India Inc more than willing to cosy up to retired pros

At 62, when most of his peers are figuring out how to navigate retired life, former oil industry executive Vipin Gupta is juggling multiple assignments.

Gupta could be found spending three to four days every week mentoring Gen Next as a ‘grand manager’ with data analytics firm Mu Sigma, or guiding NGO Dhwani Foundation on better corporate governance in his role as updeshak (advisor). He’s also assisting agetech recruitment platform WisdomCircle — which helped him land these gigs — set up a recruitment vertical in the oil and gas space.

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At a time when ageism is spreading its tentacles across India Inc., some seasoned retired professionals are loath to hang up their boots. Helping them are platforms such as WisdomCircle and diversity consultancies like Hum Communities who look for suitable opportunities for retirees that leverage their lifetime of accumulated skills and wisdom.

Companies too are starting to recognize the experienced pool of talent and cost-savings benefits of this underutilized workforce. Mu Sigma, Blue Star, Hitachi Energy, Suzlon Energy, Elgi Equipments, Thyssenkrupp and Antara (Max Group) are among those hiring retired professionals, said WisdomCircle.

“We were thinking about this problem for long and once we started, we realised there was a lot of openness regarding the idea,” said Neeraj Sagar, chief executive of WisdomCircle and former senior partner at executive search firm Egon Zehnder.

Around 150 organisations have used the services of WisdomCircle to hire retired executives in the past one-and-a-half years. Most of the roles have been either part-time or consulting though 70-80% contracts tend to receive an extension from clients. “MSMEs, in particular, love the idea; getting experienced people with the wisdom and the reach at much more affordable costs,” said Sagar.

The average rate on the platform is Rs 3,000-4,000 per hour. Social enterprises/non-profits can pay around Rs 500-1,000 per hour, while at the top end, in some MSMEs and startups, it can reach as high as Rs 10,000-15,000 per hour.

Gupta says the arrangement suits him well. He doesn’t want to work full time anymore but wants to do something that keeps him happy and engaged.

“At a certain age, a large body of working professionals are told they aren’t needed any more. These are the same people, who till that point, were often making decisions involving millions of dollars, affecting lots of people. They don’t become ineffectual overnight — they want to do something that occupies their minds.”

Sujatha Sundar, who left her job with a Singapore-based startup just before the pandemic, agrees. Sundar is currently working part-time with 10BedICU, a project to create ICU infrastructure in rural and smaller government hospitals. As a finance consultant, she looks at finance and procurement for projects, negotiation, managing costs and since it’s a small team, pitches in to help HR as well.

“I’ve worked across MNCs, Fortune 500 companies; now I’m looking for more flexibility but something which keeps me occupied. This role ticks all the boxes,” she says.

As life expectancy increases, retired people want to continue working for many reasons: additional money, staying active, doing work that interests them and the fact that it gives them a sense of purpose.

Kritarth Malhotra, co-founder of Hum Communities says they have trying to identify areas where retirees can contribute. “We have a target to reach out to 700 clients across industries,” he says.

Retirees on the platform are deployed in a variety of activities: while some promoter-led companies want retirees from PSUs and PSBs to leverage their networks to work with the government; brands and products targeting this segment engage such retirees to use their influence to drive sales.

Employers are also happy. “Having such experienced people brings a lot of value to the organization,” says Jairam Varadaraj, managing director of Elgi Equipments, a manufacturer of air compressors. The company has, in the past, hired retirees from Europe and America; now it is looking at tapping more retired senior leaders in India, especially in finance and tech.

It’s a long road ahead though and experts say that the supply of talent currently far outstrips demand from companies. But efforts to boost awareness are underway. A recent global study from Bain & Company has found that 150 million jobs will shift to workers over the age of 55 by 2030.

Those already working are doing their bit. Sundar, for instance, has been posting roles for retired folks with experience in the development sector. “Sometimes this pool of talent gets overlooked, so we need to create awareness and bring these people back into the workforce,” she says.

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