The coronavirus pandemic has hit the startup ecosystem hard, with several of them having to resort to layoffs and salary cuts to stay afloat. Several unicorns (startups with $1 billion valuations), such as Ola, Oyo, Swiggy, and Zomato, have had to downsize their staff as well as business.
A Nasscom survey, conducted to study the impact of COVID-19 on Indian startups, found that 70 percent startups have less than three months of cash runway and around 40 percent have either temporarily shut down or are on the verge of closing.
But, amidst all the gloom and doom across the startup ecosystem, there is some good news.
Delhi-based unicorn Hike, known for its homegrown messaging app, is looking to hire people across functions, with a special focus on the ones facing job and salary cuts.
“The startup ecosystem in India is going through a challenging period, resulting in some difficult organisational decisions. To play its part to support startup talent, the talent acquisition team at Hike is mapping and prioritising the candidates facing job and salary cuts for its current hiring needs,” says Anshuman Misra, Hike’s VP, Operations.
The startup is also working on launching a social recruitment campaign to reach out to those facing “job crunches” in the coming weeks.
At the moment, Hike is looking to hire for over 20 open positions across roles in product, design, marketing, AI and ML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning), engineering, partner functions, and user research; as it works towards the launch of its upcoming offering HikeLand.
According to Founder and CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal, with HikeLand, the company is looking to create a new online social experience in 2020, where your online avatar can “hang out” with close friends and significant others.
So, how is Hike managing to hire at a time when most others are having to lay off people?
Hike VP, People Operations, Karan Chadha explains, “Our business is growing. This is a time when people want to hang out with their friends and can't offline, and Hike is one of those destinations where they can, online. We've also got a big vision to deliver on with HikeLand. A core philosophy of ours is, leaner teams work faster, so we've always focussed on hiring fewer people, who can do great things. Hence, we continue to hire but always selectively.”
In March, the startup witnessed an increase of 33 percent in daily time spent on its Hike Sticker Chat platform, leading to users spending an average of around 45 minutes per day on the app.
Unlike most other companies, Hike has not affected any salary cuts either in the wake of the pandemic.
“We believe that human capital—that is our people—is greater than financial capital, which is why there are no salary cuts and no layoffs. We're probably one of the only startups that pay salaries as early as the 24th of every month,” says Karan.
In the wake of social distancing and lockdown norms, the entire hiring process at Hike will take place remotely, through tech tools such as Slack, Hackerank, Google Meet, and code pairing platforms.
“We're close to perfecting onboarding remotely. It's one of the things our recruiting team anticipated when the lockdown began. A new hire gets an ‘X days’ roadmap for themselves on Asana, which is a project management tool the company runs on. In-person catch-ups have now become video calls. We use Google Meet for that internally,” says Karan.
Kavin still holds his “new hire catch-ups” every month, but now over a video call, he adds.
The AI-led startup, which was one of the fastest to reach unicorn status in India, has also kickstarted the second edition of its recruitment programme ‘ZeroTo2’, which hires young engineers with up to 2 years experience.
The hiring programme to on-board freshers and engineers who are just starting out was launched in January, last year.
Hike is tapping into graduating and alumni talent from institutions such as IIT Kharagpur, IIT Dhanbad, NSIT, DTU, IIIT Delhi, NIT Kurukshetra, and Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology for their recruitment drives.
Anshuman says, “We aim to hire across teams through innovative remote initiatives as well as making efforts to reach out to talent in need of opportunities. Our DNA has always been to go after undiscovered talent who go on to become successful professionals and special initiatives focussed on young talent like our ZeroTo2 programme”
The startup recently conducted its first virtual hiring event under the programme and closed offers with three candidates.
It also on-boarded an IIT graduate who had a “high-value” offer from a multinational company, which “got revoked last minute as the pandemic set in”.
Founded in 2012, Hike reached unicorn status in 2016, and became the tenth Indian startup to be valued at over $1 billion. It has raised over $261 million from investors such as SoftBank, Tiger Global, Tencent, Foxconn, and Bharti to date.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)
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