Amid 'great layoffs', SaaS startups set off on a hiring spree

Shrugging away the crushing spell of layoffs in India, a few startups, software companies in particular, are ramping up their hiring, although likely at a far cry from the exuberance of last year.
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India’s latest unicorn, LeadSquared, is readying for a massive recruitment drive as it charts a global expansion, joining a growing tribe of startups plotting sizable hiring plans even as large-scale layoffs hog the headlines.

The Bengaluru-based sales automation platform, which recently raised $153 million in Series C funding from WestBridge Capital, has said it was looking to double its headcount from about 1,200 now in a year-and-half. 

Of this, the company will hire about 800 over the next few months across sales and marketing, finance, product, engineering, delivery, and support functions, a company executive told YourStory, declining to be identified.

Other software-as-a-service, or SaaS, companies including Actyv.ai and Supplynote, as well as e-learning platform Utkarsh Classes and Edutech, confirmed their recruitment plans with YourStory. PhonePe and upGrad, too, are hiring in the thousands this year

A YourStory initiative to connect recently laid-off employees with potential employers has also generated tremendous interest from young startups looking to hire talent, signalling some respite for the beleaguered industry.

“We anticipate that about 41 percent of the performing companies and new-age startups will continue hiring in 2022-23 and offer bonuses, perks, and higher salaries to top talent,” said Yeshab Giri, Chief Commercial Officer, Staffing & Randstad Technologies, Randstad India, a staffing company. 

The recent spate of layoffs, though, is expected to significantly weaken the bargaining chips of a majority of the laid-off employees, who might have to contend with sharp cuts in salaries and benefits. Last year’s employee-dominated market, in contrast, was marked by steep double-digit salary hikes, in addition to iPads, premium motorcycles and international travel as joining bonuses.

With hobbled global markets and companies bracing for a harsh funding winter, domestic startups are estimated to have laid off more than 10,000 employees in recent months. A huge chunk of the layoffs has been at India’s most valuable startup, BYJU’s, as the edtech sector experiments with new formats, including offline tuition centres.

Even so, bootstrapped e-learning platform Utkarsh Classes confirmed plans to hire 500 employees, including educators and sales, customer service and senior leadership executives. 

“We have witnessed growth from 6,000 to 1.5 million paid students enrolling for online coaching in the past two years. Given this, we are expanding our team across tier II and tier III cities,” said Founder Dr. Nirmal Gehlot, adding that the focus would be on hiring in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh.

Yeshab expects full-stack engineers, data engineers, DevOps specialists and product managers to continue to be in demand across healthcare, manufacturing, automobile, IT, and SaaS startups.

India’s SaaS market is expected to reach $50 billion by 2030, up from about $10 billion in 2020, Bessemer Venture Partners said in a recent report titled ‘The Rise of SaaS in India’. It, however, added that India’s SaaS market had reached “a critical inflection point as venture dollars deployed in the region reached $4.8 billion in 2021.”

Riding this projected growth in the sector, enterprise SaaS platform actyv.ai plans to ramp up hiring with about 200 more employees across levels in functions, including engineering, data science, support, sales and finance, Founder and Global CEO Raghu Subramanian said. 

“We have had a 5x growth in headcount since February 2022,” he said. “The current headcount is around 75 and we plan to close the year with 250 employees.”

Supplynote, an enterprise SaaS provider for the food and beverage industry, too, confirmed hiring plans, but didn’t provide more details. “We are expanding and hiring in accordance with our business priorities and goals,” Founder and CEO Kumar Kushang said, adding that the Bengaluru-based company is strengthening its presence in new geographies.

Among other sectors, Manu Saigal, Director-General Staffing, at staffing company Adecco India, identified logistics, ecommerce, and the banking, financial services and insurance, or BFSI, sectors as outliers amidst the current hiring slump.

She, however, added a note of caution.

“There are soft signals of an upcoming recession, and macroeconomic and geopolitical unrest,” Manu said, “and organisations are taking a cautious approach to hiring…”

Edited by Feroze Jamal

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