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Why is no one talking about the difficulty of hiring for startups in India (swaroopch.com)
21 points by guglanisam 1344 days ago | 33 comments


7 points by pocha 1344 days ago | link

Have put a comment at the article, iterating it here as well.

There is no dearth of good hacker kind of guys for your startup in places like bangalore. One of the prominent reason startups cant hire them is because the startups are themselves greedy to offer something substantial to attract these guys. You cant sell 'you get to work in startup environment' theory to all the guys all the time.

Remember the quote - you can fool some people for all the time, you can fool all the people for some time .. but you can not fool all the people for all the time.

Gist is simple - want a hacker guy - take him as a co-founder & not an employee. If he can scale your company to the next leve, all the vesting you have in your hand after giving it away to him, would be of lot more worth.

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3 points by abhaga 1344 days ago | link

Picture from my (founder's) end looks quite different. I am yet to come across an employee who even inquired about equity while contacting or interviewing. Of course, it might be the case that I have not been able to attract the good hacker kind to my job openings.

But my understanding says that people do not value equity since there are almost no small exits - small companies getting acquired from small amounts and all the early employees making a reasonable return for the risk they took. IPO exits are far and few and take too long to happen. A profitably running small company's stock is not worth much, is it?

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2 points by pocha 1344 days ago | link

May be you are right. But have you ever come across someone, who is a real hacker & told him - 'we want to take you as co-founder, you would get to take your way & design it all, you would have comparable equity in company to us, we are not taking any salary, but if you want, we can offer you a small salary at the cost of some equity' ? Even put this question ? Most importantly - would you ever put this question to him/her ?

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4 points by abhaga 1343 days ago | link

So here is how one of my experiment at finding a good hacker for my startup went. I consider open source exposure to be a fairly good indicator of a good hacker. Necessary but may be not sufficient. So I went to LinkedIn, found out the guys who had participated in GSoC for past 2 years and sent each of them a mail briefly introducing the company and asking if they would be interested in talking further. These were guys all across the spectrum - freshers and 1 year exp. Top colleges to unknown colleges. Sent out between 30-45 mails and didn't get a single response. Nothing. Zilch. Not even saying, thanks but no thanks!

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1 point by pocha 1343 days ago | link

hmm, ok .. guess we were talking of different scenarios. I was like - you got a hacker talking but then he eventually got away because you did not offer him anything good. Guess yours is a case when the hacker did not even turn up. Guess there is nothing much that can be done. You may send a credibility building mail where you give links as to where all your startup has got exposure, but not sure if it is worth the time. May be, you pitched to the guys who are not at all startup oriented.

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4 points by abhaga 1343 days ago | link

Right. The problem I have faced is in simply reaching out to the hackers. And as a startup founder, there are not many places where you can find such guys with a high signal to noise ratio. Unfortunately most of the startup forums are filled with exactly the wrong kind. I hope HNI attracts a more geeky crowd and becomes a startup hiring ground :)

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3 points by prateekdayal 1344 days ago | link

You can only have so many co-founders. Right?

Early employees with well defined responsibilities and good equity should not mind not being co-founders. I think we have not seen too many right companies so far that way. I have generally seen startups talk of employees and interns as cheap labour. Something that I personally hate and have written a blog post about.

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3 points by pocha 1344 days ago | link

Agree to your Prateek. Its a balanced equation i feel, sum total of salary & equity (not in 1 on 1 terms) could be constant. So if somebody wants to come for a salary, he gets less equity than co-founders (I am assuming co-founders themselves not drawing any salary). Moreover, if somebody is a hacker, but coming part-time, he should get less than the guys doing it full-time.

I liked the point of 'defined responsibility'. But not sure how could start-up really articulate the responsibility as things are lot more fluid.

I think a good metric could be based on skill-set. As to what different people bring on table. If you are a hacker, blogger, marketer, speaker .. well, there should not be any reason, why you should get less credentials in the company than the original founders, unless obviously they are equally fundoo guys. The best gets the best - simple. Keep the equation right & you would not only get right guys, you get to choose among the right guys.

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1 point by upasanataku 1340 days ago | link

Hey pocha - Agree with ur sum total of salary & equity equation based on person's responsibilities.

We got some early employees using a fair equation where some wanted more monthly cash + low equity, others wanted low cash + high equity. The decision was left to them on which package they wanted. We found that one of the guys after working 2-3 months and finding out the real revenue/margin numbers himself wanted to reduce his salary for a higher equity.

On the other side, like someone else mentioned many developers with 2-4 years experience in large companies do not even know what is equity. We had to do 2-3 hour session and send several links to educate a few potentials them on what equity is, how it works so on.

Many very young hackers I interviews (21-24) wanted a premium on top of their already inflated existing pay packet (thanks to Services and MNC offshoring centers) and yes they also wanted equity!

I think smart hackers should know their self worth and also the worth of what they are building. If what they are making is exciting and hard for them may be its worth a pay cut for 2 years with a possible equity upside potential? After all last few months are showing indications of a bright M&A future :)

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5 points by faz 1343 days ago | link

As per my experience in currently working in a startup/small company, I can say that it isn't easy to get freshers or people with 2-3 years experience for a startup.

The general trend as @rick_2047 also pointed out is students are groomed to work for big companies and "brands".

I have seen myself people telling they won't join a small company is because it would hurt their growth in the long run as the resume will not have any "brand value".

On the other side there are experienced people with 5+ years of experience who being in a dead-end kind of job yearn to either join startups or run one themselves. Usually the reason said out would be "not to take risk due to commitments". Others honestly come out and say they are used to the kind of work and life they are living now.

Also another reason I would consider especially for experienced people joining startups is that by the time you hit 6-8 years of experience, you are more in a managerial role than in a coder/programmer role [as what I have seen]. And startups require coders with relatively high experience who can manage their own work without being monitored.

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1 point by luckystrike 1343 days ago | link

I think you have summarized it up pretty well.

The outlook towards Startups and risk taking would not change overnight in India, but I think overall things are improving. Let's hope in the coming years people (& society) in general become more encouraging towards entrepreneurship.

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4 points by prasannak 1343 days ago | link

Start with salary ranges & salary hikes in India.

For similar roles, low-end services firms may offer 4Lpa, Infy/et al 6Lpa, MNC services 8Lpa, MNC product/startup 14Lpa. In the US there's less than 25% variance in the pay scales. Here it could be 300% !

In the US salaries go up at 5-10% a year, here it's 20-30%pa. In 3 years employee salary expectation would be doubled, but can a startup afford that?

Add in few exit options, sucky M&A scene, few investors/VCs.

The only thing left is to work for "startup environment" while building up experience for a shot at real success.

Or work somewhere else and see your salary double in 3 years, while saving most of it.

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3 points by ujj 1343 days ago | link

i would reckon an ideal startup employee is very ambitious (apart from being ridiculously good at what he does). doubling his takeaway in 3 years would seem like a bad idea to him when he could stick to what he's doing now and multiply his takeaway by several higher powers of 10 in say, 5 years. like i said before, smart people know what they're worth. if they see growth in business and actually believe that success is sometime soon coming, they will stick.

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2 points by prasannak 1343 days ago | link

Yeah, sure. Those are the founders then?

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2 points by ujj 1343 days ago | link

well my definition of startup founders are people who want to create a company and then run it too. so someone who sticks with a company for 5 or so years and wants returns around that period can be a good startup employee but not necessarily a founder. founder stay put for longer periods. which brings me to my point (actually more of a doubt), that startups by serial entrepreneurs (people with a profile of having sold 4 companies in the last 10 years) don't attract good or ideal employees.

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2 points by pocha 1343 days ago | link

That means, if you getting someone for cheap, who believes in your theory - make him a founder too ;-)

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4 points by ujj 1344 days ago | link

imho startups get their core concepts all mixed up. we should always remember good people know what they are worth. you don't get good people to slug it out for you in return of peanuts. you compensate them well and then give them a work culture that brings out the best in them. your environment and culture is where you need to act like a startup, not compensation. create a culture of smooth functioning, efficiency over timings, good free meals and coffee, good tools (chairs) and add a cherry on top with freebies (like a tshirt that says 'i built this feature that got my company funded and all i got was this lousy tshirt').

if startups are facing difficulties in hiring people in India, its only because they are not adaptive enough to change their policies according to the market (the job market). needless to say its kind of ironic because adaptability is perhaps one of the, if not the, most important traits of any startup.

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1 point by upasanataku 1340 days ago | link

@ujj i'd like to disagree - if startups face difficulties in hiring its because:

1. like Ricky said 90% of the talent pool follow the 3Idiots mentality - must work for MNC or Services giant or what will Dad say?, how will I find a bride?, how will I buy a car before I am 25?, what will my college batchmates say, etc. Clearly shows that there is no independent thought process in many from our generation.

2. Of the 10% who would consider to work for a startup about 8% only want to talk and wish about it. They are really not willing to take the risk. May be they would consider doing it as side hobby while doing their big job. Even if the startup they part-timed at started making decent money or got funded - they still would not quit the well titled MNC job. So here goes all the time and IP invested in a person who is not willing to join fulltime like EVER!

3. There is a small 1-2% set of people who remain and I have found most have an internal drive to do something with their lives so they looking for opportunities that would offer them accelerated growth. And when they meet the right opportunity they jump! These are the people our just started Indian startup movement is dependent on and I sincerely hope this pool of people keeps growing exponentially :)

p.s. also see the salary equity balance comments by pocha

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1 point by rick_2047 1340 days ago | link

Please don't call me Ricky. That sound incredibly close to the Weird Al song. The name is rick_2047 or paresh.

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2 points by upasanataku 1340 days ago | link

already corrected in newer threads :)

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1 point by ujj 1340 days ago | link

i don't see how you disagree with me. my point is merely that startups should treat the problem of hiring as any other problem they face. if you're in the book selling business, you don't blame the fact that Indians don't read enough. similarly, while hiring too, you adapt to the market. yes only 1-2% you meet in your lifetime would want to work in a startup, but hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.

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1 point by upasanataku 1340 days ago | link

i disagree with u on this "we should always remember good people know what they are worth. you don't get good people to slug it out for you in return of peanuts."

i m saying that even on par salaries people dont bite the startup bullet!

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1 point by rick_2047 1340 days ago | link

of course they don't. Salary is not the most important thing. Security comes above that.

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4 points by prateekdayal 1344 days ago | link

I think India has still not seen many exits so people don't really relate to the concept of getting richer through startups.

Once a few early employees make some money, people would be more open to the idea of working with startups. Apart from the learning, that is certainly one attraction in US.

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3 points by boundlessdreamz 1344 days ago | link

Agree - made a comment on the original post which brings this up among others. Posting the comment here.

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1. First and foremost. Lack of upside. In US startups are an attractive option because stock options are given fairly liberally and companies get acquired/have an IPO making millionaires out of early employees. In India, from what I’ve heard stock options are not generous (except in cases like infosys) and stories of people getting rich from startups are non-existent. Joining a startup is a risk. If there is no upside why would someone take that risk? (How many makemytrip employees made it big? How many rediff employees? )

2. Startups do nothing to differentiate themselves from the big corps. Not to knock on infibeam but look at the jobs page. It is exactly like a big-corp jobs page http://infibeam.com/static/careers.html#SD If you are offering just a market salary why would a good engineer work with you rather than a big corp which offers that and more. Look at the benefits offered by a stealth startup http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1891223

3. Uninspiring work. Not to knock on any startups but some time back facebook clones were all the rage. Now it is groupon clones

4. Lack of technical leadership: Lot of US startups and techies actively participate in the tech community. They usually have a tech blog where they write about scaling challenges, best practices, new products tested out etc. I have learned a lot from these type of posts. I have never found an indian startup which has a good tech blog. (Couple of indian startups do have people in them who are well known and contributed back for ex: swaroop ) but as a company I’ve never seen an indian startup which contributes back to the tech community

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2 points by upasanataku 1340 days ago | link

M&A and IPO are not the only exits.

If your startup breaks even and starts earning enough profit to give u a better salary or profit based on equity than ur corporate job in 2 years wouldnt it be worth it? Think cash cow doing work on your own terms for a few years and still making more money!

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1 point by jace 1344 days ago | link

Agree, although are exits really what starting up is about? If you care deeply about something, you'll be in it for a long time to get beyond the early exit opportunities and make a real impact.

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4 points by prateekdayal 1344 days ago | link

In the early days, startups can't offer a great salary and so the employee has to see some money coming in sometime. It could be exit or the possibility of this turning into a really big business (and hence a great salary).

Its ok for founders to take a cut for a long time but not for employees. Atleast for most people, I think thats where the problem starts

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3 points by rick_2047 1344 days ago | link

I agree with the point made by pocha here but I believe there is also a much deeper social aspect. You see Indian students are groomed to join a job from the start. And the once which are quite adventurous try for a startup of there own. This creates the "no middle ground" scenario that you mention in your post. Also, as soon as there start up fails they succumb to the social pressure and join a big name company.

I am a student right now and would love to work in a start up as an employee but I cannot find a job for two reasons. First is I am an electronics/embedded guy and they do not have much work for anyone without a degree in this field. Second is, I am in Ahmedabad and we don't have much of a start up culture here.

One way to make start up jobs lucrative for students would be to make the recruiters aware about the experience gained by them at the start up. At a start up you are everything from a janitor to the boss. If you fail in a start up and then go to a company in silicon valley, they love you. This is not the case with indian companies

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2 points by siddhant 1344 days ago | link

You can probably monitor programs like iAccelerator (http://iaccelerator.org) and see which startups interest you.

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1 point by rick_2047 1343 days ago | link

Nice suggestion. But things like this sometimes becomes banglore specific. May be when I move to banglore (am aiming for getting into the IISc banglore masters program).

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2 points by sassyboy 1344 days ago | link

I don't think any founder is going to discriminate you because of your degree. After all how many comp sc./IT guys are real hackers? I agree with the second point though. If you look at the company profile of Flipkart on linkedin you will see they have had interns from the top colleges of Bangalore. So definitely a student in Bangalore is going to find it easier to get an internship/job in a startup.

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1 point by rick_2047 1344 days ago | link

The reason I am this excited about this site is that maybe I can finally meet some start up guys who are local. Also the degree does come into play. And so does the college.

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