New Delhi: Fresh out of engineering college, the 23-year-old electronics graduate from Andhra Pradesh thought he had it made when he got his first selection letter from the Bengaluru-based IT services major Wipro last year.
Over the next several months, he sat for tests, cleared interviews, participated in hackathons, and attended “group freshers’ activities”. The only thing that didn’t happen was his actual onboarding, which the human resources (HR) department claimed was delayed because of a lack of “business requirements”. And then it all went up in smoke.
Last month, after a series of email exchanges, which ThePrint has seen, he was told that the job offer was off the table because he had not been compliant with Wipro’s “guidelines”. He is gutted, but he isn’t alone.
Many other graduates, all fresh to the job market, have met a similar fate. All jumped through hoops for months, and several turned down other job offers. Their career résumés are still blank.
And it’s not just Wipro. Other IT companies like Tech Mahindra, Capgemini, Accenture, HCL, and Infosys have also been accused of either cancelling job offers or indefinitely delaying the date of joining for the past year.
For instance, a few freshers ‘hired’ by Tech Mahindra in Delhi-NCR told ThePrint that as many as 500 students were left hanging ever since they got their acceptance letters in May. “All of us have mailed HR multiple times but they keep saying that they don’t have any updates,” said a 22-year-old Tech Mahindra ‘recruit’ from Pune.
Another 22-year-old engineer who was supposed to join Capgemini in Chennai last month said he received a letter revoking his job offer after he had already waited for seven months after clearing a five-month training programme. He now plans to return to his hometown in Bihar.
ThePrint reached the corporate communications representatives of Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Accenture and Capgemini for comments via phone and email, but no response was received till the time of publishing this report. This article will be updated if a response is received.
According to the Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES), a body that advocates for the rights and welfare of IT sector workers, “thousands” of freshers have complained about being left in limbo indefinitely.
Harpreet Saluja, president of NITES, said that forums like his are getting many calls from “distressed” graduates.
“Close to 30,000 are suffering and the number seems to be growing,” he claimed. “Many have educational loans and come from poor families, they have no clue how to pay back the hefty EMIs. We are presently trying to approach the government.”
While global factors like the Russia-Ukraine war and supply chain disruptions have led to recession fears and affected tech employment in the US and Europe too, the manner in which some Indian companies have kept freshers hanging for long periods of time has raised questions about their hiring ethics.
The National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), which is the apex trade association of the IT industry in India, declined to comment when contacted.
‘Offer was withdrawn because I had headphones on’
Emails sent back and forth between anxious job candidates and HR personnel present a bleak picture of the tech hiring practices in some companies.
In April, Accenture in Bengaluru sent bulk emails to about 500 students telling them that their contracts were being revoked.
Among them, a 23-year-old from Chennai decided to keep emailing HR, seeking the exact reasons why the contracts were withdrawn. The reply he got claimed that he had been “unable to clear [their] verifications” and hence his “journey on this hiring opportunity” was over and the “offer stands withdrawn”.
The techie claimed this ‘reason’ was disingenuous because the offer letters were disbursed only after the verification process was completed. “They had written that we passed all phases of assessments. This email makes no sense,” he said.
Yet, he, like many other freshers in similar situations, is still willing to give the company a second chance. “I know all of us will immediately join if there is any course correction from their side,” he claimed.
Some of the email exchanges accessed by ThePrint showed that freshers who were selected by Wipro had to first wait for months to begin their onboarding process and then were required to complete an unpaid internship — only to find rejection letters lying in their inboxes, sometimes for bizarre reasons.
The Andhra Pradesh graduate said that he and some of his batchmates were told in January that they would have to wait for “two months” for onboarding. They were also asked to choose between completing an unpaid internship or to pay for “velocity training” to the tune of Rs 30,000 as part of the induction process, he claimed.
“The velocity training was said to be some Rs 30,000 after which we were promised a jump in our salaries along with a Rs 1 lakh bonus. We were hired for Rs 3.5 lakh per annum and the training would have ideally taken us to Rs 5.5 lakh plus the bonus,” he said.
He, however, stressed that this internship was a prerequisite not of hiring but only of training. “We were already confirmed [as hires] and that was validated multiple times.”
Despite the touted financial benefits of paying for training, most freshers chose the unpaid internship since it was not so hard on the pocket.
The emails show that Wipro then revoked the pay-for-training and only enforced the unpaid internship programme, which the graduates ThePrint spoke to had completed.
One of these new recruits, from Hosur in Karnataka, told ThePrint that he was told “several times” that onboarding would take place eventually.
“They kept saying that the business requirement is low… They also made us participate in hackathons so that they can make up for the delay, at least that is what they mentioned in the email where they said that they have not forgotten us,” he added.
When his job offer was rescinded, he was shocked by the reason he was given.
“They wrote in the termination email that I did not comply with Wipro’s assessment guidelines — that is bizarre since they don’t give onboarding letters ahead of assessment results. It is only after all the tests, interviews, and assessments that employees are brought in. When I tried asking what was the specific guideline I did not comply with, I was told that I had my headphones on while I was waiting my turn in the office. It made no sense at all,” he said.
Notably, aspirants were shown an email from Anandhakrishnan Devaraj of Wipro’s hiring team, sent on 11 May, 2022, in which he said the onboarding would begin “shortly” and that it had been delayed due to a “slow” job market but also that offers were still valid.
“The job market is slow at present. Mapping of resources to the current projects in Wipro is getting delayed. In this scenario, your offers are considered so important and valid. The offered students will be honoured soon. Information will be shared shortly. The joining will be a little delayed at present. Students are encouraged to attend other product and service companies,” the letter said.
Several WhatsApp screenshots were also accessed by ThePrint wherein managers at Wipro confirmed to the graduates that their onboarding would begin in January 2023. When the graduates said they could not wait so long, the manager “showed no concern”, they alleged.
‘We have wasted so much time’
Freshers hired by Tech Mahindra in Delhi-NCR have recounted similar stories of being sent selection letters, but then no further communication. The ‘recruits’ said they were given acceptance letters in May.
“There were close to 500 students who have been waiting for the past four months. We passed four rounds of tests and interviews and only after that we were given the acceptance letter,” said the 22-year-old Tech Mahindra aspirant from Pune quoted earlier, adding that attempts to attain clarity from the company have failed.
“[College students] from the 2022 batch are now being considered instead, and all of us from the 2021 batch are still confused about what the next course of action would look like. Many of us had taken educational loans and our EMIs have begun already,” she added.
A second Tech Mahindra recruit left hanging is an electronics graduate from Pune. Her frustration was palpable.
“It is like we are getting arm-twisted in different ways just so that they can justify their actions. Some of us are even ready to join despite the differences because the market is not great for jobs. But they refuse to tell us any timeline and hence now most of us are jobless. It is hard to find a job anywhere now since we have wasted so much time,” she said.
While she and some other freshers are still holding out hope, some have decided to cut their losses, like the 22-year-old Capgemini recruit from Bihar quoted earlier.
“I was part of a five-month training that was a mandate for close to 5,000 of us who received joining letters. I passed the course with marks way above the cut-off,” he claimed. He was given a joining date of 19 September, which ThePrint has seen, but his offer was revoked via an email. “I finished my degree in Chennai but I am unable to stay in the city for longer hence I decided to come back home,” he said.
Plea to Union government
Worker advocacy platforms like NITES and Forum for IT Employees (FITE) are receiving calls from distressed job claimants to take up their cases and take their cause to the government.
In a 24 September letter to Bhupender Yadav, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, NITES raised the case of Wipro.
“Livelihood of 1000s of students & employees is now jeopardized. These students & employees have rejected offers from other companies keeping their faith in Wipro that someday the company will hire them. Not a single rupee has been given to these employees by Wipro, who have devoted their time & strength for a year to the company, (sic)” the letter said.
It further mentioned that Wipro had fired 300 employees last month for “moonlighting” and “breach of ethics”.
“[I]s this policy of the company to use the time & energy of employees without paying any money ethical? Hence through this letter, we are seeking your prompt intervention,” the letter sent by NITES added.
Recession fears ‘not a good excuse’
The IT sector in India has reportedly already started to mull various measures, such as reducing campus hiring, to safeguard against an impending recession in the US and European markets, on which Indian tech companies depend heavily for revenues. IT stocks have also been slumping due to global economic upheaval and concerns about profit margins.
However, the freshers in question claim that these factors are no excuse for how they have been treated.
“Why should anyone blame us for being non-compliant? We have done nothing but yielded to their demands. It is true the markets are suffering but that requires a larger conversation with us and maybe help us with some direction rather than being silent. It is going to be a hard journey from here on,” the 22-year-old Tech Mahindra aspirant explained.
ThePrint tried to get in touch with senior HR leaders to understand best practices in circumstances where companies are unable to move forward with their hiring plans.
Teamlease, one of India’s largest HR companies, declined to comment. However, Sushant Mallya, the HR vice-president of Jaro Education, an edtech company that focuses on executive education and works with numerous IT aspirants, said that maintaining “transparency” could go a long way.
“There’s always a sentiment associated with a certain brand and when the company fulfills the expectations of its people, their faith in the organisation strengthens. On the contrary, the brand pays a huge price if things don’t work out as expected,” he said.
According to him, being clear with new entrants ameliorates their fears and also helps the company in question maintain its reputation.
“Maintaining transparency of the company’s expectations and their future… always creates a win-win for both the parties,” Mallya said.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)