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The Great Impact of India on Global HR

The Indian economy propelled itself to the fifth spot in global rankings earlier this year and is now seeing a high influx of international organisations into the country as well as a boom in home-grown start-ups.

Reasons for this trend include the sheer size of the Indian consumer base, urbanisation and technology adoption, low operational costs for companies, close to half a billion skilled English-speaking youths, and the general ease of setting up a business in India. The presence of top tier technical education institutions and management schools across the country is also attracting companies to set up their base in India to partner with this talent. It is a win-win as they get access to homegrown competency to build future leaders while also being able to build efficiencies, consolidate roles, and set up global capability centres in India using that talent in a cost-effective manner. 

This utopian scenario is not without its own complexities. As this cream talent is congregated in certain pockets of the country, driving specific markets and areas, it is contributing to a war for talent in the Indian corporate world. This is where the role of world-class HR leaders comes into play. They are the sounding boards for global, regional, and local CEOs as they enter and grow in this unique market in a sustainable manner. 

What Does the CHRO in India Do in This Complex Market?

To start with, they build a tech-savvy team of HR partners with strong analytical abilities. By building the technological framework and using data, these leaders are ensuring that they have the groundwork in place to attract key talent. As a result, roles focussing on HR analytics, HR technology, and digitisation are opening up to a greater extent in India. Capabilities are also being built around the use of AI to facilitate talent acquisition and internal mobility. 

Secondly, companies are setting up robust talent acquisition and talent management teams in-house. These are not limited to recruitment but also cover roles on talent branding, early careers, diversity and inclusion, career and succession planning, and global mobility; thereby ensuring organisations attract, engage, and retain top-notch employees. The ability of an organisation to tap into all sources of talent will be the key differentiator for success, and these CHROs are increasing their DE&I budget and incorporating it into their overall talent strategy. Upskilling and reskilling the workforce are top priorities for HR teams to improve productivity and ensure retention and relevance in a highly competitive environment. 

As Gen Z and Millennials form a major proportion of the workforce in India, and as working from home becomes the norm and an attraction tool, HR leaders are also exploring the setup of systems that will enable flexibility, attract gig workers and save costs by revamping physical office spaces. Roles around the ‘Future of work’ are being created to promote an environment that supports employee well-being. Ensuring that the ‘human’ in human resources still persists, role such as ‘People Partner’ are advertised to help create efficient feedback loops within the organisation to deliver superior employee experience. Tech-savvy HR partnering roles are also on the rise ensuring that the HR technology of the organisation can support hybrid and flexible working models. A recent report by NITI Aayog estimates that the gig workforce in India will increase by nearly 200% from 2020 to 2030. This will bring further opportunities for organisations and HR leaders to create unique models around workforce planning and HR operations.

Finally, CHROs are focussing on the development of global capability centres in India. They are looking to consolidate and standardise HR operational roles to allow HR business partners to focus on core business issues and stakeholder management. 

Kanwal Kaul, Director – People & Transformation, Talent Acquisition at NatWest Group is an Indian leader with solid experience from regional roles based in Hong Kong, London, and Philippines. He has also successfully managed global and regional roles while being based in India. He says, 

The India Global Capability Centre ecosystem holds a unique position globally. The focus on India is no longer with a lens of labour cost arbitrage, instead it is on “capability”. The talent landscape in India is an important lever to the challenges world faces across technology and various other skills. There is a visible shift in the talent profile of the global capability centres, with higher percentage of digital skills, accelerated hiring for next generation skills to steer global digital initiatives.

With this in mind, more global roles are moving to India and HR professionals with global experience or knowledge of setting up shared services are finding themselves in high demand. He adds,

We have a variety of leadership positions (regional and global) located in India for wider firms. Some industries may play this differently given how they are structured to service their customer segments. However, if you spotlight on technology as an industry-agnostic function, it holds a great strength in leadership roles in the country. 

Kanwal Kaul, Director – People & Transformation, Talent Acquisition, NatWest Group

The Future of HR in India and Beyond

Indian talent is going places as an increasing number of professionals are grabbing top jobs in the corporate world globally. The trend is not new, but the movement has intensified with leading multinationals across all sectors more inclined than ever to elevate Indian executives to international roles. In the past, Indian nationals taking on global roles were less frequent, with most appointments restricted to South Asia. 

When a HR leader has shown their mastery in the complex Indian market they are well equipped to deal with the diversity across the globe. The experience and skillset they bring to the table are in high demand for global roles with companies across industries including PepsiCo, Philips, Capgemini, Deloitte, and Reckitt Benckiser who are all showing an increasing inclination to elevate Indian talent to international roles.

Successful HR Leaders in this movement include Anushree Singh who is now Global Project Manager – EVP at AkzoNobel having previously held the role of Country HR Head, India Sub-Continent; and Leena Nair who rose through the ranks of Unilever to CHRO and is now Global Chief Executive Officer at Chanel. 

Positioning India As a Global Hub

New digital technologies are driving business and creating new sources of revenue for multinational companies. India is proving its worth by focussing on global mindsets, outspoken thoughts, and engineering capabilities, and has become a destination of choice for organisations creating a hub for their global centres of excellence. The country has gained the seal of approval from several global companies who claim that India is on par with, or more productive than their other international locations. NetApp for example, a successful data management company, runs its global charters from India. NatWest’s Kanwal Kaul continues:

There is now 70% growth in innovation hubs and Centre of Excellence set ups in India. Partnerships with startups ecosystem is thriving, and university partnerships are further enhancing capabilities by strategic linking of academia and corporate relations.

India’s demographic today in terms of a vast English-speaking population in the 20–60-year age group, the standard of education and the quality of graduates produced, the pro-business government policies, and cost-effectiveness validates the country as a contender to be an APAC or global HQ for many organisations in the future. Indians also come with a unique ‘Jugaad’ mindset, which is basically a flexible way to solve problems that uses limited resources in an innovative manner, a huge advantage for organisations as they employ such a workforce and hire leaders with this attitude.

What Does This All Mean?

Over the past year, ChapmanCG has seen an increasing number of organisations recruiting for regional and global roles in India as they turn to the multi-faceted Indian HR talent.

CHROs in India are driving the HR talent supply and demand; and inevitably, as a result, the HR community themselves need to upskill and thus shape the talent landscape in the country. The human resources practitioners in India now have greater opportunities to build their own skills and develop into world-class leaders who are data-driven, tech-savvy, close to the business, and have the experience and ability to work at scales that only a country like India can provide. CHROs in India have an opportunity to influence where the country goes next given how the pandemic, the rapid increase in social media and technology adoption, and the ongoing war for talent have put the focus back on the employee.


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