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Tempting temps

For 23-year-old Malini Verma it was a dream come true. A BTech from a small women’s college in Hyderabad, Kavali bagged a job with Oracle India, the technology company. The salary she draws as an associate automation engineer is astronomical compared to what her batchmates earn. Subhrojit Goswami from Agartala is also happy to be working with Emerson Network Power, a global manufacturer of power backup systems, in Bangalore. An MBA from a nondescript B-school in Meerut, he’d been doing odd jobs in a marketing company till he got his break as an associate office executive two years ago.

Did we mention that both Kavali and Goswami are temporary workers, better known as temps? Kavali is on the rolls of Kelly Services, a US-based staffing firm. Goswami is employed by Teamlease Services, India’s largest temporary staffing company which provides temps to several companies. Although employed by their staffing companies (Kelly Services and Teamlease), temps are usually sent to work on a project or for a specific period of time with the firm’s clients (Oracle India and Emerson Network Power, in these cases). And the staffing company can move them to other locations or clients, if required. In fact, some companies have even started hiring CEOs from temping agencies.

“The temp route helped me get into a giant like Oracle and the salary I draw is more than some of my colleagues with a similar designation,” says Kavali proudly. Adds Goswami, “I never thought I could join a multinational company and draw such a huge salary.”

Gone are the days when temps were treated as “casual” employees and looked down upon. Says Rituparna Chakraborty, vice-president, TeamLease. “Most organisations treat them as critical members of their team. They also get every statutory benefit that a regular employee does.” Agrees Kamal Karanth, managing director, Kelly Services India, “A temp’s job is not much different from a contract job. And in most so-called ‘permanent’ jobs, employees are bound by such contracts that anyone can be fired with a month’s notice.”

According to Aditya Narayan Mishra, vice-president (staffing), Ma Foi Randstad — another human resource provider — the professionally managed temp staffing industry in India is growing at a fast pace. “Temps are highly sought after in diversified fields, ranging from software design to agricultural marketing. At any point of time, over 4,000 temping positions are open in our company,” says Mishra. Concurs R.P. Yadav, chief managing director, Genius Consultants, a staffing firm, “There are about 36 million temps in India, only 10 per cent of them professionally-managed. The rest belongs to the huge unorganised sector.”

Big companies such as Infosys do not differentiate between a temp and a permanent employee as long he or she is a good worker, says V. Suresh, executive vice-president, Naukri.com, the job portal. Besides, while recruiting temps even top companies lower their hiring standards, allowing the temp to learn on the job. “For a fresher, on-job training in a big firm helps his career cruise forward,” says Chakraborty. Yadav says that freshers are often not clear about what sort of a job they want. That is why many youngsters don’t stay in jobs that they get through campus placements. “As a temp you get to gauge your employer as well your own temperament,” says Mishra. That may be the reason many temps are absorbed by the companies they are deputed to.

There are also many women like Sonali Datta, a 24-year-old associate in Genius Consultant, who prefer a temp’s job to a permanent one because of the working hours. “I quit a back office job in a top multinational because it was difficult for me to work night shifts,” says Datta, who now works as an office executive in Johnson Controls India, a diversified global company.

Even students can work as part-time temps to pick up hands-on skills, says Mishra. “This will also make their profile more relevant in the job market.”

However, not everything is rosy in the temp domain. “In the name of recruiting temps, several staffing companies resort to unfair labour practices such as a hire-and-fire policy. Although there are several legal safeguards in India, many youngsters fall into the temping trap, lured by big salaries. Anyone who joins as a temp should seriously weigh the pros and cons before signing on the dotted line,” warns S.C. Jain, an advocate and labour adviser.

Agrees Mishra, “Since there are many shady companies, you need to choose a good agency to start with. Companies like ours ensure the dignity of labour.” Adds Karanth, “In good staffing agencies, temps are no different from contract workers in private enterprises. They are entitled to most benefits, such as provident fund, gratuity, medical insurance and so on”. According to him, temping could help standardise the huge unorganised sector where there’s rampant exploitation by employers. “Temping can help them access better social security measures,” he adds.

Indian employees, however, prefer a permanent job to a temp’s job even if the latter pays a higher salary, believes Suresh. “The pros and cons of temping is still not clear to most in India. It’s perceived as a compromise when one fails to find a permanent job,” he says.

Still, many youngsters are actually lapping up temp jobs. “At the end of the day, a temp job is any day better than no job,” says Chakraborty.

Amen to that, we say.

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