As the first woman to helm Hyderabad’s apex IT & ITeS sector body — Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (HYSEA) — in its 30-year history, Manisha Saboo has her task cut out. In an exclusive interview, Saboo talks to Swati Bharadwaj about her plans to give a new direction to the IT body:
As HYSEA’s first woman president, what do you bring to the table and what do you intend to do differently?
Frankly, at work I choose to forget that I’m a woman, and do not differentiate myself based on gender. As a professional, I bring to the table an ability to collaborate across ecosystem partners, aligning all to achieve common goals. HYSEA intends to join forces with various government agencies, academia, large IT organisations, global capability centres (GCCs) and startups to shape the future of the IT industry in Telangana.
What will be your priorities during your two-year term as HYSEA president?
During these two years, we will take up interventions on three strategic themes — enhance the ESG quotient, enable talent transformation and enrich through knowledge exchange
Why are the number of women in tech low? What are the challenges they face? What is HYSEA planning to do to remedy this?
Personally, I believe the tech industry offers fantastic career options to women. We typically see a conducive work environment, equal pay, a safe work place, sound practices to avoid sexual harassment at work, fervent adherence to government guidelines with respect to maternity leave, late night work, among other things. Though WFH is helping women manage personal priorities while continuing to work, it is also inducing stress at many levels.
Studies show one can effectively retain women in the workforce by providing opportunities to balance work and life at various critical junctures in their career and interventions to achieve career aspirations at all experience levels. Many organizations have been actively implementing measures in this area and are seeing the metrics improve slowly but steadily. However, change does not happen overnight. Patience and perseverance are of paramount importance in ensuring gender parity.
There are hardly any women in top positions in Hyderabad’s IT sector, unlike say in a city like Bengaluru. What are the reasons for this and what role can HYSEA play on this front?
While there is a very good percentage of women at the entry level, the numbers reduce drastically as we move up the hierarchy. I think there are two major reasons for this. The first is the frequent and continuous changes in technology, which means we have to be lifelong learners. For women, current gender roles make household responsibilities a higher priority and hence many women are gradually left behind on the upskilling curve.
Secondly, the long work hours associated with many roles may occasionally lead to imbalance in personal and professional responsibilities. I think there are women leaders in top posts in Hyderabad, too. However, we need to aim for more. The objective of HYSEA’s ‘Inspire Her’ intervention is exactly this. HYSEA and its member organisations are taking up multiple interventions like training women to be the best version of themselves, ignite a spark in young minds, encourage mid-level women managers to ‘Aspire More’ and inspire senior women leaders to take up CXO roles.
Many women have dropped out of the workforce due to pressures at home. How can HYSEA help bring them back to work?
HYSEA member organisations are taking up many initiatives to help women come back to work after a break. They are given apt training and positioned for roles that allow for smooth integration back into the workforce. I would appeal to the women who wish to return to work, (full time or part time), to use these opportunities. Gradually, we will also see the gig workforce becoming the norm, which will open doors for many more women professionals.
While taking charge of HYSEA you said your aim is to make it the first point of contact for any IT/ ITeS company looking to set up shop in Hyderabad or Telangana. How does HYSEA plan to achieve this?
We are working closely with the government of Telangana to strengthen the proposition for Hyderabad as the place of choice for expansion. And HYSEA member organisations are already involved in many such conversations and the impact will gradually amplify.
As Hyderabad’s apex IT/ITeS sector body, do you think there are areas where more needs to be done to elevate it?
Yes, there is always scope to do more, especially due to the dynamic landscape. We have to continuously look into improving talent availability, infrastructure upgrades and shape the future of IT in the state.
Hyderabad has emerged as a challenger to India’s Silicon Valley — Bengaluru. Do you think Hyderabad has it to race past Bengaluru?
Bengaluru had the advantage of an early start and positioned itself as the Silicon Valley of India. Instead of competing with Bengaluru, we need to fi nd our own niche. I think Hyderabad is well poised to become the innovation capital of India.
How does HYSEA see the projections for return to office in Hyderabad’s IT sector?
We expect evolution of the workplace, worker and work. It means we will see a hybrid workplace evolving where employees will seamlessly work in office or away from it depending on what their role and work demands. We are also observing Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities emerging stronger. Additionally, the government is also stepping in with a futuristic SEZ Act. An increasing number of employees have started working from office and HYSEA is playing a role by sharing the right information and data points with member organisations to accelerate return to office.