IBM chucks out 700 employees

KOLKATA: This may literally be a bolt from Big Blue! IBM is learnt to have delivered the pink slip to a sizeable chunk of its entry-level trainee programmers (ELTPs) across major offices in India.

Most of these ELTPs, who were engineering graduates, had put in nearly a year and were working in numerous technology practice groups under IBM India’s global delivery business.

Though IBM is silent on the actual number of ELTPs dismissed, the total is likely to be in excess of 700 across company locations nationally, including 180-odd in Kolkata alone.

ELTPs, who were essentially freshers, were asked to go based on their performance in aptitude tests that were recently conducted in undisclosed IBM India locations. It is learnt that action on the ELTP front in major IBM locations was an ultra hush-hush exercise about which many senior IBM managers were in the dark.

At present, the IBM India management is reluctant to go into the details of its latest HR exercise. But in a written response to ET’s email query, an IBM spokesperson said, "IBM is driven by a high-performance culture, a place where employees are able to contribute at the upper limits of their potential and continually build market-valued skills and capabilities in both formal training and experiential learning. In support of that expectation on the part of our workforce, we are pioneering new ways for our people to certify their skill levels as both a validation of their value to clients and to reinforce the quality of our employees’ personal skill sets."

IBM has strongly refuted any possible link in the latest action on the ELTP front, with industry speculation about IBM’s global services business suffering a cash loss in India in 2007.

"Last quarter marked IBM’s strongest revenue and profit performance in almost a decade, with a revenue of $28.9 billion and cash of $16.1 billion globally. Key to this success was IBM’s services business performance and momentum in emerging markets, including India, which represents one-third the company’s global revenue," the spokesperson said.

"India is at the heart of IBM’s services strategy which has grown from a 53,000-employee organisation in 2006 to 73,000 in 2007. We continue to hire people with skills that meet our client needs and business demands," the spokesperson added.

But IBM declined to respond to ET’s other query on whether the company needed to keep state governments in the loop ahead of kicking off the ELTP action.

The West Bengal government said it was clueless about the development. The state IT secretary Siddharth said, "I am not aware of these developments at IBM. But this is strictly a company decision, a matter between employer and employee. After all, when they hire people, they don’t inform us, so they are not obliged to tell us if they dismiss people. State governments usually get involved when a company decides to shut down operations."

Under its present executive management grid, IBM India has six global delivery centres in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Gurgaon and Kolkata. All location heads report to Rajesh Nambiar, vice-president (global delivery) for IBM India.

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