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2020 wrap-up: Cautious optimism in jobs sector as year comes to a close

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The coronavirus outbreak had the biggest impact on the jobs sector in the country. Close to 10 million jobs were lost across small, medium and large firms with sectors like travel, hospitality, e-commerce and real estate among the worst hit.

However, ever since the lockdown restrictions eased from July 2020 onwards, there has been a slow revival across sectors. The educational services sector has gained the most with e-learning becoming the new favourite across households.

But, while hiring intent has improved, companies are taking a cautious approach, hiring aggressively only for select roles and limiting numbers for generic roles like sales, marketing and administration.

These are some trends in the sector
- Hiring has gone completely virtual across companies- Educational services sector is hiring in large numbers while the traditional sector is going slow

- Mass hiring by IT, consulting firms has hit a pause due to COVID-19

UK, EU on cusp of striking Brexit trade deal at last

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Negotiators from the European Union and Britain worked through the night and into Christmas Eve to put the finishing touches on a trade deal that should avert a chaotic economic break between the two sides next week.

Trade will change regardless come Jan. 1, when the U.K. leaves the bloc’s single market and customs union. But both sides have been working furiously to avoid a nightmare scenario, in which the imposition of tariffs and duties would cost billions in trade and hundreds of thousands of jobs and potentially so snarl ports that many goods would struggle to get through. That possibility was starkly illustrated this week when a brief French blockade of British trucks over coronavirus concerns created chaos at ports that is still being sorted out.

After resolving nearly all of the remaining sticking points, negotiators combed through hundreds of pages of legal text Thursday that should become the blueprint for a post-Brexit relationship.

As during much of the nine-month negotiations, the issue of EU fishing fleets in British waters proved the most intractable and divisive, with negotiators still haggling over quotas for some individual species as dawn came and went.

Still, sources on both sides said the long and difficult negotiations were on the cusp of being wrapped up as negotiators, holed up at EU headquarters in Brussels with a stack of pizzas, worked to deliver the text to their leaders on Thursday.

Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said there appeared to be “some sort of last-minute hitch” over fish, but that it was not surprising. He said he expected announcements of a deal from London and Brussels “later on today.”

The agreement would then go to the 27 EU nations seeking unanimous approval, as well as the blessing of the EU and British parliaments. It's expected to get those approvals.

Britain's currency, the pound, rose on expectations of a deal, up 0.5% against the dollar to just under $1.36.

It has been 4 1/2 years since Britons voted 52%-48% to leave the EU in order to — in the words of the Brexiteers’ campaign slogan — “take back control” of the U.K.’s borders and laws.

It took more than three years of wrangling before Britain left the bloc’s political structures on Jan. 31. Negotiating how to disentangle economies that were closely entwined as part of the EU’s single market for goods and services took even longer.

Despite the apparent breakthrough, key aspects of the future relationship between the 27-nation bloc and its former member remain uncertain. But it leaves the mutually dependent, often fractious U.K.-EU relationship — and its 675 billion pounds ($918 billion) in annual trade — on a much more solid footing than a disruptive no-deal split.

If a deal is announced, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to claim to have delivered on the promise that won him a resounding election victory a year ago: “Get Brexit Done.”

Even with a deal, trade between Britain and the EU will face customs checks and other barriers on Jan. 1. But an agreement would avert the more disastrous effects of tariffs and duties. Britain withdrew from the EU on Jan. 31, and an economic transition period expires on Dec. 31.

Johnson has always insisted the U.K. will “prosper mightily” even if no deal is reached and the U.K. has to trade with the EU on World Trade Organization terms from Jan. 1.

But his government has acknowledged that a chaotic exit is likely to bring gridlock at Britain’s ports, temporary shortages of some goods and price increases for staple foods. Tariffs will be applied to many U.K. exports, including 10% on cars and more than 40% on lamb, battering the U.K. economy as it struggles to rebound from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past few days, Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have been drawn more and more into the talks, speaking by phone in a bid to unblock negotiations that have dragged on for months, hampered by the pandemic and by the two sides' opposing views of what Brexit entails.

Rumors of a pre-Christmas trade deal surfaced in recent days based on progress on the main outstanding issues: fair competition, resolution of future disputes and fishing.

The EU has long feared that Britain would undercut the bloc’s social, environmental and state aid rules to be able to gain an unfair edge with its exports to the EU. Britain has said that having to meet EU rules would undercut its sovereignty.

Compromise was finally reached on those “level playing field” issues, leaving the economically minor but hugely symbolic issue of fish to be the final sticking point. Maritime EU nations are seeking to retain access to U.K. waters where they have long fished, but Britain has been insisting it must exercise control as an “independent coastal state.”

A huge gap between the two sides on fishing was gradually narrowed until it appeared, at last, bridgeable.

Johnson’s large Conservative majority in Parliament should ensure that the Brexit trade agreement passes, but any compromises will be criticized by hardline Brexit supporters in his party. The party’s euroskeptic European Research Group said it would carefully scrutinize any deal “to ensure that its provisions genuinely protect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom after we exit the transition period at the end of this year.”

The European Parliament has warned it's now too late for it to approve the deal before Jan. 1, but an agreement could provisionally be put in place and approved by EU legislators in January.

Businesses on both sides are clamoring for a deal that would save tens of billions in costs.

While both sides would suffer economically from a failure to secure a trade deal, most economists think Britain would take a greater hit, because it is smaller and more reliant on trade with the EU than the other way around.

The quest for a middle path amid farm protests

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The farmer protests have been going on for nearly a month now. Farmers haven’t accepted the government’s assurance for continuing with the minimum support price (MSP) system and are demanding a complete repeal of the farm laws. Is there scope for a middle path?

Supporters of farm reforms argue that these reforms will lead to higher marketing efficiency and environmental sustainability. Farmers, on the other hand, say the new laws will heighten risks of income instability, and may result in social and economic disruption (or destruction) for them.

A bit of context, first: There is no doubt that restrictive trade policies of the government (under APMC and ECA) have hurt the farmers. In an extensive ICRIER-OECD study of agricultural commodities comprising 70 percent of country's agricultural value of output, spread across nearly 20 years, we found the average Indian farmer was net taxed in all years. That implied the losses suffered by farmers from not being able to realize the "potential" price of their produce far exceeded the benefits he received from subsidized inputs and other budgetary support.

The primary reasons for such "taxation" were government’s restrictive trade policies (mainly trading and stocking restrictions from APMC and ECA and imposition of minimum export prices (MEP) and export bans), lack of a produce aggregation mechanism (fragmented land holdings produce smaller pockets of marketable produce, and aggregation is required for generating scale) and an infrastructural deficit in storages, roads, irrigation, processing etc.

The three farm laws are targeted to solve many of these problems.

However, farmers cite a trust deficit with the government and want the laws to be repealed. They fear that instead of freeing them from APMC traders, these new laws might place them in a new stranglehold of large corporations. Their incomes, which were stable and grew in real terms each year (under MSP) will now become volatile.

Besides, they argue that benefits from greater private sector participation will not automatically follow once the new laws are implemented. They showcase the example of Bihar which has a similar marketing arrangement to what the new laws propose. According to Nabard’s NAFIS 2018, average farmer income in Bihar was Rs 7,175 a month compared to Rs 23,133 in Punjab that has a functional APMC system. This implied that howsoever inefficient, at least there are markets in Punjab which have helped yield decent incomes for its farmers.

That said, we need to remember two things: (i) that it is not the APMC’s efficient functioning per say but government’s MSP operations that have boosted incomes of Punjab (and Haryana) farmers and (ii) on a per hectare basis, Bihar generates greater incomes than Punjab.

About 30 and 65 percent of rice and wheat required for distribution under the Public Distribution System (PDS) is procured from Punjab and Haryana under the MSP regime. Over the years, government has expanded its MSP operations in other states and as per a NSSO survey report, 6 to 19 percent of Indian farmers benefit from them. But there is only as much the government can procure. Growing research literature documents the inefficient grain management systems of the government. More recently, the coexistence of mountains of buffer grains with FCI and the rising levels of malnutrition among Indian women and children is ironic and highlights the inadequacies in the current system. Now the question is if an inefficient system should be saddled with greater responsibilities? Or if an alternate market mechanism be developed? Both the systems have their problems and benefits.

The way forward

While it is clear that the reforms are much needed for Indian agriculture and the Indian farmer, we need to find a middle path to bring cultivators on board. In my quest to research for a middle path, I propose to leave the reader with some thoughts:

Rethink PDS: Can rice and wheat be replaced with nutri-cereals like ragi and pulses like gram? If we review PDS grain basket, we can re-design procurement, and that will need to be preceded by remunerative price incentives for those crops. Nutri-cereals and pulses consume much less water and thus are environmentally more sustainable and can adequately address nutritional insecurity. This transition may be coupled with an option of a direct benefit transfer (DBT) under PDS. The DBT will work particularly well in urban areas with high financial inclusion rates and where the state is surplus in production. Overall, PDS needs a rethink, and because of its close interlinkage with the MSP regime, a 10-year road map for PDS will help address apprehensions surrounding it.

Price recording and reporting: Consider these statistics --- in the 2018-19 kharif season, UP paddy farmers incurred losses of Rs 837 crore; MP maize farmers, Rs 550 crore; and MP soybean farmers, Rs 819 crore due to selling at prices below the prevailing MSP. We calculated these losses using data on prices and arrivals from the Agmarknet portal. This data informs farmers about prices across regions and time and researchers use it to establish the efficacy (or its absence) of agri-markets. Under the new farm laws, for all transactions outside the "market yard," there is no provision to record and report prices and arrivals. The government needs to establish a mechanism to record these transactions and data.

Handhold farmers: Consider the table below. Except for sugarcane, all possible combinations of crops are likely to yield lower returns than a paddy-wheat combination.

When we want Punjab's paddy (non-basmati) farmers to shift to say maize, we need to reckon that their profits are likely to fall by more than 90 percent. This draws a clear case for providing support to farmer possibly through an unconditional cash transfer of up to say Rs 25,000 per hectare.

By undertaking reforms, the PM has shown his intent to drive up the sector. Through empathy and consultation, the Modi government should now bring convergence with the stakeholders, particularly the state governments and farmers.

Indians most optimistic about job prospects in APAC, says Indeed study

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Indians are the most optimistic about job prospects among countries in the Asian Pacific even amidst the coronavirus outbreak, said a study on jobs platform Indeed.

The study said that Indian workers (56 percent) are more than twice as positive about their chances of getting a pay rise next year compared to their counterparts in Australia (20 percent) and Singapore (23 percent).

About 64 percent Indians are optimistic about their chances at better career opportunities. But 54 percent said they would not pursue other job opportunities even if approached by other employers, some citing current workplace satisfaction, with most citing job insecurity.

Although forced into lockdown this year, Indian workers cited greater family time and inclusion/flexibility as positive side effects. Here, two in five workers said ‘more time with family’ and ‘more opportunities to work from home’ had the biggest impact on their personal circumstances in 2020.

The study said that both Indian employers and workers share polarised views about work-life balance and how they expect the future to pan out. Here, 41 percent employers and 39 percent employees said lines between work and life have permanently blurred, while another 40 percent employers and employees saying lines are more separate than ever.

As Indian workers look to the future, 59 percent respondents said they expected workplaces in 2021 to show greater consideration to hygiene, health and safety, with another 44 percent citing mental wellbeing as the second most important consideration.

Embracing hybrid work as the future of work, more than 7 in 10 employers said they would increase work-from-home options, with another 59 percent stating improved flexible work options as an important consideration while implementing new workplace policies.

Sashi Kumar, Managing Director, Indeed India, said, “Our study also shows that employee wellbeing and work-life balance are now workplace imperatives, while skilling will be an important conversation for organisations to drive in 2021. As the world’s second-largest labour market moves towards its economic recovery, how organisations redefine their talent strategies and workplace practices, will play a critical role in how India prepares for the future of work.”

Indian workers deem workplace safety (59 percent) and employee wellbeing (44 percent) as the two most important considerations for the 2021 workplace.

The Indeed Global Survey measured the sentiment of 3,600 employers and 14,142 employees across the UK, the US, Ireland, Australia, India, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil and Canada between November 13 and November 20 this year. This included 251 employers and 1,015 employees in India. The research was conducted by Censuswide.

Govt working on structure to roll out PLI Scheme for technical textiles, MMF: Smriti Irani

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Textile

The Textiles Ministry is bringing to fore a structure under which the Production Linked Incentive Scheme for technical textiles and manmade fibre segment will be rolled out, Union Minister Smriti Irani said on December 18. She said the new Textile Policy is on the anvil, observing that the previous national Textile Policy was unveiled two decades ago.

"We are currently on the anvil of also bringing to the fore the new Indian textile policy, the last time India had a textile policy was two decades ago," Irani, Minister for Textiles and Women & Child Development, said while virtually addressing Assocham Foundation Week 2020. Highlighting the impact of agricultural reforms on Indian industry, Irani said, "the Government of India in a determined effort has ensured that the MSP operations undergo with the help of technology and those who participate in the MSP operation receive direct benefit transfer of their funds in to their bank accounts.

"In 2013-14, in the cotton segment, the MSP operations were only worth Rs 90 crore while last year, the MSP operations in the cotton segment alone reached a value in total of Rs 28,500 crore. This season, in the cotton segment MSP operations worth Rs 14,659 crore have already been undertaken and 9.63 lakh farmers producing cotton in the country have directly received into their bank accounts an amount of Rs 11,799 crore, this is done in only two months, said the minister.

She said this means when we look at the policy reforms, the idea called Aatmanirbhar Bharat cannot come to a fruition when we work in silos. "So while on one hand the Government of India undertakes agricultural reforms, on the other hand we leverage technology to provide farm support and undertake MSP operations," said the minister.

Besides, Irani said, if you look at extra-long staple cotton, we currently produce only four lakh bales. Looking at the agricultural reforms, if the industry conjoins its efforts with farming community and "we raise the potential growth of production of ELS cotton from four lakh bales to 50 lakh bales, then the impact on the Indian cotton textiles industry will be such that we will increase our businesses from the current USD 18 billion to USD 80 billion, that is the potential that needs to be leveraged and explored", the minister stated.

Talking about agricultural reforms she underlined that when reform takes place in one segment, its impact is determined across the value chain of Indian economy. "When agricultural reforms came into being, it was not a happenstance. It was a contribution of dialogues and deliberations that have been undertaken for 19 years across industries, agriculture sector, farmer organisations and specialists who want to leverage technology in the field of agriculture so that potential benefit is accrued not only by farmers but also industry and citizens at large," Irani said.

The minister also noted that India has become the second largest manufacturer and exporter of personal protective equipment (PPE). "When COVID-19 pandemic hit Indian shores, not many across the globe were confident of India's response, today as Minister of Textiles I can say that one of the greatest examples of Indian resilience was given by the Indian textiles industry in the manufacturing of PPE suits, provision for which was among the consistent demands of frontline workers and the medical community was across the world.

She said that while the textiles industry was not prepared for, but it rose to this challenge. It was an effort which involved almost all ministries and industry segments in support of Indian textiles industry. Assocham President Niranjan Hiranandani assured the industry's support to the government to reach the goals of Atmanirbhar Bharat and a USD 5 trillion economy.

The Centre has launched a Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) worth Rs 1.46 lakh crore for 10 sectors to boost domestic manufacturing, create jobs and reduce dependence on imports. Under the scheme, Rs 10,683 crore have been allocated for textile products – man-made Fibre (MMF) segment and technical textiles segments.

Agriculture, pharma exports grows during COVID-19 pandemic: Commerce Secretary

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Exports of sectors such as agriculture and pharmaceuticals have recorded significant growth even during COVID-19 pandemic, and there is a need to sustain this, Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said on Thursday.

He said that all the signs are there which reflects that India will come back to pre-COVID levels.

"As far as exports are concerned, some sectors have done wonderfully well. Even during the slowdown, agriculture exports and pharmaceutical exports went up," he said at an event organised by industry body PHDCCI.

But certain "other sectors have not done so well in the recovery phase and we need to sustain the sectors which have done well in this period," he added.

He added that there is a need to focus on those sectors which have not done well so that they recover at least initially to the pre-COVID levels.

Further he said that there is a need to immediately exploit the short-term opportunities.

"There is a medium to long-term opportunities, where we need to enhance our capacities, create new capacities," he added.

India''s exports dipped 8.74 per cent on a yearly basis in November to USD 23.52 billion on account of contraction in shipments of key sectors like petroleum, engineering, chemicals and gems and jewellery.

Finance Ministry extends deadline for states to implement reforms to avail additional borrowing

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The Finance Ministry has extended the deadline till February 15 for states to implement reforms like one-nation one ration card and those in the power sector to become eligible for additional borrowing in the current fiscal, a release said.

To meet the extra fund requirements of states on account of COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre in May had decided to raise the borrowing limit of the states by 2 percent of their GSDP, over and above the 3 percent limit set under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.

However, states were required to complete four specific reforms -- implementation of one nation one ration card, ease of doing business reform, urban local body/ utility reforms and power sector reforms -- by December 31, 2020, to get the benefits.

Such states would get the facility of additional borrowing equivalent to 0.25 percent of their Gross States Domestic Product (GSDP) for completing each reform. Under this facility, additional borrowing of up to Rs 2.14 lakh crore is available to the states on completion of all the four reforms.

"The Department of Expenditure has extended the deadline for the states to complete citizen centric reforms in various sectors. Now, if the recommendation from the nodal Ministry concerned regarding implementation of the reform is received by February 15, 2021, the state will be eligible for reform-linked benefits," the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

So far nine states have implemented the one nation one ration card system, four states have completed the ease of doing business reforms and one state has done the urban local body/ utility reforms.

"Additional borrowing permission of Rs 40,251 crore has been granted to these states. Extension of the date for completion of reforms is likely to motivate other states also to complete the reform process expeditiously and avail the linked financial benefits," the ministry added.

Demand for chemicals, petrochemicals to grow 9 percent per annum: Fertiliser Minister D V Sadananda Gowda

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Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister D V Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday said the demand for chemicals and petrochemicals is expected to rise 9 percent annually, and the size of the industry is likely to grow to $300 billion by 2025.

Addressing a conference organised by industry body Assocham, the minister said the Indian chemical industry, over the last one-and-a-half decade, has transformed from manufacturing principal chemicals in a highly regulated market to being a mature industry in a liberalised economy.

Majority of the chemicals produced in India comprise either upstream products or intermediates, which go into a variety of manufacturing applications including fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, textiles and plastics, agrochemicals, paints and dyes, he said, adding that end-use industries like automotives, electronics, packaged food and textiles are driving Indian specialty chemicals industry.

"Strong domestic demand, coupled with huge investments by domestic and foreign players, is making the industry scale new heights,” Gowda said.

The minister said rising disposable income, median age of population, urbanization and growing penetration, and demand from rural markets are the factors contributing to growth of chemical and petrochemical sector.

"As production and consumption shift towards Asian and Southeast Asian countries, the demand for chemicals and petrochemicals is expected to grow at 9 percent per annum, much faster than the expected GDP growth rate, to reach $300 billion by 2025,” Gowda said.

Gowda said the size of the industry was $163 billion in 2018, contributing 13.4 percent of manufacturing GVA (gross value added) and 2.4 percent of national GVA. The sector employs 2 million people.

He said Indian chemical and petrochemical industry plays an important role in all sectors of the economy.

Stating that successive governments have taken various initiatives to promote this sector, the minister highlighted that licensing requirements, except for hazardous chemicals and a few special drugs, have been removed.

Entrepreneurs are allowed to set up chemical industries following the Industrial Entrepreneurs’ Memorandum (IEM) route and under the automatic route, 100 percent FDI is allowed for all chemicals, except hazardous ones, he said.

Gowda said the peak rate of customs duty on most chemicals has been brought down to 7.5 percent, while the Petroleum Chemical Petrochemical Investment Regions (PCPIR) policy has been introduced to boost the development of chemicals and petrochemicals investment regions.

"I certainly believe that the Indian chemical and petrochemical sector holds a potential to emerge as global manufacturing hub. We are aware of the need to support the cluster based development of the sector through provision of world class infrastructure and logistics. The department is working on it,” he said.

Assocham National President Niranjan Hiranandani spoke about the importance of the sector in Indian economy.

India's private credit-to-GDP ratio lowest among peers; government working on framework for credit push: Amitabh Kant

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NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Saturday said India's private credit-to-GDP ratio is the lowest among its global peers and the government is in the process of putting in place a framework for a credit push towards untapped segments.

Addressing a virtual event organised by the Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME), Kant said credit scenario in India in recent years for a greater part has been seen as a drag on the economy.

"India's private credit-to-GDP is the lowest among its global peers. Countries such as China and South Korea have had tremendous growth, massive improvement in their living standard on the back of high leverage.

"Even Vietnam's recent development has been partially a result of growth in its private debt," he said.

Kant also said micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) play a crucial role in providing employment but their credit needs are largely unmet by the formal financial sector.

"The government is in the process of putting frameworks and protocols in place for credit to be pushed to segments that have largely been untapped," he said.

Noting that financial inclusion depends on the regulatory environment, Kant said, "While a new business model will be required to fill the current gap in achieving the necessary credit flow, there is a need to change the regulation as and when required."

The entire process will require bringing all stakeholders such as banking and industry professionals, together, he added.

Kant said the MSME sector will have more credit needs going forward. So, more innovative methods will be the key to meet demands of the sector, he added.

He said MSME's credit gap is currently estimated to be Rs 25 lakh crore.

Kant also said the government has been pushing faster formalisation of the economy and on credit fronts, the government has taken several key steps.

According to Kant, the financial sector is undergoing a massive change and there has been dramatic change in India's credit scenario also.

"Over the past few years, there has been a flood of fintech (financial technology) players, which are bringing transformational change in the way financial services are provided," he said.

Kant also pointed out that the government changed the definition of MSMEs to help the sector.

Influencing the influencers: If you’re good friends with a SocMed celebrity, this could be just the job for you

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Noida resident Nikita Baptista, 34, who was part of the social media marketing team at an IT firm, had been looking for a more ‘exciting’ role after 2019. Since she was very active on social media as part of her role, Baptista had become friendly with influencers on Instagram, often offering them advice on how to get brand endorsements. Amidst this, she was approached by hiring consultants for a potential position as an ‘influencer relationship manager’ at an e-commerce major.

She found the job role challenging and ‘exciting’ and will be joining in February 2021.

Baptista’s colleague Parag Trivedi is also taking up a similar role, albeit at a rival firm.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak and the resultant financial uncertainty across companies, brands want to use the services of Instagram influencers to promote their products and services. But there’s a catch; there are only a few credible influencers and the competition among brands to get access to them is tough.

That is where the influencer relationship managers come in. Professionals such as Baptista are in demand among customer-facing companies in the FMCG, retail, banking/financial services and e-commerce sectors.

Hiring consultants estimate that there are 2,800-3,000 jobs for these influencer relationship manager roles in India.

What are influencer relationship managers?

Influencer relationship managers are individuals within customer-facing companies whose sole responsibility is to manage the list of social media influencers for brand endorsements.

These would include influencers on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The job role entails getting top influencers to endorse/promote products and services for a fixed period, contract management and ensuring that a rival brand doesn’t ‘poach’ them.

“There could be an influencer who promotes a certain brand’s product on his/her social media page for a fixed period. This could be during a new product/service launch or when it is a big sale season. However, influencers typically don’t have brand loyalties and hence it is easy for them to start promoting rival company products if offered more money. This is where the influencer relationship manager comes into the picture,” said Delhi-based hiring consultant Bipin Rathod.

He added that sometimes companies already have a list of influencers and it is the responsibility of the influencer relationship manager to retain these persons with the company.

The average pay for these roles ranges from Rs 18 lakh per annum to as much as Rs 30 lakh, depending on the work experience of the individual and his/her social media exposure. Individuals qualified with mass communication or MBA in marketing degrees are being preferred. Those in the age group of 28-40 years are the most preferred.

Chaitali Prathmesh of CP Hiring Solutions, which looks into niche roles in marketing, said that companies are looking to have influencer relationship management teams of between one to three people.

“A senior resource would handle the mega influencer with 20,000-25,000 followers on their social media platforms while the juniors would be required to handle ‘nano influencers’ with less than 5,000 followers,” she added.

Nano influencers end up being cost effective because they are cheaper, charging Rs 2,000-5,000 per post and are easier to maintain. These nano influencers are used for multi-level promotions during a large product launch.

Names of companies were not disclosed by hiring consultants since these firms have signed non-disclosure agreements with these brands. However, the names include large FMCG clients, Indian retail brands, large Indian broking firms and e-commerce players.

Why is there is a need for this role?

Brand endorsement deals with celebrities are expensive, with average payouts ranging between Rs 2 crore and 10 crore. On the other hand, even a mega influencer would only charge Rs 1 lakh to 7 lakh per post and it turns out to be sustainable.

There is also a perception that Instagram influencers are more credible than Bollywood stars or sportspersons since these are typically people that the public can relate to.

Moneycontrol had reported that there was 30-40 percent growth in the influencer marketing category ad spends during the festive period this year.

Kunal Kishore, Co-founder, and Chief Operating Officer of influencer marketing platform ClanConnect, had also told Moneycontrol that the spend on such influencers is expected to cross Rs 550 crore this year. He added that the pandemic is pushing brands to focus on digital outreach to attract consumers.

Due to the tough competition, general marketing executives at companies are unable to keep track of upcoming influencers and/or their brand endorsements, the specialists in influencer relationship management come into the picture.

The job role requires aggressive negotiations with the influencers to ensure that the brand gets the best deal at the right price. It also involves planning retention strategies for influencers.

Gurgaon’s BS Nitasha, who manages YouTube and Instagram influencers, told Moneycontrol that her influencer clients not only want to do brand endorsements of product samples but also seek creative ideas to blend them seamlessly into their videos.

“For example, if it is a home cook on YouTube putting up food recipes he/she needs to blend the sponsored food product naturally in the video to ensure that it doesn’t look like a plug. While we can offer suggestions, it is the brand offering the deal that has to take the final decision,” she added.

Nitasha also said that influencer relationship managers need convincing power to retain an influencer beyond the traditional deal for big launches, which can involve up to three promotions. Apart from the compensation, she explained that influencers also look for long-term relationship opportunities with these brands.

For influencer relationship managers, it is a tough role. But the market is just opening up and opportunities are aplenty.

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