Update On HR In India: One Of The World’s Fastest Growing Economies

I just returned from a trip to India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. While the actual numbers are being adjusted, India is growing at almost twice the rate of the US, and is likely to become the largest economy in the world (perhaps outpacing China) over the next decade.

As many of you know, India’s rich history is that of a caste system, something many would now frown upon today. While it certainly does not represent India today, it creates a tremendous aspiration for education and personal growth, because the Brahmins (top of the caste) were the teachers and priests with strong academic credentials. 

The result is a society and economy built heavily around learning, and in our profession of HR, people are avid to learn all the time.

I went over there to give a few speeches on HR Technology (the India HR Tech scene is quite innovative) and also taught some workshops – and once again walked away impressed with people’s incredible passion to learn.

HR Technology in India

Let me first point out that HR Tech in India is quite unique. The marketplace is enormous (there are close to two million registered companies in India, 1.4 billion people, and a GNP of $3.2 Trillion). Many of the companies are big conglomerates, so the issues of talent mobility, leadership development, and focus on performance are huge.

The average GDP per person is low and salaries are often 1/4 that of the US, so companies have far less to spend on technology. This means expensive platforms like Workday, SAP, and Oracle are far less popular, and India-born companies like PeopleStrong and Darwinbox (which are priced at far lower prices) dominate the core platform market.

In the areas of recruiting, talent management, engagement, and wellbeing, there hundreds of local vendors with amazing products to sell, but as PeopleMatters research has found, most of the action is in core HR and payroll . AI chatbots and advanced automation systems are available from many local vendors, so these tools are widely in use. Most workers in India have mobile phones (mobile is the predominant communication method in India), so mobile-first apps are most common.

Look at the company HonoHR, for example, a company focused on “humanizing the workplace.” This is a company that has automated almost every possible part of the Employee Experience, an explosive new market. I have not seen a system quite like this anywhere else (ServiceNow is the leader in most markets), and the team is entirely based in India.

India, in many ways, represents the “future” of HR tech in this respect. If the systems are not easy to use and fully available in a mobile device, they may not be used at all.

Focus on Learning, Wellbeing, and Purpose

We had several private meetings with large companies there, and they were all fascinated by the Josh Bersin Academy because they are so focused on learning and growth. One, a pharmaceutical company, is revamping their entire compliance-based learning strategy to find ways to empower every manufacturing employee to learn. They are looking at new mobile tools and potentially a whole new learning architecture, built on our research on Learning in the Flow of Work.

There’s another important topic we discussed in every meeting: the incredibly strong focus on productivity coupled with wellbeing. I like to think of employee wellbeing and employee productivity as two sides of the same coin: when it’s easy to get things done, it’s also easier to relax, reduce stress, and take care of yourself.

Perhaps it is the Hindu history of India which brings this out, but we found many companies focused on finding ways to continue their aggressive growth while also taking care of their people. Not only are there some amazing new wellbeing and employee experience tools being built in the country, but most companies are now building wellbeing programs in-house, very similar to what I see in Europe and the US.

I met with the head of wellbeing from a global manufacturer for lunch, and she told me the company now lets everyone work from home, they automatically limit meetings to 45 minutes (so people can take a break between meetings), and they have a whole set of programs to help individuals become more mindful, healthy, and fit. Another told me they have yoga coaches walking around the office helping people with posture and stress. (Check out our Wellbeing at Work program to really understand all this.)


One of the companies I met with is the fastest growing providers of fiber-optic cables for large IT companies. Despite their incredible growth (they have tripled in growth for more than five years in a row), she told me they are constantly doing things to make work easier, reorganizing into smaller teams, and giving people time to relax, despite their incredibly strong financial performance.

HR Professionals Are Ambitious and Active

The India business community is filled with ambitious, hard-working professionals. And this translates into HR.

Every HR professional I met (and many are young) are anxious to learn. Given the rapid pace of growth, there is no “pride of ownership” among HR teams in India: they listen, copy, and learn wherever they can. 

Remember that much of India’s economy was built around large multi-national firms moving their service centers to the country. This means there are a lot of mature HR practices in place, just a little less money to buy fancy tools and platforms. Ideas like leadership development, succession management, assessment centers, and agile are well understood – but given the rapid growth, companies are not as “modernized” as other places in the world.

Ultimately, as we found in all the workshops we did, the management topics in India are no different than anywhere else. Organizations are focused on digital transformation, creating new models of performance and career management, and using analytics in a more strategic way. I always learn new things when I visit, because many innovative ideas come from these companies.

HR Technology Workshop – Launching September 9

Let me conclude with one little promo. On September 9 we are launching The HR Technology Workshop, one of the latest Josh Bersin Academy programs entirely dedicated to the HR Tech landscape. This program is included in your Academy membership and it includes all the findings I’ve developed on HR tech over the years, plus some exercises to help you understand your own requirements and develop your own RFP. 

We already have several thousand HR Professionals in the Academy, and it is available for you as an individual, for your team, or for your enterprise. Please join us!