Annual turnaround (ATA) staffing or placing engineers and technicians for maintenance of plants of energy, metallurgy and infrastructure (EMI) companies around the world are fast becoming a significant business opportunity for staffing services (or temping) firms in India that hire out temporary workers, or temps.
Every year, EMI companies shut down their plants for maintenance for around two to four weeks. They don’t keep specialists in maintenance on their rolls because they usually need their services only for this period. Until now, most companies hired temps locally, but the increased pressure on EMI companies to adhere to strict quality standards and the need for a faster turnaround time has forced them to look elsewhere for specialized maintenance talent. “What has led to an increasing number of companies seeking temporary staff from countries like India is (also) the availability of low-cost skilled manpower,” says Rajesh A.R., vice-president, temping, TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd. “Hiring engineers from organized (temping) players ensures timely and efficient delivery,” he adds. Temping companies such as TeamLease, Ma Foi Management Consultants Ltd and Lobo Staffing Solutions Pvt. Ltd are emerging large players in this segment. The three companies claim that ATA staffing accounts for around 4-5% of their revenues.
Globally, companies such as Brunel International NV, Skilled Engineering Ltd and Transfield Services (Australia) Pty Ltd provide these specialized high-end services.
According to estimates by temping firms, the EMI market is worth around $12 billion (Rs49,200 crore), while the overall staffing market is worth around $280 billion. “The size of the annual turnaround staffing (market) worldwide would be around $500-600 million a year,” says K. Pandia Rajan, managing director, Ma Foi.
Ma Foi has a team in Dubai which handles temping requirements in the EMI sector across 12 countries including some in West Asia, the UK, US, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Sri Lanka. EMI is the third largest segment for Ma Foi after banking and financial services, and information and communication technology. “It’s a small but fast growing segment. Our ATA business has grown at around 60% per annum in the last two years,” says Rajan.
In 2006, the EMI sector contributed around 8%, and ATA 3%, to Ma Foi’s total revenues of Rs328 crore. “This year, we expect EMI revenues to contribute 10% and ATA to bring in around 4-5% of revenues,” adds Rajan. “We are eyeing this segment (ATA) aggressively,” says TeamLease’s Rajesh. He adds that he expects other Indian temping firms to do so because “the business opportunity is quite significant”.
Ma Foi currently deploys around 800 people all over the world including India in ATA assignments, while TeamLease has deployed more than 1,500 people in ATA assignments in the past 18 months.
ATA temps include petroleum engineers, fire and safety specialists, and maintenance engineers, and their deployment usually happens at short notice. A large part of the staff deployed in ATA projects comprises of engineers and technicians who work on offshore projects and get substantial time off. “A lot of them come from small companies apart from the odd ones who have taken early retirement and are open to taking a temporary job,” says Arvind Mahajan, executive director, KPMG.
An engineer with 10-12 years of experience could expect to be paid between Rs8,000 and Rs10,000 per day, while a technician with 10-12 years work experience can get Rs4,000-5,000 per day.
A lot of EMI companies are also looking at outsourcing non-core activities to reduce fixed costs and concentrate better on core functions, say research consultants. “India is not the only country that global companies are looking at for such services. Other skilled manpower and low-cost destinations, such as China are also attracting a lot of (this) business,” says Mahajan.