People

Infosys is hiring 12,000 people — and not from the Ivy League

President Ravi Kumar tells Protocol that community colleges provide an affordable way to hire.

Infosys President Ravi Kumar

Thanks to a hiring pipeline that targets community college students, Infosys President Ravi Kumar thinks his company can make hiring in the U.S. economically viable.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For many companies, the pandemic and ensuing shift to remote work has been an opportunity to offshore tech work. But one company that picks up much of that work has decided to make a counterintuitive bet: Indian digital services giant Infosys recently announced that it's hiring 12,000 more people in the United States over the next two years. Added to the 13,000 workers the company's hired since 2017, that will bring its total U.S. workforce to 25,000.

The move is part of Infosys's bet on a "hybrid" model of work, Infosys President Ravi Kumar told Protocol. And thanks to a hiring pipeline that targets community college students, he thinks the company can make hiring in the U.S. economically viable.

In a conversation with Protocol, Kumar discussed Infosys' decision, the H1-B visa suspension, and what's different about hiring from community colleges.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Why is Infosys hiring this many people in the U.S.?

We had a hypothesis in our mind way back in early 2016 that digital capabilities would be consumed in closer proximity to the enterprises that consume it. And the reason is very simple: Digital capabilities are agile, you stand up and stand down very quick, they run in short cycles, they don't run in waterfall. Most times clients are wanting to stand up a team that is co-innovating and co-creating. Keeping all that in mind, we said the traditional hub-and-spoke, on site/offshore model will work well for traditional tech services [like ERP], while digital services [like cloud, IoT and data analytics] would need to be consumed in conjunction with our clients. So, whatever we did for 30+ years in India by building capabilities, hiring from schools and building it [from the] ground up, we said we need to replicate that back in the United States. So we took that hypothesis to the board, and then in 2017 we made this announcement that we will do 10,000 jobs. That is how we started the process.

Then we progressed from there to innovate on distributing the work away from the client side to nearshore centers in the United States. And we started to place nearshore centers in ecosystems which had good academic institutions. So we set up six centers in the U.S., and we started to move work to a three-tier model, I call it. Part of it is on site in a client location, part of it is nearshore closer to a client location, and part of it is offshore.

In 2017, that 10,000 announcement led to 13,000 jobs as of now. And interestingly, just when we were starting to kick off on rapid digitization in all the industries we were working in, the health crisis started to accelerate that exponentially. The digitization of enterprises, virtualization of work. The stronger belief now is skills of the future are going to be depleted very rapidly. As [that happens] and as digitization goes up, you will need a lot of backbone jobs, like data operations, end-user computing security operations. And we believe that we could create a landing spot for non-degree holders.

We started to hire from community colleges. Community colleges [make up] one-third of the talent pool in the United States, and that's an ignored talent pool. It comes from underserved parts of the communities, it doesn't have access to corporate jobs. Most of them do part-time jobs. And we thought the health crisis, as much as it does invoke the debate on inclusivity and diversity, can also be this opportunity to bridge the gap. We started to hire [from] some community colleges just before it, and we've started to double down on it now, as we step into a world where digital backbone jobs is where you could land them on and create an apprentice model, which will allow us to transition them to core jobs and create a different new alternate talent pool, as I call it. There is so much heavy lifting needed in the world we are going to get into, because work is going to be virtualized.

A lot of companies are actually using the COVID crisis to offshore jobs from America to India as a way to save money. Why have you decided to go the opposite route?

Offshoring is going to increase, that's for sure. But we are going to live in a hybrid world; 100% remote is probably not what the industry will look for. I am very positive that the full virtual model is not the most optimal. The full physical world we lived in is, of course, not the most optimal. The crisis is going to allow us to define this new hybrid model, which is optimal for work, workplace and workforce.

So, as much as we think we have to do offshoring, we would still need closer connections with our clients where we are co-creating and co-innovating. Digital cycles are going to be so shocked that you will need those capabilities in closer proximity as well. So we're doing both things: We are amplifying the global talent pool, but we are also doubling down on a local talent pool. And as long as you do that economically viably from schools and colleges and community colleges, you can build skilled talent for the future.

How much of a role did the H1-B suspension play in this? Are you concerned about not being able to get Indian workers into America?

We're closely watching this program — it's a program we subscribe to. We are a company that strongly believes global talent pools are needed in tech services. We are a company that equally believes that local talent pools are as important in digital capabilities. So I would say that's a program we will always leverage, because we need a global talent pool to cater to our clients. But I'm not as concerned about the risk associated with it, because we pretty much have a large pool of talent locally as well now. We have invested into this model for the last few years. So we are excited about both, and we think both play a significant role in the future of Infosys.

Interestingly, we're also setting up a corporate training university in Indianapolis. And so this is a permanent switch to how we are as a company. We are continuing to believe that local talent pools have to be built for the future. So this corporate training university is an indication of where we are going. And it will be amplified by global talent pools.

More importantly, I think our clients will need reskilling efforts, and it's quite possible that clients will look at technology more strategically, and they would start to believe that we have to reskill their employees, rather than outsourcing it. That is a possibility. And when that happens, we have to start reskilling client talent, talent from large enterprises, which will be insourced, but the value chain of capability building will be outsourced to companies like Infosys. Today, the human capital is outsourced to companies like Infosys — you could see a possibility of clients actually outsourcing their value chain, which is training, reskilling, capability building. We want to be a part of the journey, whether it is lending human capital or lending the value chain of human capital, it doesn't matter.

Twelve thousand people is a lot of people, especially when you're recruiting them over two years. How do you recruit that many people, so quickly?

We are one of the largest recruiters from schools in the U.S. We've already done 13,000, so we truly believe that we could do the next 12,000. Schools are a huge funnel for us. We are now starting to go to community colleges, so that's a big funnel. We also partner with companies like Merit America, Per Scholas, Woz U. We partner with these companies to work in community colleges and create a feeder into enterprises. We have a network of these partnerships, and we also have a network of academic institutions where we have built our relationships, built our value proposition in the last three years. So [we're] very confident of getting these numbers, as long as our clients continue to spend with us.

Is part of the appeal with recruiting from community colleges the lack of competition from other recruiters?

We are one of the few employers in our category that is hiring from community colleges, so we are pretty much pioneering that effort — we are grooming that talent. We are competing with other industries, I would say, not as much with the players in our industry. The digital services industry is fairly new to community colleges, so our effort has to be to evangelize the jobs we do and the jobs we're hiring for, more than actually competing with other companies.

It's a very interesting space. I would say it can really bridge the digital divide. It can bridge the gap, and it kind of contributes to the inclusivity and diversity quotient of enterprises. So our clients are excited about it, we are excited about it. The demographics are very different, so we are preparing our HR infrastructure to support it.

The few people we hired in the last six months, our feedback has been very positive. They're much more sticky to us, they have a sense of aspiration and hunger to perform and achieve. They've come from families where they're probably the only employed family member. So, we find ourselves in a great spot on this space, and we are really excited about building digital jobs from these communities.

Is there anything that you need to do differently when you're hiring from a community college versus a traditional university?

We've had some great learnings going to community colleges in the last six to nine months. First of all, this is an ecosystem where they do not know any of these tech jobs. So you have to evangelize the job as much as you have to evangelize the company you're hiring from. Nobody they know about in their friends and families have done jobs of this kind, so they're very curious about it.

Compensation is not the issue, the issue is primarily: Do they have the confidence to do this? The second is you have to hire on learnability and less on skills, and we do that very well otherwise. The third piece I would say is you need more soft-skills grooming, because most of these people just have done two-year courses, and they've done it part time. So as much as hard skills have to be imparted to them, you also have to spend time on soft skills. Because they don't have the same level of grooming which a four-year undergrad course does. These are the three things I would put on the table, which we have learned and we have weaved it into a process of getting these people on board.

Enterprise

US issues sweeping new rules on chip-tech exports to China

The Biden administration rolled out new, wide-ranging export controls on the chips and equipment U.S. companies are able to sell to China.

The Biden administration’s new controls on chip exports represent a significant shift in U.S. policy related to China.

Photo: Chen Zhonghao/Xinhua via Getty Images

The U.S. unveiled a set of new regulations Friday that aim to choke off China’s access to advanced chips, the tools necessary to manufacture years-old designs, and the service and support mechanisms needed to keep chip fabrication systems running smoothly.

On a briefing call with reporters Thursday, administration officials said the goal is to block the People’s Liberation Army and China’s domestic surveillance apparatus from gaining access to advanced computing capabilities that require the use of advanced semiconductors. The chips, tools, and software are helping China’s military, including aiding the development of weapons of mass destruction, according to the officials, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss the administration’s policies freely.

Keep Reading Show less
Max A. Cherney

Max A. Cherney is a senior reporter at Protocol covering the semiconductor industry. He has worked for Barron's magazine as a Technology Reporter, and its sister site MarketWatch. He is based in San Francisco.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Enterprise

Why CrowdStrike wants to be a broader enterprise IT player

The company, which grew from $1 billion in annual recurring revenue to $2 billion in just 18 months, is expanding deeper within the cybersecurity market and into the wider IT space as well.

CrowdStrike is well positioned at a time when CISOs are fed up with going to dozens of different vendors to meet their security needs.

Image: Protocol

CrowdStrike is finding massive traction in areas outside its core endpoint security products, setting up the company to become a major player in other key security segments such as identity protection as well as in IT categories beyond cybersecurity.

Already one of the biggest names in cybersecurity for the past decade, CrowdStrike now aspires to become a more important player in areas within the wider IT landscape such as data observability and IT operations, CrowdStrike co-founder and CEO George Kurtz told Protocol in a recent interview.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Fintech

Election markets are far from a sure bet

Kalshi has big-name backing for its plan to offer futures contracts tied to election results. Will that win over a long-skeptical regulator?

Whether Kalshi’s election contracts could be considered gaming or whether they serve a true risk-hedging purpose is one of the top questions the CFTC is weighing in its review.

Photo illustration: Getty Images; Protocol

Crypto isn’t the only emerging issue on the CFTC’s plate. The futures regulator is also weighing a fintech sector that has similarly tricky political implications: election bets.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has set Oct. 28 as a date by which it hopes to decide whether the New York-based startup Kalshi can offer a form of wagering up to $25,000 on which party will control the House of Representatives and Senate after the midterms. PredictIt, another online market for election trading, has also sued the regulator over its decision to cancel a no-action letter.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at rdeffenbaugh@protocol.com.
Enterprise

The Uber verdict shows why mandatory disclosure isn't such a bad idea

The conviction of Uber's former chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, seems likely to change some minds in the debate over proposed cyber incident reporting regulations.

Executives and boards will now be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up," said one information security veteran.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If nothing else, the guilty verdict delivered Wednesday in a case involving Uber's former security head will have this effect on how breaches are handled in the future: Executives and boards, according to information security veteran Michael Hamilton, will be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up."

Following the conviction of former Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan, "we likely will get better voluntary reporting" of cyber incidents, said Hamilton, formerly the chief information security officer of the City of Seattle, and currently the founder and CISO at cybersecurity vendor Critical Insight.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins