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Stability not exciting: Young professionals chucking jobs at big companies to join startups

More and more young professionals are willing to pass up the job security at big cos in favour of the thrill of innovation and sense of ownership.

Updated: Feb 06, 2014, 06.57 AM IST
More and more young professionals are willing to pass up the job security at big cos in favour of the thrill of innovation and sense of ownership
More and more young professionals are willing to pass up the job security at big cos in favour of the thrill of innovation and sense of ownership
MUMBAI: More and more young professionals, even those with a fair bit of experience, are willing to pass up the job security of a large, established company in favour of the thrill of innovation, sense of ownership, meaty roles and flat structures young startups have on offer.

This explains why Bangalore-based startup Wooqer, with a turnover of only Rs 20 crore, already has a bunch of senior corporate executives, some with Ivy League backgrounds, on its payrolls. Its business head (financial services) Harmendra Gandhi (45) was earlier a V-P at Nomura Securities. Sarika Pandey (38), director (customer advocacy), was an assistant V-P with Kotak Wealth Management. Business head (retail) Nishant Malhotra (35), a graduate from University of Pennsylvania-The Wharton School, has been an investment banker. And Karthik Kumar (35), the sales head, who is from Duke University-The Fuqua School of Business, was earlier the head of India client solutions at Corporate Executive Board.

"Each one of them was at a stage in their careers where they wanted to do something more exciting, aligned with their goals of making a difference in the way we live and work," says Vishal Purohit, the 40-year-old CEO of Wooqer.

Startups say experienced professionals aged 30-40 are prime poaching targets since they are willing to take risks and have not become too used to the perks of an established employer.


Thirty-one-year-old Prashant Parmar took a 25% pay cut and became the first employee of online training and professional certification courses provider Simplilearn. The IIM-Kozhikode graduate had worked with HP before his MBA, and L&T after passing out. Parmar wanted to be a part of the decision-making process and knew that as a marketing manager he could not take any such calls.

"I got ESOPs and knew that they will get me more income than salary from the larger firms. Also, the IIM tag helped because I knew that if I failed after one year, getting a job would not be that difficult," says Parmar.

Stability not exciting: Young professionals chucking jobs at big companies to join startups

Simplilearn today has 400 employees; 300 are lateral hires from the industry. The startup gives 0.25-0.5% of company stocks. About 0.25% of company stock is now worth Rs 60 lakh, its CEO Krishna Kumar hints.

"The future of India is in its startups, and there is an excitement around them," says Sharad Sharma, an angel investor and the former head of Yahoo India R&D. "Many professionals around 45 years of age have climbed the peak of their careers in an MNC and now want to be part of another 'S' curve in a startup," he adds. Sharma helped launch iSpirt, a think tank for software product firms.

More venture capital money flowing into startups and rising valuations are helping these companies offer both better cash compensation and more lucrative stock options to woo young professionals.

Revant Bhate, who joined a startup after working in the banking industry because he wanted a more hands-on role in building a firm, is another example. Bhate gave up offers from FMCG companies and investment banks and signed up with Sequoia-backed food chain Faaso's instead.
Faaso's then needed professionals, who would run a store, juggle other functions for 3-6 months and then assume P&L responsibility of either running 15-20 stores or opening new markets or run a function like marketing or HR. The 30-year-old says he would have had to wait for at least five years before he got P&L responsibility at YES Bank, his former employer. "The Faaso's Entrepreneur in Residence (FER) programme conjoined both of my requirements of working in an industry I came to admire and be part of an aggressive, nimble startup where life would be an adventure," says Bhate.

Many in Mumbai-based startup BookMyShow's top brass are from established companies. Four project managers left the startup to join larger firms such as Accenture and Oracle, but they all came back. "One has more influence on the projects. Time taken to start a process is 10 days compared with at least a month in the established firms," says Manu Rana, V-P (product) for the company. The 40-year-old IIT-Delhi alumni had lived in the US for many years, but wanted to work in a startup rather than join Google or Microsoft like his friends.

"In a corporate world, young leaders tend to lose out as the pyramid tapers at the top," says K Sudarshan, managing partner (India & regional vice-president)-Asia, EMA Partners International. The ambitious among them often start looking for greater responsibilities in startups. The desire for a stable and permanent job has also waned over the years, says Sudarshan.

It also helps that startups have been recruiting aggressively, not just at the IITs and IIMs but other leading B-schools as well. VK Menon, senior director (admissions & career advancement services) at ISB says interest in startups has grown over the past three years. "Joinees are getting extremely meaty roles, backed with plenty of authority. Their base salaries are protected and there is a very high upside (through stock options)," says Menon.

This year, ISB has set aside two days in its placement season exclusively for startups. "Three years ago, hardly any of our graduates wanted to get into startups and hardly any of these companies visited the campus either. Last year, we had 30-plus startups; so much so, that we had an exclusive day for them. Twenty-six students accepted these offers," he adds.

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