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Business Development scores in a slow economy

lick, centrespread ads that got wackier by the minute and king-sized billboards dominating the silicon-aphsalted streets of the urban landscape exemplified the unwavering faith of the poster boys of the new economy in the absolute aura of the brand to lure customers to the company's fold. The brand new rules were soon overwritten by the unrelenting slowdown that decimated inflated valuations and bottomlines of companies. According to market watcher IDC, companies have cut their ad spends by 50-60 per cent during the last one year. On an average, IT companies spent one-third of their total marketing budgets on advertising, but that has now dropped to one-sixth. The crippling recession that spelt doom for brand professionals and advertisers is ironically fuelling demand for business development professionals with techno-commercial skills, who can help companies identify invisible pockets of opportunities and maintain healthy bottomlines.

The slowdown in tech spending in primary markets such as the US in a multi-vendor scenario has compelled companies to focus on business development rather than brand building to maintain margins. "Earlier, during the boom period, it was a seller's market; small and mid-sized companies could also bag projects. The slowdown has changed equations in favour of the buyer and today's companies need aggressive people who can go out and fetch business for them. Business development roles have, thus, changed from being a mere support function to critical strategic function within IT organisations," purports Narayanan Nair, Manager HR Component Insights. Pankaj Khanna, VP Search and Selection and Retail Business JobStreet.com. In the pre-Y2k era, there was a scramble to become y2k compliant and India's natural wins of a huge pool of IT population coupled with the low prices made the customers come in on their own. And the most important factor being that US/European companies saw this as low-tier work. However, the dot com bust along with 9/11 have ensured that the customer has become very discerning and is demanding a value-add service rather than the simple factor of low prices and huge talent. To position this value add. IT companies have realised that having top notch BD/Sales people is a must to survive."

Also, with the slowdown, Indian service companies such as Infosys, Wipro and Satyam have altered their business models in favour of volume driven growth, which has not only unleashed bitter price wars but also underscored the need for professionals, who can help companies bag projects in an intensely competitive market. Mid-sized companies under increasing pressure are revving up business development departments. "Companies need professionals with techno-comercial skills who can explore alternate markets and sources of revenue. There is an immense shortage of such professionals," says Girish Ramakrishnan, Vice President e-commerce and infrastructure initiatives, Star India. Apart from volume driven growth, Indian software companies are also making attempots to derisk business models by diversifying revenue streams and exploring alternate markets. Kshema Technologies, V-Moksha and Wipro have entered the Bioinformatics space. A large number of IT companies including Infosys are announcing their foray into the BPO space. Companies need professionals with techno-comercial skills who can explore alternate markets and sources of revenue and there is an immense shortage of such professionals, says Girish Ramakrishnan, Vice President e-commerce and infrastructure initiatives, Star India.

Despite the direct relationship between business development and the company's bottomline, professionals have not remained unscathed on account of the downturn Vaishnavi M Hr Manger Samsung India Limited cautions: "If IT departments are downsized, other functions will also be affected." Pankaj Khanna admits that the business development budgets have increased. "However the numbers of such positions have come under a lens. If there is no delivery, then the only way out is having the employee out. Salaries and variable commissions have increased dramatically for such profiles and the linked factor is delivery." Like IT professionals, companies are on the look out for experienced professionals with global exposure." The current upwsing may be restricted to few professionals but with India IT Inc going global business development in India has come of age.

 

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