An email from a credible source to YourStory earlier today said that on-demand delivery startup Grofers had withdrawn job offers extended to five engineering and three MBA graduates, just two days before their official joining date.
Grofers had visited MNNIT's college campus in August 2015 with the intent of hiring students for full-time roles of- 'Manager Operations' and software engineering. Because of internal policies in place, the selected students opted out of further placements.
On Tuesday evening (yesterday), the graduates received an email from the startup's HR team, which said the positions were no longer available, owing to changes in market conditions and that which have affected its business.
YourStory spoke to two of the affected graduates and they expressed disbelief in the way the situation had been handled. One of them mentioned that Grofers had given him no prior indication that trouble was brewing and had in fact sent him details and even invited him for the job training.
The other graduate mentioned that she was just about to leave her home when she received the email from Grofers. She too expressed disbelief and disappointment.
Both graduates noted that all their efforts to reach out to the Grofers team have so far not been fruitful and some contact numbers were even switched off.
These graduates had finished their final year in the beginning of May 2016 and had almost two months of free time. They note that if Grofers had communicated the situation earlier they would have had enough time to prepare and look for other opportunities.
A senior who had graduated from the same institute said, "This is extremely unethical and unprofessional on the company's part. The email communication is lousy and lacking empathy."
The college placement committee too is trying to sort out the matter with Grofers.
YourStory has tried reaching out to Grofers but has got no response yet. Founded in 2013 by Saurabh Kumar and Albinder Dhindsa, Grofers seemed to have a fairytale run with explosive growth- moving from a shared workspace to an office in Sector 32, Gurugram. The startup had also raised a massive $120-million Series C round led by Softbank Capital with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and existing investors-Sequioa Capital and Tiger Global.
Related read from December 2015: From a shared workspace to raising $120 million recently, Grofers’ growth story in 2015
A curious thing to note is that the hiring section on the Grofers website still lists openings for engineering and operations, the roles the company now seems to claim are no longer available.
Just a month ago, Flipkart too was backed into a corner after it announced delaying the joining date of students from IITs and IIMs by six months. The Quality Council of India stepped in and offered jobs to the affected graduates.
While educational institutes and startups have enjoyed a mutually beneficial 'symbiotic relationship', the recent turn of events have raised concerns. Going forward, we can expect to see more due diligence and more stringent terms from educational institutes while inviting startups to hire on their campuses.
But it is also fair to note that market fluctuations affect early and mid-stage startups more than the comparatively deep-pocketed corporates. So while there is room for exponential growth and learnings in startups, graduates should always approach them with a pinch of salt, as the pendulum can easily swing the other way too.
Albinder, Co-Founder of Grofers has shared a release with YourStory. In it, he noted that Grofers had extended offer letters to about 124 students from various college campuses. Out of 124, Grofers had absorbed only 50. He said
We are downsizing our operations, content and catalogue teams since April this year. Our decision of relieving 67 campus hires is well pondered, and we didn't want to aboard and then fire them. To avoid backlash in future we simply communicated them (sic), however we do admit that we failed to communicate subtly to campus recruits
He also noted that since April 2016, Grofers had stopped marketing and resorting on organic growth only. "Instead of growing 25-30 per cent by incurring heavy marketing budget, we consciously made consensus on not splurging capital on marketing."