Around 20 to 25% of Hiring is Centred Around New-Age Technologies: Shalini Nair Kumar, Amadeus Lab

Around 20 to 25% of Hiring is Centred Around New-Age Technologies: Shalini Nair Kumar, Amadeus Lab

, Senior Manager - Content, Naukri
, Senior Manager - Editorial & Content, Naukri
Amadeus Labs
Shalini Nair Kumar, Head of People and Culture, Amadeus Labs

With over 35 years in travel technology, Amadeus boasts over 18,000 global employees and a wide range of industry solutions. Shalini Nair Kumar, Head of People and Culture at Amadeus Labs, talked to All Things Talent about their HR technology, employee experience, and innovation strategies in the travel tech landscape.

In India, is Amadeus operating more in a Global Capability Centre (GCC) setup or do you also have direct business operations for clients based in India? 

In India, we function as a GCC. We are primarily engaged in creating products, solutions, and platform offerings catering to global customers rather than specifically building anything for Indian customers. Our model entails conducting end-to-end R&D operations and platform services in India for global consumption. Amadeus has a global presence in all product and platform areas, and the India centre is no exception. In fact, it’s the second-largest site and plays a critical role in many of our offerings. We have leaders based in India who are global leaders, steering some of the products and platforms for Amadeus. Our structure allows for an equal spread of presence globally, and India is an integral part of that spread. 

Could you provide a more detailed breakdown of the 3100 employees in India?

Absolutely. With the emergence of DevOps, our operational teams are now closely integrated with our tech teams and form a significant part of the organisation’s R&D. Looking at it from this perspective, I would estimate that nearly 80% to 85% of the organisation is focused on R&D. Additionally, we have some teams dedicated to implementation and support. But overall, our operations are predominantly R&D and tech-focused. 

Could you provide a timeline or trajectory of the significant expansion phases the company has experienced? 

Our journey in India began in 2012 and, as with many GCCs, our initial objective was to establish a stable centre capable of handling global products and platforms. We aimed to demonstrate our ability to deliver from India, especially considering the complexity and critical nature of these products which, if down, could potentially disrupt global traffic. This phase was crucial in building confidence within the global organisation regarding the India centre’s delivery capabilities.

The second phase involved taking on more responsibilities, leading some of the product modules and assuming end-to-end accountability for developing and delivering solutions for our global customer base from India. This marked a significant step in our growth and maturity.

The third stage, where we find ourselves now, involves Indian leaders taking the reins of global charters within the organisation. We now have Indian leaders managing global products and overseeing global teams.

Our aspiration for the upcoming fourth stage is to drive innovation from India, possibly creating the next big product that propels the company towards even greater success. This future stage will test our ambition and the talent pool we’ve nurtured, as we strive to innovate and build next-gen products out of India. 

Also read: Noveltech CHRO Rishav Dev Lists Four Innovation Shifts Brought In by Remote Work

In the HR realm, we haven’t yet reached the point where we can leverage data in such an integrated way to make agile decisions and improve the overall talent experience. This is a gap we need to bridge, given how technology is revolutionising multiple industries. 

With potential competitors like RateGain emphasising internal talent development for their R&D efforts and niche sector comprehension, such as low pricing, how does this align with your talent acquisition strategy? 

Our approach to talent is a bit nuanced. In the Indian IT landscape, it’s challenging to solely rely on building talent internally. While it’s possible, it is a time-intensive process.

Tech talent is highly fungible, and technical skills do not necessarily need to be nurtured within the organisation. What we aim to cultivate internally, however, is domain knowledge and functional expertise. This understanding of the travel industry and its myriad functions, such as airline operations, passenger onboarding, product pricing, preferred seating, and other aspects, is critical in the development of next-gen products and platform evolution.

Additionally, employees develop an understanding of the organisation’s specific technological tools and the complexities of how our platform functions. This understanding, alongside the awareness of the transaction volume our platform handles, aids in the platform’s evolution.

That said, the pace of growth and churn in the tech world makes it unrealistic to depend entirely on internal talent development. Of course, we strive to retain our best talent as they contribute to building depth within the company. However, the agility to attract new people, their willingness to learn and adapt, and the capacity to help them grow within the organisation are equally vital.

Moreover, when it comes to new functional areas, it’s about striking a balance. Long-tenured employees who understand the depth of our products and our industry can provide significant functional knowledge. On the other hand, fresh talent often brings in-depth technical expertise. Marrying these two aspects – the seasoned understanding of our tenured staff with the fresh technical depth of new talent – allows us to build effective teams and drive forward progress. 

Also read: India’s White-Collar Hiring Landscape Undergoes Transformative Shifts: Naukri JobSpeak Index

Could you provide a timeline for when substantial hiring took place in your company? 

Amadeus operates with a focus on long-term growth and stability, and thus we have maintained a consistent hiring strategy. Rather than periods of rapid expansion followed by slowdowns, we’ve maintained steady growth since our inception in 2012. Barring 2020, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry, we’ve seen an annual growth rate of about 15 to 20% in our team. So there wasn’t a specific year marked by massive growth, but a steady, sustained increase in our team size year-on-year. We foresee this trend of stable growth continuing into the future. 

Could you shed light on the primary HR initiatives of the company in India? How did the pandemic influence these policies?

Despite the pandemic posing significant challenges to the travel industry, and subsequently, to our company, our foremost priority remained to minimise the impact on our employees. We launched initiatives to ensure our staff was well taken care of during this tough time. One such programme was the “Incentivised Voluntary Reduction of Working Hours” programme, which enabled our employees to cut down their work hours without major financial consequences, providing them with the much-needed flexibility to handle personal health and family care issues. On average over 12% of the Amadeus organisation opted for this opportunity.

Moreover, we fostered open and transparent communication channels, with updates from our CEO and HR team about our ongoing operations, adjustments, and future expectations. This helped eliminate any speculation and gave our employees a clear understanding of the company’s situation and plans.

To keep morale high, we developed numerous engagement activities and learning opportunities for our employees. Our holistic “Tide Through Together” programme catered to various individual needs of our employees ranging from financial support, emotional well-being, physical health, and family care. It was a one-stop solution for all kinds of challenges that our employees faced during the pandemic.

We also launched the “Compassion Policy” which aimed to reassure our staff about the company’s support to their families in case of their sudden demise. This initiative was well-received and touched many hearts within the organisation.

Could you share any key observations or significant findings that you’ve noticed?

The feeling of unity was one profound observation. We’ve always emphasised that people are at the core of what we do, and this was deeply felt during this challenging period. Even as business was down, we made it a point to ensure that our employees felt respected and taken care of. We received positive feedback about this.

Regarding the adoption rate, our internal engagement surveys were a great indicator of how the programmes were received. Interestingly, our scores have been consistently rising, even with the survey conducted in January this year.

We were also able to retain key talent, and notably, we had a number of people returning to the company during the uncertain period of 2021 and 2022. Despite the volatility of the tech industry, many found that they missed the culture of trust, respect, and camaraderie that was present in our company. The experience led us to create a Rehire programme, welcoming former employees back into the fold, and we received an overwhelmingly positive response. It’s also noteworthy that nearly 70% to 80% of those who came back had not left recently, proving the strong sentiments associated with our company.

Talent Citizenship was a concept we introduced around seven or eight years ago, through a programme called ForceOne, which was launched in response to the discrepancy between the intended design of policies and programmes and how they are perceived at the ground level. This programme consisted of five pillars—collaboration, communication, giving back to society, and more. We encouraged employees to be a part of these key pillars, with leaders sponsoring and guiding them. We also started initiatives like “Chai and Why?” sessions to bridge the gap between leaders and employees, and we found these programmes to be quite successful and well-received by our employees. 

Also read: Only 57% Firms Have Tech Tools To Capture Trends Around Employee Retention and Productivity – Survey

Can you recount any particular instances from these one-on-one interactions with leaders that led to new insights or improvements? 

Certainly, there are myriad examples, but I’ll highlight a couple. In one instance, a female employee communicated with a leader about the challenges women face during their monthly menstrual cycles. She shared the need for more flexible work options and a more conducive office environment during such times. Though this wasn’t an entirely new concept, it wasn’t something we had given due consideration to.

Acting on her feedback, we introduced several measures. We started encouraging women to utilise our medical rooms for rest if they were feeling unwell during their menstrual cycle, a shift from the pre-existing notion that these spaces were only for sickness or medical emergencies. Further, we began to provide biodegradable, sustainable alternatives for sanitary pads in the workplace, raising awareness about healthier product choices. Moreover, we organised informative sessions led by doctors on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and transitioning to more sustainable products during this period.

Another example revolves around our ongoing eco-friendly initiatives. While we’ve made numerous strides, such as eliminating plastics and instituting energy-saving measures, one employee noticed that the stirrers used for tea and coffee were still made of plastic. Considering the office comprises 3,000 people, the usage was indeed substantial. Upon receiving this feedback, we immediately replaced the plastic stirrers, further minimising our environmental footprint. This goes to show how these sessions can bring to light small but significant details we may overlook, thus prompting us to improve continually. 

Considering Amadeus’s consistent annual growth of 15% to 20%, have you observed any shifts in skill demands? 

While there has been an evident shift towards new technologies, the foundational skills for any tech company, including Amadeus, remain unchanged. Technologies like Java and C++ still underpin a considerable portion of our core products and platforms. That said, there is a growing focus on new-age technologies such as cloud, AI/ML, and blockchain, but it’s important to note that they currently engage only a small segment of our workforce of over 3,100.

Our large-scale transformational tech programme, ‘Curiosity’, in partnership with Microsoft Azure, signifies our significant investment in cloud technology due to the immense complexity of our platform and the high transactional volume it handles. Skills supporting this cloud journey, like cloud engineers, architects, and experts in DevOps, DevSecOps, and DevSecFinOps, are seeing increased demand. Yet, this doesn’t alter our organisational fabric entirely but rather supplements it, representing the next wave of in-demand skills.

With respect to hiring, around 20% to 25% of our intake is centred on these new-age technologies, while the remainder is focused on traditional tech skills. As for our overall hiring projections, we anticipate a year-on-year growth of about 15% to 20%. It’s crucial to remember that this transformation isn’t unilateral; our customers and the broader ecosystem also need to evolve their capabilities to fully leverage these new technologies, which will naturally take time. 

We were also able to retain key talent, and notably, we had a number of people returning to the company during the uncertain period of 2021 and 2022. It’s also noteworthy that nearly 70% to 80% of those who came back had not left recently, proving the strong sentiments associated with our company.

Could you provide an overview of how your non-compensation HR spending, particularly in the areas of skill development, learning, and overall investment, has trended over the past 4-5 years?

Our investment priorities haven’t dramatically changed over the past few years, given that we are a research and development tech organisation. The bulk of our spending consistently goes toward learning and development initiatives, aiming to continually upskill our team in new technologies and methodologies. This need for upskilling has remained consistent, whether asked five years ago or now.

We’ve also heavily invested in enhancing behavioural competencies, especially as the workplace dynamics shifted significantly due to the pandemic. Adapting to new ways of working, evolving team interactions, and enhancing collaborative practices have all demanded attention and resources.

The third investment area of focus is the development of our managerial and leadership capabilities. This is crucial for any forward-thinking company, as maintaining a robust leadership pipeline, ensuring succession plans, and bolstering the managerial layer are all key for organisational resilience. In particular, the role of the first-line manager is critical in shaping the employee experience, so preparing them adequately is a priority. Therefore, our HR spending is significantly concentrated on learning, development, and building leadership capacities. 

Also read: Max Life CPO Shailesh Singh Discusses Evolution of Hiring Models in the BFSI Sector

Aside from Learning & Development (L&D), could you elaborate on the other areas you invest in, for instance, in regard to HR technology?

In addition to L&D, another significant area we invest in is talent acquisition. It’s critical for us to find the right candidates and create an outstanding experience for them, so we allocate resources toward utilising the proper recruitment channels. Another key area we emphasise is employee wellness and welfare, which comprises a broad range of activities and initiatives.

As for HR technology, it’s not within my top three areas of investment primarily because these tech transformations are typically handled on a global scale. We have made investments in workspace tech and are currently leveraging those resources.

What we’re still missing, however, is the end-to-end experience you find on platforms like Amazon, where with just a few clicks, you can make a purchase, get personalised recommendations based on past purchases, and enjoy a seamless transaction. In the HR realm, we haven’t yet reached the point where we can leverage data in such an integrated way to make agile decisions and improve the overall talent experience. This is a gap we need to bridge, given how technology is revolutionising multiple industries. 

Could you provide any significant HR-related figures or data?

One aspect I would like to highlight, which we’ve increasingly implemented in our HR practices at Amadeus India, is data-driven decision-making. Rather than basing our choices on instincts or sentiments, we track and analyse metrics across all our programmes. This shift toward a more data-centric approach has taken place over the past five to seven years.

We firmly believe in demonstrating the ROI of our programmes, which resonates with our business leaders who value data-driven insights. For instance, we track the progress of participants in our managerial development programmes. We monitor how many individuals have participated, and how many have been promoted, or transitioned to different roles within the organisation, even globally.

We apply the same approach to our women’s mentoring programmes, tracking the career progression of participants to measure the programme’s impact. With our recruitment processes, we go beyond common metrics like time-to-hire and instead focus on the quality of hires. We track the progression of these hires over one, two, three years, and beyond. One of our significant initiatives is our campus hiring programme, and we closely follow the career trajectories of these hires, with some now in senior management positions.

About the expert: Shalini Nair, Head, People and Culture, Amadeus Labs, has proven her mettle over a decade. Noteworthy in a long line of accomplishments is her successful navigation and the transfer of over 400 employees from Ness to Amadeus, which showcased her expert management skills. 


Registered name of the company & location: Amadeus Software Labs India Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru;
Amadeus IT Group, Madrid, Spain for Global
Year of Incorporation: 2012 in India, 1987 for Amadeus Global
Number of employees: 3000+ in India, 18000 globally
Founders: Amadeus global was founded by 4 airlines coming together in a consortium (Iberia, SAS, Air France and Lufthansa)
Name of the key exec(s):
Mani Ganeshan, Global Head of Engineering, Travel Distribution and Centre Head, Amadeus Labs
Business line: Travel Technology
CAGR of workforce growth: On average, we have grown 15-20% each year since inception in 2012
Key HR differentiating factors: Hybrid working model, equal opportunity employer, benefits that include insurance for immediate family members that also includes same-gender partners, insurance coverage that also covers gender realignment surgery, gender-neutral restrooms on all floors, conscious employer and constantly contributing to environmental sustainability initiatives.


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