telecom sector has not only shown signs of profitability but also contributed significantly to the nation’s economy. With over 892 million telecom subscribers, India is the fast-est growing and the second-largest telecom market in the world. The future looks tremendously bright for this sector.
Minefield of opportunities
According to Prof. Sanjay Sharma, associate professor, electronics and communication, Shobhit University, “The opportunities in the Indian communications sector have grown phenomenally over the last three years as has been surveyed by the ministry of communications and information technology in New Delhi recently. Telecom sector is one of the leading contributors to India’s flourishing economy. The telecom services in India have been recognised as a world-class tool for the socio-economic development of India.”
Tele-density has grown by leaps and bounds from 2.3 per cent in 1999 to 4.8 per cent in 2002. But still, the world average is 7.5 times the Indian average, while the Asian average is 4.5 times. Currently, the telecom market in India is estimated at $8 billion, and this is expected to undergo an accretion by the end of 2012.
Sharma adds, “The growth wit-nessed by the telecom market in India has increased the number of opportunities for the industry. This has been fuelled by the growing mobile sector, which attained the consumer level of 10 million by the end of December 2002 (almost a 100 per cent growth in the year). This outstanding growth in the mobile sector explains the advent of digital cellular technology and reduced tariffs as a consequence of competitive pressures. The growth in the number of cellular subscribers has surpassed the benchmark of subscriber base. The telecom market has increased dramati-cally with the advent of wireless-in-local-loop technology.
”Around 300 million population of highly consumable middle-class is advantageous for the sector. “Some of the Indian households that have land-line telephones can replace these with mobile phones, which is very unlikely to happen in the developed countries. Therefore it adds up to the growth in the mobile sector in the Indian telecom industry,” says Sharma.
The opportunities in the Indian telecom sector are increasing at a fast pace with the introduction of Internet telephony services and a number of international long-distance services.
The recruitment trend in the telecom sector further confirms that this is the right time to become a part of this booming sector. According to a recent study by Price water house Coopers (PwC), the telecom sector in India will provide employment to around ten million people by 2012. The sector will provide about 2,800,000 direct jobs and around 7,000,000 indirect jobs by next year, the study reveals. Titled In-dian Mobile Services Sector: Struggling to Maintain Sustainable Growth, the study was commissioned by the Cellular Operators Association of India.
Vinay Grover, founder and CEO, Symbiosis Management Consultants, shares, “Most of the world’s renowned companies have already entered India through joint ventures. With the launch of 3G, WiMAX and the planning being done for 4G, there is a huge demand for qualified and skilled professionals with knowledge and technical know-how in these fields. Also, with the upcoming projects, the telecom industry is making room for more than 5000 trained and experienced radio frequency engineers.
”The telecom revolution in India has been quite exceptional with so many new players entering the market and existent players expanding operations. While the sector has been one of the largest employers in the last decade, it would still need around 275,000 people by 2015. The challenge here would be to get the right talent,” Grover adds.
“With the conviction of the Indian telecom industry’s rapid evolution, the opportunities for engineering students are enormous. The telecom industry today needs large volumes of dedicated technical and business talent to meet aggressive growth targets,” mentions Girish Johar, vice president, human resources and organisation, Ericsson India.
Johar continues, “Majority of the job opportunities are in the area of solutioning, product management, projects’ roll-out and management, customer support, manufacturing and managed services, and remote infra-structure management.”
“There is likely to be a persistent demand for engineers in the industry, given the untapped potential still wait-ing to be explored and the entry of several new players in the fray. The de-mand will be mainly driven by vendor companies like Nokia Siemens, Erics-son, GTL, Alcatel Lucent and Huawei, among others,” says Tarun Sapra, RF SME performance, Alcatel Lucent.
There are several new companies which have been given pan-India 2G li-cences to conduct operations across all the sectors. New operators who have been granted licences include MTS, Swan, Uninor, Etisalat and DoCoMo among others. These companies will set up networks and start operations shortly, driving the demand for engineers. Operators like Vodafone, Airtel, Idea and Reliance are laying more emphasis on enhancing their 3G network. They have also started working on long-term evolution (LTE) technology.
How to become a part of the communication chain?
Talking about the non -engineering positions, academicians, lawyers, MBAs, sales people and PR people are required in the telecom sector just as the techies who design and maintain the worldwide information network for the future. In order to qualify for an engineering job, one needs to be specialised either in electronics and communication engineering, computer science or electrical engineering. The sector also welcomes degree holders, diploma holders or even candidates with part-time certification courses.
To explain further, let’s segregate the available engineering jobs under some broad categories. For instance, broadband network architects are people who provide IP network architecture solutions to clients for the next-generation network—a network based on IP, ATM and SONET. Wireless engineers develop potential wireless data applications, technology intelligence to identify and track wireless data products, and wireless data strategies. They also interact with vendors.
Another important category is net-work and application test engineers, who integrate, verify and deploy a full-service, high-speed data network providing nationally distributed video, voice, local programming and data services. Also, network management and architecture/system engineers provide network management solutions to clients for currently planned deployments and next-generation network technologies. A position may include focus on all aspects of operations support. A combination of business, telecommunication and computer knowledge is optimal.
Grover informs, “The fresh recruits can look for various disciplines including switch engineer, RF engineer, NOC engineer, OSS/BTS/BSS engineers and others. Middle management professionals can explore career opportunities as network or project managers.
”With the coming of more and more projects, the telecom industry is going for high-scale recruitments. There is a huge demand for software engineers, mobile analysts and hard-ware engineers for mobile handsets. Besides, there are ample opportunities for marketing people, whose services are required to capture more and more customer base. Given the exciting times ahead, the sector is a huge employment generator, likely to generate over 300,000 new jobs over the coming five years,” Sharma opines.
What’s on offer?
There is a huge demand for qualified and skilled professionals with technical knowledge and hands-on experience. Teleocm players are luring the talent with handsome rewards in order to fulfil their rapid growth plans.
According to Sharma, “Suitably skilled candidates can expect a significant premium salary even at the starting level, owing to the challenges the industry is facing in terms of finding and recruiting proper talent. Industry experts believe that the talent crunch in this sector will push salaries even further from the current 15 per cent hike.”
On an average, the sector offers freshers a starting salary of Rs 300,000 to Rs 500,000 per annum. Customer-facing jobs fetch something between Rs 200,000 and Rs 300,000 per annum. Experienced professionals can expect Rs 600,000 to 1,200,000 per annum.
Sapra opines, “There will be a lot of movement within the industry, with new companies willing to establish credibility in the market in the short-est possible time. Companies are even spending extra bucks to tap quality and experienced professionals. So for a professional of, say, five years experience, there is virtually no limit to the potential earnings. A package in the range of Rs 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 is along the expected lines. The industry is offering freshers competitive pay packages despite having to spend time and resources in training the manpower before they turn productive.”
The year-to-year salary hike is quite satisfactory in comparison with other sectors. As an engineer, you could choose to continue in the technology field, be a part of the techno
commercial team or move to the busi-ness development aspect of the service. Under the technical path, you can start off as a software engineer and grow to the highest level of a chief technical officer. If you choose the managerial path, you can grow to the level of a business line head.
What’s in demand?
Let’s talk about the sector expectations now. Though the Indian engineering institutes are churning out thousands of technical graduates every year, only 25 to 30 per cent are employable. There is a significant gap between the need of the sector and what the fresh engineering graduates bring to the table. Recruiters generally look at a combination of a consistent academic record and soft skills.
“When it comes to hiring an engineer, a company looks for a candidate who possesses an engineering degree, preferably a specialisation in electronics and communication from a reputed college. Also, if a candidate possesses work experience with a telecom operator, or active or passive telecom infrastructure company, it adds to his credentials,” Grover mentions.
Johar adds, “As an organisation, we focus to get right fit for the job. We capture the competencies required to perform in a given role, which include not only technical competencies but also business as well as human competencies. We hire engineers who are specialised in electronics and communication, or telecom, and also extend the scope to IT and computer science graduates.”
Ericsson hires graduates for all domains like manufacturing and man-aged services, remote infrastructure management, R&D and network operations centre. The company also provides engineering students with internships in various departments under different project mentors across different domains. This helps the students get an exposure and also have hands-on-work-experience with Ericsson.
“The internship not only provides them with the basic training on various telecom architectures but also brings forth the real working scenario of the telecommunication field,” Johar informs.
It is important to be a part of any live project that follows the recent sector trend, rather than confining yourself to the textbooks. You should start from the base level as an aspiring professional. Even professionals with engineering background often go through specialised training in theory and practice for optimising telecom applications. The training enables them to properly handle different types of machines and instruments used in various systems of telecom equipment, both in wired and wireless communication.
As telecom networks traverse multiple cultures, diverse terrains and extreme climates, the sector opens up a plethora of exciting work opportunities for aspirants.
The author is from EFY Bureau, New Delhi