Is attracting talent for startups tough in India?


Entrepreneurship is the latest buzz word. However, to run a startup efficiently, one requires strong passion, conviction, perseverance and determination. I have been close to startup ecosystems for some time now and always find entrepreneurs lamenting the dearth of talented people willing to work for them.

“The major challenge is finding a person with motivation to work in a startup. Skill comes later,” says Rohit Shroff, CEO & co-founder, Holidify. Apart from the right skills sets for any particular role, it is very important to gauge the motivation of the person --- where is this motivation coming from and what are the associated expectations, both short and long term.

While hiring people for functions like management, operations, marketing and sales is easy to some extent, finding technical talent seems to be a problem area. “It is a well-known fact that hiring and retaining technical talent is a tough task. The same is true for marketing talent as well,” reveals Nilesh Patel, who heads lead and task management startup, Leadsquared.

The awareness in general about startups is low and young people don't know what to expect. For instance, people often judge a company by its ‘posh office’, or working environment, which really should be the last thing to look at when joining a company. “We, for example, work out of home – it’s cheaper, more comfortable and relaxed, and it really creates a feeling of community. But for many employees in India unless there is a proper ‘office’ they look down upon the startup,” adds Anirudh Gupta, co-founder Tripoto.

Why hiring technical talent is a big challenge?

It is difficult to find a suitable technical person because usually they are compensated with handsome packages by MNCs or big corporation and their threshold for joining startups is pretty high. “In general, majority of technical people are risk averse and do not enjoy a typical startup culture,” reveals Rohit.

However, Nilesh says, “It depends on the individual. We’ve had cases when people joined us even when they had offers from MNCs and similarly people have left us after getting an offer from MNCs.”

The tilt in general is towards MNCs or rather a safer option. “Many employees in India are also very focused on just the monetary aspect and do not really care about the culture, work environment or what they would learn in the company. Hence they might easily switch companies if they get a few thousand rupees raise elsewhere,” adds Anirudh.

Given the spurt in the number of web-based startups top web talent is hard to find. Majority of the good talent is either locked up in mighty enterprise or working on their own startups.

Apart from the founders and few initial team members, entrepreneurs can't expect everyone to take a pay cut (or no pay). “Having said that, most people who are working in MNCs are mostly part of the early team and it is difficult for new recruits to find matching salaries,” says Anirudh. In those cases, it’s their lack of risk taking appetite rather than less money that is keeping them away.

What qualities should startups consider before hiring?

First quality that startups look for is the ability to perform the role in terms of skill and experience. Some startups have evaluation tests. Besides, a prospective employee should be self-motivated, team player and micro-ambitious. In addition, they also need to have some additional and complementary skills, depth of knowledge and network. And of course they should fit into the culture of the startup.

Most startups consider these factors without much emphasis on education degrees and background. One must be good at what he/she does, work independently and willing to learn fast. Without these traits it becomes difficult to survive in a startup eco-chamber.Rahul Sethi, co-founder of women focused marketplace, Ladyblush, says, “I have been associated with several startups and followed a rule of thumb while recruiting employees at leadership level – ascertain their knowledge quotient. Deep understanding of the domain gives them confidence to execute things without fear of failure. Startups also see high attrition rate in the initial days and one should be a multi-tasker and ready to don different hats at times.”


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