As companies become more tech-centric, serial entrepreneur and startup mentor Deepak Singh Ahlawat's CTO-recruitment startup Purple Quarter focuses on core value fitment for companies seeking top technical leadership.
Until a while back, businesses were all about the CEO. But with technology taking centre stage, the CTO has come into his own. Finding the right Chief Technology Officer, though, can be a tough ask, which is why Deepak Singh Ahlawat chose to launch Purple Quarter, a Bengaluru-based firm that helps companies find the right CTO.
“In India, CTO search is a tough market. While roles like VP Engineering/Chief Technology Officer open up very rarely, there is often a dearth of relevant talent when they do. The candidates that offer the required experience and leadership skills are very limited,” Deepak says.
Founded in 2017, Purple Quarter is a CTO recruitment startup that deals with hiring for technology leadership-level roles for organisations.
It focuses on core value fitment, and screens using multiple sources and assessments to present potential fits to companies seeking top technical leadership. In just a year, Purple Quarter has built an impressive track record. "We placed Ravi Krishnaswamy from Flipkart to InMobi, Amazon India CTO Dale Vaz to Swiggy, and WoNoBo’s Sourav Sachin to BrowserStack," says Deepak.
He says the CEO being in the limelight is set to change in the next five years as technology will play an important role in scaling companies. “Every company needs a strong technological push, and for that, we need good CTOs.”
The Purple Quarter journey
Deepak developed an early interest in recruitment in the technology domain during his four-year stint as a recruiter with a recruitment firm. Prior to Purple Quarter, he co-founded three companies, including Anzy Careers, a placements and HR consultancy for IT and IT-related industries.
He is also an angel investor and a mentor for several companies in the technology realm, including Tracxn, Gameskraft, SpoonJoy, Stayglad, ZenRadius, Vacation Labs, etc.
In 2017, after spending a decade in tech, he understood that the role technology played in a company’s growth would gain further importance. He founded Purple Quarter with Roopa Kumar, whom he met in Anzy Careers. Roopa is currently the COO of Purple Quarter.
Purple Quarter was seed-funded by Tracxn Founder Abhishek Goyal and Mekin Maheshwari, former senior executive at Flipkart.
Instead of signing contracts and assignments, the first six months were spent meeting people and researching aspects like why people joined big companies, especially those overseas.
Deepak and Roopa met around 180-200 people, both active and passive talent, including technologists, CTO-level people, directors, and others. They analysed why people joined big companies, and why others left. They tried to understand a person’s need to work with a team of like-minded people.
Based on these inputs, Deepak designed the behavioural matrix for the tech-head search for Purple Quarter.
How Purple Quarter operates
The search firm mainly operates through word of mouth and often find clients via VCs. The team begins work by understanding the client company and meeting all the stakeholders - founders, investors, HR, etc. It then conducts multiple meetings, which could be spread out over days or a week.
“The main thing we look at is what is in it for a company. From a company side, everyone needs a strategic partner who not just understands what they need as a resource but who also understands their business,” Deepak explains.
Purple Quarter focuses on understanding the company’s domain, vision, roadmap, and goals for the next 18 months. Next, the firm identifies the skills needed at each stage to achieve these goals. Similarly, the team has several conversations with the candidate to understand him, his needs, and vision. “We try to take it to a level of professional relationship from that of a professional acquaintance,” Deepak says.
The startup then acts like a bridge between candidates and companies, partnering with them and bringing suitable parties together.
The biggest challenge
Deepak says one major challenge Purple Quarter faced was changing the perception about what they did; most people thought of them as another recruitment agency. This made it very difficult for the team to get companies to talk about their vision and what they wanted. Purple Quarter was able to overcome this challenge after a couple of assignments.
The team continues to believe good conversation is essential in career progression and focused on building good professional relationships to create value. “It is not a transaction but an engagement or partnership. People used to be doubtful initially on the criticality of CTO roles,” Deepak says. But not anymore.
From the candidate’s perspective, the main challenge was to win trust. It was essential for Purple Quarter to help the candidates realise that the information they shared would be confidentially maintained and not shared, except with the right people.
Numbers and figures
According to a recently published report by ManPowerGroup, 58 percent of Indian employers find it difficult to get the right kind of technical talent. While platforms like Aircto and Hackathon existing the market, the non-agency-like model and uni-dimensional approach towards tech leads is what sets Purple Quarter apart. Deepak says the company has no plans to diversify to other segments.
With a team of six members, Purple Quarter claims to have managed to close all assignments so far in 45 days, from meeting the client to the offer stage. It charges a fixed percentage for CTOs and companies.
Purple Quarter also claims to “take complete responsibility and guarantee of successful leadership for multiple years” after closing an assignment.
The company, which has closed six assignments as of now, claims to be cash positive.
In the near future, Purple Quarter wants to expand to other geographies; it has already started working in the Southeast Asian market and aims to be the number one brand for CTOs globally. “In our far future, we also plan to invest in other companies and startups as well,” Deepak says.