Company Profile: TeamLease Services is India’s leading staffing company and provides a range of Temporary and Permanent manpower solutions to over 1000 clients.

    The Temporary staffing group establishes a co-employment relationship with clients and takes responsibility for all compliance, HR and administrative of employees on assignment. The Permanent staffing group undertakes turnkey and recruitment mandates for permanent fulfillment. We view ourselves as a liquidity provider that enables better matching of demand and supply in labour markets.

    Teamlease started operations in 2002 and now has 75,000 employees in over 600 locations. Our core team of 1000+ employees operates via a network of branches that give us a national footprint. Clients and Employees are serviced via a proprietary portal TLnet (, an integrated contact centre for voice and email response ( and a dedicated team of relationship managers. The company is country’s largest HR services provider and is on track to be India’s largest private employer by 2010.

    CEO Under Scan: Mr. Manish Sabharwal, CEO, TeamLease

    Interviewed By: Mr. Sandeep Gautam, Campus Editor, XIM B, The CEO Insights

    What has been your experience as an entrepreneur like? Who is your role model whose leadership trait you follow or like? What triggered your move to become an entrepreneur when the usual norm is of a salaried job?


    Entrepreneurship is an experience with unique financial, spiritual, intellectual and emotional rewards. I have never met an unhappy successful entrepreneur but met many unhappy very successful employees of other companies. My father worked for the government and a salaried job would have been the trajectory except for my work experience at the Pennar group before my MBA. I worked as executive assistant to the Chairman and that gave me a ringside of the rollercoaster that entrepreneurship can be. But it also made me realize that king of a small kingdom is king and entrepreneurship is not only how you spend your day at work but also a choice about how you live your life.

    Could you please brief us about the corporate vision of TeamLease? What is the global presence of TeamLease like and what kind of clients does it cater to? Does TeamLease provide vendor on premises (VOP) services? How does TeamLease differentiate itself from its competitors and what kind of marketing channels does it use?

    Teamlease is people supply chain companies that offer our clients a variety of temporary and permanent staffing solutions. We do not operate outside India and are purely focused on the Indian market. Our strategy is very clear; we aspire to be India’s largest private employer and will do this because of our differentiators (scale, technology, people, national footprint and superior processes). All our marketing is done by our sales team (for new employers) and our relationship team (for existing customers). Our national footprint (we have employees in 700 cities), our customer service operation (we handle over 3 lac phones and emails every month), and our recruiting operations (we have hired somebody every five minutes for the last five years) are testimony to our ability to offer a scalable solution with national coverage.

    How do you find the temporary staffing scenario in India compared to the global scene? Do you think culture plays a role in decision of people to choose contractual employment over permanent job?

    India’s temporary staffing industry is held back by regulatory cholesterol. Less than 0.5% of the 80 million total temporary staff in this country (this is almost 20% of total employment) are in the organized sector. The fundamental value proposition of the unorganized sector is regulatory arbitrage (if he asks for a permanent job we will break a leg, we will take care of the labour inspector, gross salary will be equal to net salary with no deductions) and that is why the industry has not developed to its full potential. Globally temporary staffing is recognized as an important part of an efficient labour market because most temporary employees go onto permanent jobs with the improved employability that comes with experience.

    The labor markets have 3 major problems matching (connecting people to jobs), mismatch (repairing unemployable supply for jobs) and pipeline (preparing youth in school for jobs). What is the strategy of TeamLease to counter these issues?

    The three problems reflect three pending reforms; the matching problem exists because labour reform has not been done, the mismatch problems exists because our skill system does not produce work ready individuals and the pipeline problems exists because our education system is not delivering basic outcomes. Teamlease engages widely and deeply with public policy at the state and central level to come up with solutions that will make the labour markets more efficient. We are now also considering various partnerships and acquisitions in the employability space that will allow us to manufacture our own employees. We are also entering into public private partnerships with state governments (e.g., ) to address the matching problem.

    In recent times companies have significantly changed their recruitment approach from made-to-order to made-to-stock. This provides is a great opportunity to staffing agencies. How is TeamLease gearing itself up to take advantage of it?

    I think employers behave differently in high tide and low tide. The hiring dynamics were completely different in the last two years and I think we are now back to made-to-order because the power has shifted back to employers. I think the biggest challenge for Teamlease is figuring out a model which is evergreen i.e works in both high tide and low tide. Obviously the most important part of what we offer employers is candidate aggregation and as we build differentiation by offering a higher quality of our candidates (till now we have competed on quantity), we will make moves like the assessment operation that we recently acquired.

    Labor laws cover hardly 7% of India’s total work force and about 90% of them work in unorganized sector. How do you see such a scenario as an opportunity and what kind of initiatives is TeamLease taking to cash on it?

    Unorganized employment has been rightly described the slavery of the 21st century. It does not have the corridor effects of organized employment (higher employability), it has much higher attrition, it is much less productive and it does not pay its fair share of taxes of benefits. It is a policy priority to move people from the unorganized sector to the organized sector and hopefully Teamlease will be able to provide the matching and mismatch infrastructure to enable this transition. But this obviously depends upon public policy backbone; the ability of reformers to stand up to the status quo in labour laws, employee benefits and the vocational training system.

    We would like to know about India’s job hotline that was launched in 11 languages by TeamLease to help job seekers in finding jobs compatible with their abilities and for providing training to people in building their skills and if there are any more such initiatives in pipeline.

    60012345 is a job hotline in 11 languages which any candidate can call for a free baseline assessment. About 30% of the callers are shortlisted for a one hour assessment at one of our 400 centres across the country. This assessment diagnoses if the candidate is ready for a job or need some training. We are in the process of upgrading this assessment and are exploring if we will be able to offer apprenticeships and training directly.

    The recent downturn has caught many companies off guard. How do you see it as an opportunity for staffing companies and what kind of challenges do they face today? How do you see the future of TeamLease five years down the line?

    Every problem is both a challenge and an opportunity. The current downturn has been brutal for Teamlease because people supply chain companies like us are a spring on the way up and a shock absorber on the way down. The contracts of temporary staff are the first things you do not renew and this reflects in the fact that our employee base has shrunk by 30% to almost 65,000. But this does not change the long term story; India’s people supply chain is broken and we are an important part of the solution. Five years from now there is no question we will be India’s largest private employer; the hard part is getting through the next two years. Guess entrepreneurship is often the art of staying alive long enough to succeed!

    Do you think that the B-Schools today are on the right path of tapping the creative bent of mind of the potential entrepreneur? What kind of growth opportunities does TeamLease provide to a MBA graduate and can we expect TeamLease to come on campus?

    I am an MBA myself but somedays I am not sure whether it helps or hurts in being an entrepreneur. An MBA teaches you analysis (taking a problem and breaking it into smaller pieces) while the most difficult part of being a leader is synthesis (taking a single decision on ten incomplete pieces of data; if there is perfect information even a clerk can do the job of a CEO). But there are huge upsides to an MBA; the cross functional exposure, the network and much else. I guess the debate on whether entrepreneurs are born or made will never have a right answer but I truly believe that anybody can develop the skills to start and scale a business. Its not like a shoe size or height but like a muscle which can be built by working out. Teamlease operates in a very different space than most MBA’s; no campus plans for now.

    Any message for MBA graduates and for CEO insights?

    I recently went to my 10 year Wharton reunion and I will submit that the saddest phrase of middle age is “I wish I had”. You will never regret the things that you did (because you can change them) but you will always regret the things that you did not do (because you will never know how they could have worked out!). So take more risks. We teach you stuff in an MBA like strategy, finance and marketing because we don’t know how to teach you the stuff that really matters in life; how to be more kind, patient, just, more bold. So make sure that a soft heart goes with your tough mind and thoughtful choices. Good luck and godspeed.

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