Bootstrapped and profitable—the story of SutraHR


Mumbai-based SutraHR helps startups find right people for different jobs based on a company’s needs and requirements by providing them with a dedicated resource.

Hiring has given many entrepreneurs sleepless nights. It is a time-consuming process to find the right people to scale your organisation. Having been an entrepreneur in college and having heard other entrepreneurs talk about the challenge, Waqar Azmi set out to change this.

SutraHR was one of the first recruitment portals to focus on hiring for startups. This was easier said than done because the year was 2009 and startups were not high on the list of anyone’s preferred list of companies to work for. hat was the milieu in which SutraHR came into being.

In its first year, SutraHR had just six employees in a small 150 sqft office and an annual turnover of nearly Rs 30 lakh. Today, it employs over 100 people across its offices in Pune, Bengaluru and Delhi. Some of the companies that SutraHR has claimed to work with include Practo,, Pharmeasy, Ola, PrettySecrets, MissMalini and Nykaa.

Team SutraHR.

Says Waqar,

“Back then, there was no awareness about startup hiring. We had to make people aware about what startups were, as well as our own brand. People took a while to trust us. However, since our offering was unique, in that we were catering to startups, we began getting business.”

SutraHR initially offered a low-cost, fixed-fee, guaranteed recruitment service, called SutraLite, which used technology to help startups find the right people. Soon, the team scaled up to ensure that there was a dedicated team for different kinds of roles in an organisation. It now helps companies with a range of positions, including bulk hiring at the entry-level as well as CXO positions.

The company provides clients with an on-site Dedicated Talent Acquisition Specialist, or DR, who in turn is supported by a specialist back-end team based out of Mumbai to source and shortlist candidates.

From working with only 10 clients in its first year, SutraHR has grown to a client base of approximately 1,000 startups, and claims to place a candidate somewhere in Asia every eight hours. “We want to take it to the next level and recruit a candidate every hour. We screen over 1,500-2,000 unique resumes every day to ensure that we only share the best candidates with our clients. SutraHR has built a strong database of over 50,000 candidates interested in working an at innovative startup,” says Waqar.

“Our revenues have consistently grown 80-100 percent year on year and we’ve been profitable since inception,” he adds.

The product evolution

As the company started to scale, they realised something rather ironical: they didn’t have a process for hiring their own people, so every hire became a major challenge.

“Once we crossed 50 people, we had to start hiring remotely. Hiring internally was a challenge in itself as there was no awareness about startups. We had to educate people about startups and the advantages of working in one - the vision, the culture, how the learning opportunities would benefit them. The market wasn’t big enough to create a big team. At the time, the clients would also delay payments. Since we’re completely bootstrapped, this was a major issue for us and managing our expenses became difficult,” explains Waqar.

They overcame the challenge of creating a presence and acquiring business leads by using offline marketing techniques. To set a process, they took help from HR mentors.

“HR was considered really boring, a side function. We had to come up with unique perks and flexible work timings. We built a quirky office that people would look forward to coming to everyday,” says Waqar.

He explains that unlike other players in the recruitment space, the team doesn’t charge anything upfront. Any startup can begin their recruitment process with us just by sharing their open mandates. Based on the positions, the specialised recruiter will get on a call and understand the requirement completely.

Currently, the team is also working to help companies hire “hotshots”—top-notch candidates from Tier I institutes who want to work at the most innovative startups.

The HR space today

The team then begins the process of hunting for the right candidates from an in-house database of over 10,000 startup candidates who’d love to work at innovative startups.

“We charge anything between one or two month’s salary, depending on the candidate’s CTC. Since we work on a no-retainer model, we only raise an invoice after the candidates’ are onboarded,” adds Waqar.

According to a 2015 KPMG report, the recruitment industry is worth $1 billion. And yet, less than 10 percent of this has been captured by any structured organised player. In February this year, a predictive hiring platform, Belong, raised Series B funding of $10 million, led by Sequoia Capital, who also focusses on hiring for startups. Apart from that, Naukri has been in the recruitment space for close to 15 years now.

Father, between 2015 and 2016, over $69 million has been pumped into the HR tech space in India. But, Waqar adds that while most of these players use a cookie-cutter model, SutraHR is focussed on ensuring that their dedicated resource model provides startups with unique solutions.

Says Waqar, “We also want to increase our team strength to over 200 people in the next two years. In the next five years, we plan on doubling those numbers and expanding globally. And in the process, become the most trustworthy and reliable recruitment partners to our clients.”