Paul Dupuis, MD and CEO of global staffing and placement company Randstad India, believes even though there is despair around the prospect of thousands of IT jobs being lost, it’s not all gloom and doom.

As Dupuis says: “If we talk with a sense of urgency, the term reskill or perish is especially true now for the IT professionals on the side of downsizing.”

Dupuis says IT professionals are typically agile, tend to be curious, and their careers are all about learning and development. “This provides an exciting opportunity to learn something new. If I am with someone who has just been downsized, I will be looking to the future, and learn what skills I need to be at the leading edge,” he says.

One sector where IT pros can train themselves is in e-payment. “With digitisation, there’s huge opportunity in e-payments. I don’t think we have scratched the surface of that as yet.”

Dupuis points to what happened when automation happened in manufacturing. The plunge into robotics, for example, created more jobs. “Somebody had to maintain them and redesign and innovate around that. There will be different skill sets needed.”

‘More jobs’

The Randstad CEO says there’s a sense that AI will replace jobs and reduce the need for people, but Randstad doesn’t believe that. Dupuis says that with the perfusion of technology, there could be more jobs created — to create, implement and manage the technology. It need not be just job reduction, but jobs can be created in newer areas related to technology.

“We have a strategy within Randstad called Tech n’ Touch, where we believe that tech will co-exist with the human touch/interaction and not replace it entirely,” he adds.

Shift towards India

Dupuis, a Canadian, who spent over 20 years in Japan, and the past four years with Randstad, and is now six weeks into his new assignment in India, says that from 1990 to 2016, it was all about China —its amazing economic growth dominated headlines.

“What I have seen in the past 18 months is that there is a striking shift towards India; China’s growth is flattening out a bit and is perceived to be bit of a risk. Labour costs have increased dramatically compared to 1990, and manufacturing is moving out. What makes India attractive is its workforce, which is well educated and hungry,” he says.

There’s a legacy of India being dominated only by IT, but he says IT is only one of many burgeoning sectors. Sectors which will grow and see jobs being created are FMCG, power, clean and alternate energy and e-commerce, which Dupuis says will continue to be strong, even though there is consolidation happening now.

At Randstad, which has 60,000 people on its rolls deployed in various companies ranging from IT to marketing, there is a bit of predictability to its business. After appraisal season, the number of resumes coming in spikes, while in the weeks leading to bonus appraisals, resumes are down. “Of course, when companies downsize, the number of resumes coming to us also spikes. So it comes back to the reskill or perish I talked about,” says the CEO.

Apart from its staffing business, last year Randstad also placed around 9,000 people in various companies at middle to senior levels.