Sramana Mitra: What does it cost to maintain these residential boot camps? What is the cost structure of your training?
Gopinathan Padmanabhan: I don’t have an exact number. I can tell you that we provide them like a campus.
SM: It sounds like it’s a fairly expensive affair, right?
GP: It is. And this is just the beginning. After that, they have to go to their respective divisions. Then they undergo further training. They get on-the-job training. We call them buffers, buffer associates. They’re not billed to the customers. They join the projects and start doing some work, handling some of the deliveries, supporting the delivery people to pick up experience over the next three to six months. Roughly, for anywhere from a period of six months to nine months, we’re just bearing their costs. They’re not earning any revenue for us. That’s just the beginning.
After that, for them, as for later employees, we provide training because technologies keep changing. All of the great vendors we have – Microsoft, Oracle, SAP – will issue a new version of everything every six months or year. Otherwise, they can’t make money. When the new version comes, many early adopters want to migrate to that particular version. To be ahead of the game, we train our people in all of the emerging technologies that you’re focused on.
We’re invested in our own learning portal. We have close to 5,500 self-study courses available online. And 40 hours of training is mandatory for all employees. If they don’t complete a minimum of 40 hours of training every year, they’ll lose their jobs. It’s a combination of classroom training plus self-paced study. We get those courses refreshed from the vendor on a regular basis. We’ve also done a lot of cloud work to slice and dice those courses and make them available to people. If you’re at this level, if you’re in this technology focus, if you’re in this vertical, then these are the courses you should be focusing on.
SM: What about project management? Are you also teaching project management as part of your training programs?
GP: That is correct. On top of that, we offer a set of courses, which are project management professional (PMP) training, PMP certification, and so on, and also domain training and various other training courses to train employees on the specific domains they work in. So, [we offer] a variety of advanced level courses, industry certifications and so on.
SM: How much time do you invest in an employee, and how long does that employee stay with you?
GP: As I said, we make it mandatory for the employee to at least complete 40 hours of training. Typically, an employee spends anywhere from three to five years with the company. There are some who come to the boot camp and cannot complete it successfully, and leave immediately. Usually, what tends to happen is the moment they get about one or two years of experience, they become very valuable in the market. They get huge jump in salary because now they are trained people. They’ve got project experience. At that stage, some of our attrition hits, but if they cross over that stage, they usually stay with us anywhere from four to five years after that.
SM: But you lose a lot of people in that phase, right?
GP: We do. Typically, the moment they finish the boot camp and get project experience, they suddenly become very valuable to sources in the market. Others say, I don’t need to invest in all of this, I can simply pick up the guy or the girl and put him or her on training immediately.
SM: You’re doing the same thing. You’re trying to pick up people with that kind boot camp plus two-project experience from your competitors as well.
SM: That’s kind of the name of the game in the business.
GP: And it’s a round robin. That’s how it is played.
SM: All right. Are there any areas of training for which you go outside the company, outside of your own internal training organization?
GP: We do. Even for this training, we hire instructors from outside. Some instructors we have as employees because standard training in Java, .Net and so on is fairly every day. You need to keep running those programs because those are mainstream development technologies. Any high-end skills, new technologies, new versions of SAP or Oracle, or technologies that are not that common but do need from time to time, there’s no point in hiring someone because we can’t keep him busy full time. So, if it’s not a mainstream type of technology, we go out and hire. We either use companies or individuals for training.
Other training, for insurance, banking and capital markets training and stuff like that, those are fewer in number. It’s delivered only for that particular practice. In those cases, we use outside companies for our help.