IT major Infosys on Saturday said it has seen approval rates for its H-1B visa applications in the US increase significantly starting from the first quarter of FY21. The company, which has ramped up its localisation efforts across various markets, including the US over the past few years, also plans to continue recruiting “at scale” on the back of strong demand for IT and digital services, Infosys Chief Operating Officer Pravin Rao said at the company’s 40th annual general meeting.
He added that the company will give salary hikes to staff, effective July 2021.
“We have significantly localised our US operations with over 65 per cent of employees being locals. In addition, the new US administration is reviewing prior administration agency rules that are not in effect or not yet finalised. H-1B approval rates for Infosys have also significantly increased starting quarter one of FY21 for the last four quarters,” Rao said while responding to a shareholder query.
He added that the company also has a large number of employees with approved H-1B visas and ready to travel to support its clients’ requirements.
IT companies have been ramping up their presence in international markets like the US, the UK and Australia by hiring locals over the past few years to overcome visa-related challenges.
Last year, Infosys – India’s second largest IT firm – had announced plans to hire 12,000 American workers over the next two years, taking its hiring commitment in the country to 25,000 over five years.
In his address at the AGM, Infosys Chairman Nandan Nilekani had said the company has recruited 19,230 graduates in India and 1,941 – both graduates and associate degree holders – outside India to serve its clients’ burgeoning demand for digital acceleration.
The company plans to double its Canadian workforce to 4,000 employees by 2023, and has announced plans to create 1,000 digital jobs in the UK to fuel post-pandemic growth.
Nilekani said over the last 18 months, there has been an acceleration in digital transformation, and especially in cloud-related solutions.
“We have increased our differentiation in digital by offering a lot of services and developed many many capabilities in digital…be it cloud, cyber, open source, AI and automation, big data analytics, and many other services, which are usually relevant to our digital world,” he added.
On high attrition rates, Rao said markets are opening up, demand is picking up and companies are hiring in large numbers, which has led to higher attrition compared to FY20.
“…we are increasing our efforts to retain our talent. We had two rounds of compensation increase effective January, 2021, and July 2021…we have also engaged our employees through multiple connect sessions, providing them opportunities of continuous learning and career advancements. We are hopeful to be able to sustain that attrition to a manageable level,” he added.
He, however, did not comment on the quantum of salary hike that will be given.
At the end of March 2021, Infosys’ headcount stood at 2,59,619 people with voluntary attrition at 15.2 per cent.
Asked about reports about millions of jobs being slashed by top Indian IT firms on account of increasing automation, Rao said industry body Nasscom has already clarified that the IT sector has and will continue to see addition of new skilled talent.
“As far as we are concerned, our demand continues to be strong and we continue to recruit at scale. Also as you’re aware, we are actively re-skilling our employees for the increasing digital technology demand. So as such, there is really no layoffs,” he added.
Rao said amidst the second wave of COVID-19 in the country, the company has continued to focus on the safety and wellbeing of its employees as well as ensuring business continuity for clients. About 96.5 per cent of its employees globally, and over 98 per cent in India are working from home.
“We think going forward, we will need to adopt a hybrid model. There are situations where projects can operate remotely, but equally some parts of the product lifecycle or certain types of project will benefit from co-located teams. What we’re trying to do is enable a model where our employees can work either from the office or remotely, and can switch seamlessly,” he explained.
Rao added that the “hybrid” work model – a mix of working in office and working from home – will be based on three factors of nature of work, personal and social needs.
“The work from anywhere model will allow us to tap into talent pools, even in towns and cities where we may not have offices and delivery centres. We expect to have a percentage of employees who will contribute in a remote mode and add to our talent pool,” he said.
On a query on big-ticket acquisitions, Infosys CEO Salil Parekh said the company has an active acquisition programme.
“However, our focus is to buy companies which are focused on these digital technologies. Some of these are small and fast growing, we are not shying away from large acquisitions, we are looking at them, evaluating them, they’re in the pipeline,” he added.
Parekh explained that the company looks at various criteria while deciding on potential acquisitions.
“Is it going to be value accretive for shareholders, how will the integration work, what is the cultural affinity, what are the methods where we can really make it for the benefit of our clients. So when we find something, even if it’s large, that will fit those criteria and of course, the value, the price will pay for it, we will look at that,” he said.