How does hiring work for new-age skills? Rishabh Kaul of Belong explains


Rishabh Kaul, Founder and CEO, Belong, at YourStory's Future of Work conference in Bengaluru,

Rishabh Kaul, the Co-founder of Belong, says skills need to have layers in an uncertain world, and recommends specialisation for every ambitious individual.

What is data telling us about talent in this digital age? This was what Rishabh Kaul focused on during his talk at the second edition of YourStory’s Future of Work conference in Bengaluru.

Rishabh is the Co-founder of Belong, a predictive outbound hiring solution company. He was one of the earliest team members of Grey Orange, India’s leading automation company. Providing great insights into what was happening in the hiring scene in the tech world, Rishabh spoke at length to the audience comprising mainly techies and entrepreneurs.

Talent strategy

Today, the five largest companies in the world - Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon - are all tech companies. This is a huge difference from a decade ago when the buzz surrounded oil and motor companies.

Most valuable companies are now using tech to enter other domains - not just selling software and servers. According to Rishabh, every company is becoming a tech company when it enters new fields. This is leading to a scenario where most management consultancies are getting most revenue from digital transformation.

“When a major player in any sector wants to automate the process and bring in more capabilities, it will bring focus on the talent needed. But finding talent is becoming more and more challenging in the digital world,” Rishabh said.

Belong has found that only 17.3 percent of companies have employees with the skills needed for digital transformation. Rishabh raised a relevant question: In the rapidly evolving business transformation context, do companies have a future-ready talent strategy?

With new roles coming in, Rishabh said many companies don’t know what to do. “Challenge in hiring data scientists in an organisation is that they don’t know what to use them for. This is leading to low tenure. The average time that a data scientist spends in a company is less than a year and a half, even if they are very experienced or senior. This is because the demand in the industry is larger than supply. It gives high compensation.”

New-age skills

If colleges don’t train you for cutting-edge skills, and your job may not be relevant in years, how do you market your career? It’s about showing, not telling, on the resume.

Rishabh elaborated, “New-age skills in demand are not trained for in college, like product management. So the talent pool becomes large, with professionals following software engineering and management consulting before becoming product managers.”  

In an uncertain world, skills should have layers too. Rishabh recommends specialisation for every ambitious individual. For instance, there are lakhs of Java developers. But Java developers who are thorough with CRM and marketing automation may be only 10 percent. Add sales to these skills, and the number of candidates is even lower. “This makes you extremely unique. You get amazing premium since you are doing the job of two to three people,” Rishabh explained.

The candidate has the upper hand

For digital skills, Rishabh observed, hiring is candidate-driven and not employer-driven.

“If your business is undergoing major transformation with technology, how will you remain competitive in the future if you don’t bring in new, relevant talent, or by upskilling the existing team? For a lot of these new skills, there are not enough people.”

For instance, Java developers are there in every organisation already; it’s not a talent hard to find. But candidates for roles like android developers, DevOps, UI/UX developers, python developers, data scientists etc. are few, and the demand is increasing from every industry.

Rishabh pointed out that for a lot of these new-age roles, salaries are still going up, thanks to the demand-supply imbalance. “Blockchain developers will soon join this list,” he adds.  

Shaping your career

The imbalance in supply and demand for new-age roles has an interesting outcome - you have to be either a high performer in a stagnant industry, or a quick learner who has picked up different skills.

“Organisations don’t know who are the latter, who might be working in companies who don’t know what to do with them. This leads to massive brain drain,” Rishabh explained, adding that organisations need robust people-analytic functions to understand career journeys of people.

But the biggest challenge for candidates is figuring out what they want their careers to be. “Today, you can’t just survive in an organisation without adding value, and there are metrics to identify that. So you have to figure out how to contribute over and above what you are already doing,” Rishabh stressed.

Organisational structures are changing often, as are roles and responsibilities. “If you can figure out how to solve new problems, it opens up a fantastic growth path for everyone,” Rishabh noted.

In addition, large corporates have also started acquiring early stage companies. For instance, there may be about 50 startups in India in the private wealth management sector. You probably make only one percent of your AUM (assets under management) from the users. Unless you have Rs 5,000 crore in capital, how much revenue are you really going to make? Most of these startups will shut down eventually. But they have fantastic talent who can join larger companies.

Rishabh believes that large companies also prefer this because they can find teams of people they already have a working relationship with, rather than interview hundreds of people.

The allure of the gig economy

The gig economy, Rishabh stated, was for those who prefer hustle to a permanent job. “The likes of Ola, Uber, and Swiggy are the new call centres, a gateway to better life. These companies are probably paying more than what call centres paid 15 years ago,” he says.   

Platforms like Noble House, FlexingIt, and Outsized are directly attacking the likes of McKenzie, BCG, and Bain, which are consultants for different projects. Likewise, Unacademy lets you become a tutor, taking on the likes of Udemy. Startups like Meesho lets you become resellers and Cashcow lets its users help sell loans and take five percent of that amount in commission.

“These jobs are fundamentally changing the way we look at work. They existed in an analogue world; now the distribution is cracked in a different way,” Rishabh said.


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