Randstad India provides a full spectrum of human resource services such as regular, temporary and contract staffing, permanent placements, professionals search and selection, in-house and HR solutions. A division of €17.2 billion Randstad Holding NV, Netherlands, it has over 60,000 flexi employees on its rolls in India. Moorthy K Uppaluri, Managing Director & CEO, Randstad India, is bullish about the growth of flexi staffing also called temporary staffing – employees hired by Randstand on its rolls to work for clients on a temporary basis on a flexible timing and duration. “This industry will remain fertile and flourish despite the volatility,” he told BusinessLine in an interview. Excerpts.

Does this uncertain economy affect the recruitment industry?

We are excited with the opportunity that India beholds for multiple reasons. Typically, when there is uncertainty, whether it is GDP or growth rate, a leading indicator that the economy has taken off is the flexi staffing.

Whether it is manufacturing or knowledge-based industry, when there is a sudden growth that the industry is experiencing, they will go with flexi workers instead of permanent staff until they are sure that the growth trend will sustain. The moment the growth is coming up, clients would tell us they need a few flexi workers.

Once the growth is sustained, then they will say can we have them as permanent workers. So, there is a conversion that happens from flexi staff in Randstad’s rolls to permanent staff in client’s payrolls.

You seem to be very optimistic?

This industry will remain fertile and flourish despite the volatility in the economy. When the economy is doing well, there are more jobs and people want to grow by shifting jobs.

When the economy is not growing, companies will retrench people who in turn will search for jobs. Even in a lukewarm economy, people want to explore as they may feel it is muted or stalled growth in a company and would like to change the job for better pay. So, there is a flux and mobility.

How many potential flexi employees are there in the market?

There are about 1.7 million flexi workers of which we have 60,000.

But, so far flexi staff supplied to clients is mostly in the lower grade, right?

Conventionally, in India, flexi staff is at the base of the pyramid or low wage.

There are a few directors in multiple companies’ boards working part-time. We now have an opportunity to penetrate the mid-level professional jobs like finance manager, accounts manager or vice presidents.

There is a huge demand in these categories, especially from start-ups that require such senior persons for short duration, while setting up the company.

In the US, there are part-time CIOs, CFOs, doctors and engineers. Such high wage flexi jobs need to be penetrated in India too.

Where do you source so many middle level flexi staff?

Due to economic growth, millennial have experience and a lot of people are considering early retirements.

These people are retiring in their 40s because of their economic strength and looking at work that is less stressful and that will have work-life balance and can work 20 hours a week. This means, two start-up jobs per week with ten hours a week.

What’s your role in this entire supply chain?

We find the right talent who can give certain amount of time and looking for flexibility. And, on the other side, there is a demand for such part-time. We match them. This is an important trend that is beginning to happen, which will be important and critical for the growth of the start-up ecosystem.

Why do you say it is important?

This is because in the IT industry, the next Google or Microsoft, or in the pharma, the next Abbotts or Mercks should come from India.

We need innovation and the ground is very fertile with a very good start-up ecosystem. And the talent bottlenecks can be overcome with the flexi staffing.

This means, there will be flexi staff in the top, middle and the bottom of the pyramid. This trend will grow with Made in India and Digital India programmes of the Government. These will create more jobs in these lower and mid sections, and we need to climb up. More flexi jobs will be permeated in the entire pyramid.

But, why the concept of flexi staff has not picked up in India?

In the past, a job with the private sector was considered as a stigma. This was the same case with flexi staff that has not penetrated.

For a population of 1.4 billion, the penetration of tri-partite flexi workers – meaning a three-way arrangement with the client requiring a flexi worker who will be our roll and deployed with a client – are 1.7 million. It’s almost one for every 1,000.

However, in developed countries like the US or Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK, it is four out of 100 is a flexi staff. When we grow nearly 40 times, then we can say we are in the same league. The growth potential is immense.