To guts, to pain… and to glory – an ode to the Indian Startup ecosystem!

28th May 2016
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Today, I’m ending my 2.5 year hiatus of writing on people issues for YourStory. Why? Because I feel inspired…

I got my first exposure to startups and started admiring them during my brief stint with YourStory in 2013. Since then, my respect for them has grown manifold. So yes, I’m angry about how media has been bashing the Indian startup ecosystem of late. But this post is not about my anger…

Yes, it pains me that the same journalists who celebrated the stories of Indian startups and the awesome work they are doing, are today having a field day at their expense… It’s like all of a sudden, startups have stopped doing any constructive work and are just busy either firing or struggling to retain people. Startups have always have high levels of attrition even in the best of times and maybe I will share my views on that in a later post. But this post is not about attrition or my frustration about short-sightedness in favour of sensationalism…

ode to indian startup ecosystem- yourstory
Image credits - shutterstock

So what is this post about? It’s inspired by another post from an HR consultant whom I truly admire. Debu’s article yesterday struck a chord in me and got me truly fired up! In particular, I loved what he wrote –

People leaving an organization is always just ‘one’ part of a story. There is always another ‘larger picture’: The employees who choose to stay, the HR team who is taking steps to retain talent and the entrepreneur who is solving a problem and building a future while ‘weathering the storm’ (a storm often ‘concocted’ by media).

So this post is about the awesome people who choose to stay on at Indian startups at a time when the rest of the world is mocking them as these dream companies go through a tough phase. It’s about the Founders of those startups who repeatedly remind themselves that they have a duty towards those awesome people who believe in them. And it’s about my brethren, the HR teams, who strive to ensure that true tenets of their startups’ culture are not lost in the snickers of the naysayers…

The HR Teams

You know what – HR folks are people too! It breaks our hearts when we are not able to provide all the answers, either because we don’t have the answers or because the answers won’t solve the problems. We feel terrible when we sometimes have to let go of people; often those who helped build the businesses we support. We need to smile even though our own hearts are aching at the dreams we need to postpone for our families because we too didn’t get the increments everyone was waiting for. But we remind ourselves that we are doing what’s right for our companies and our people. And we maintain that reassuring smile!

The Founders

Ideas are aplenty. Thousands of litres of the “ageing monk” and posteriors of “WD&HO Wills” bear testimony to that! But how many of the dreamers and talkers truly take that plunge? It takes guts… Some founders have seen their hey-day at corporates and choose to spend their greying years to create rather than do the same s**t one more day… Many inspired youth take the path towards living their dreams in the face of harsh criticism about their character when we should really be focusing on giving them the right guidance… And of course, there are my contemporaries; those who left promising corporate careers to do something more meaningful. Let’s not forget that all of them are just like you and me – so much potential – but just learning to be wiser. Of course they will sometimes make mistakes but should we chastise them? Or should we respect them for their passion to solve problems and build futures. Well, I just choose to love them!

The People

Think of those who come in to work everyday at startups that are feeling the heat. Not sure when they will get an increment... They hear the change in tones of people who ask them where they work – from the admiring – “You are at xyz - wow!!!” to the sympathising “Oh, you are at xyz???.” Their friends and families are questioning them about their sanity and directly or indirectly, telling them to also take the safer, albeit more predictable career paths. They instead, choose to stay focused on executing like crazy, and keep their eyes & ears shut to the naysayers… Because they believe!

So the next time when you read something or the next time you are propelled to critique the startup ecosystem, take a pause and try to see the other side of the story. Try to think about what these startups have achieved and the jobs they have created. Try to think of those who are still giving it everything they have, despite all the criticism and the scepticism…

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