While startups are known to attract top talent, courtesy of the heavy pay packets and steep learning curve they offer, the first five months of the year have been forgettable for the ecosystem. Several consumer internet firms, including the likes of Snapdeal, Practo and Yepme, have laid off hundreds of employees while others, such as Stayzilla, ceased operations altogether. In the backdrop of this volatility, is it a good idea to join a startup anymore? Is the risk-reward worth it? Or does it make sense to opt for the stability that a big multi-national offers? Here are answers to some questions job-seekers are nowadays confronted with.
Will news of layoffs, shutdowns affect hiring?
Yes and no. Yes, because there is a growing perception that startups are not safe for laterals as well as freshers. Internet-based companies like Snapdeal, Flipkart, Practo, Grofers, and Zomato have slowed down, and they are either retrenching people or will start doing so. Having said that, you cannot call Flipkart a startup anymore, even though its management operates like one. The company wants agility and speed, but it has grown large and its workforce comprises people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. The agility of a 2,000-people company cannot be the same as that of a 20-people company.
One of the challenges that many fast-growing startups face is changing their mindset from that of an emerging firm to that of a large company. That is the reason they hire and retrench in large numbers.
Are startups safe?
The 'no' in my first answer is for two reasons. First, one has to expect retrenchment at a startup. In other words, if safety and security are your top priority, you shouldn’t join a startup anyway. People who choose to work in startups love adventure—they don’t like routine, mundane jobs. Even their personalities are very different from those who work at large, established organisations. While a slow funding environment will impact the hiring of freshers, it will also keep away those who should not be in a startup anyway.
Love for learning
The sole reason why anyone should join a startup is to learn. Startups provide a holistic experience because one person is responsible for multiple functions.
Employees succeed when the startup does well, but they have to bear the brunt if it fails. However, if success is the only motivation, one won’t enjoy the startup journey. Those who want to learn as much as possible in, say, two years, and then decide on a career path are the ones with the right type of personality for a startup.
Men vs boys
If a startup hires a person who is not a good fit, it is better that they leave the organisation. In other words, the employee layoffs happening at startups right now will clearly demarcate the boys from the men.
Blessing in disguise
In conclusion, there is a silver lining even to this volatility. Startups can't afford to hire people who are looking to have a conventional career—they must on board aspiring entrepreneurs. For such entrepreneurs-in-the-making, working at a startup transcends ideas such as hefty salary and office perks. Even if an employee doesn’t start their own company, the value of working for a startup is high because of the learning involved. Big companies will welcome them as long as they can project their learnings well.
T Muralidharan is founder and chairman of TMI Group, an HR services firm based out of Secunderabad, Telangana.
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