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Quess Corp surpasses TCS to become India’s largest private sector employer

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Quess Corp
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Quess Corp surpasses TCS to become India’s largest private sector employer

Surpassing Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Quess Corp has now become India’s largest private sector employer. According to a press briefing, Quess Corp has grown at 38 per cent every year since 2016, but of whom about 90,000 are overseas, pegging its India workforce at about 3.6 lakh. TCS, meanwhile, does not provide a geographic split of its employee base and a company spokesperson declined to comment for the story.

The development underlines a growing shift in the economy as companies like Quess have benefited from the demand for outsourced workers in areas ranging from e-commerce delivery to facilities management for commercial buildings.

There is, of course, a significant difference in the skill levels of staff at TCS, which mostly employs engineers, and Quess, which depends largely on ‘grey-collar’ workers.

Quess’s employees function as outsourced service providers for its over 2,000 clients, including Samsung, Amazon, Reliance, Vodafone India and Bajaj Finance, according to a report from ICRA. The company has about 5,000 workers overseas in markets like Singapore.

“There are many countries which have a population smaller than the number of employees we have. The scale of our impact on the Indian job market is not well-known, especially the role we play in formalizing the job economy,” said Quess Corp’s Group CEO Suraj Moraje, a former McKinsey & Co partner who joined the company in November.

The development comes at a time when traditional sectors such as automobiles, telecom, FMCG and even IT services have seen layoffs for reasons like slowing growth and consolidation. At the same time, new economy companies continue to grow, fuelled by a record year of capital inflows.

Investors tracking the space say the shift is happening not only because of the scarcity of jobs, but also because wages have increased substantially in the segment. 

“This area is exploding and these grey-collar jobs now have salaries which compare with entry-level compensation in IT/ITes companies,” says Anand Lunia, founding partner at venture capital firm India Quotient, adding that wages for delivery boys have risen faster than inflation over the last decade.

Lunia was an early investor in Rebel Foods, which owns brands like Faasos and Behrouz Biryani, where salaries of delivery personnel are about Rs 20,000 – compared to Rs 6,000-7,000 in 2010, which inflation-adjusted, would have been about Rs 10,000-12,000 now.

“Their aspiration is a steady job, which is a big reason why companies outsource these jobs since attrition is high and there is also not always a steady demand for these roles,” he said.

According to Moraje, the average salaries at Quess range between Rs 12,000-Rs 40,000 for 70% of its workforce, about 75% of whom are in the age group of 21-35. While he declined to give an attrition number, the firm interviews over 1 million people a year. 

“We need to make sure that employees and associates have a career path so that our recruiting costs and retention rate improves,” he says. 

The company says it provides benefits such as provident fund and insurance to its entire workforce, and for many of them, this is their first formal employment.

Quess, which was started by serial entrepreneur Ajit Isaac over a decade ago, has grown at a fast clip through a slew of acquisitions and the backing of Fairfax, owned by Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa. 

The company was listed in 2016. Local rival TeamLease, also based in Bengaluru, had about 2.28 lakh employees and trainees as of December 2019. Other major players in the space include global giants like Adecco and Randstand.

“Companies are focusing on their core activities, while outsourcing activities that can be done by a specialised company; Quess Corp fits in there. Companies are wary of employing full-time when they can find gigs to fill in the jobs,” said Mahesh Vyas, MD & CEO at CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy). 

He added that whether benefits are provided or not will be critical to measure if such employment is sustainable. 

“If a larger part of the labour force is getting into the engagement that does not give social security, in a generation’s time, we could have a problem.” 

Also Read | Siva Ganesan to lead TCS’s Microsoft Business Unit to help enterprises leverage AI

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