Hiring leadership into a startup in India

5:55 AM Suvir Sujan 3 Comments

You are in your mid 30s. An IIT and/or IIM graduate. Great professional track record for a decade at top MNCs. You have a CXO level offer from a fast growing venture backed early stage startup with decent equity and salary that is matched to current salary.  What's the downside? If the company doesn't work out, you can always find another job at a corporate.  Or join another fast growing startup. And if it does work out, you could potentially retire with the equity you hold. 

Isn't it a no brainer?  Well, not so in India. Some of the smartest individuals with great track records don't want to take the risk.  I have been asked some really interesting questions by potential candidates that are interviewing with some of our portfolio. Here are some of them.
1. What will my friends, colleagues  and family think if the company doesn't work out?
2. If the company fails, will you guarantee me a job elsewhere?
3. Can I get a salary increment from my current salary for making the plunge?
4. What if I am fired or don't like the company?

I have tried to explain to potential candidates that if things don't work out, the skill sets built in a leaderhip role at a startup are very very valuable. The pace at which a startup operates is very different from the pace in the corporate world. The pace of sales, the pace of hiring, the pace of product development, etc is very different. Often, decisions need to be taken with imperfect data or no data as you are creating new industries where data may not exist. You need to be quick and nimble and assess market response to your product and change paths quickly if needed as you don't have the luxury of the the corporate capital cushion.  These skillsets cannot be taught at business school and arguably many skills cannot be built in a corporate job either.  And many of these skills will be respected at any company that is looking for entrepreneurial talent.

I try and remind them that Failure is not trying and not succeeding but is not trying at all!

Luckily, I have been able to succeed in convincing a large number of candidates in taking the plunge and most of them have been happy with their decisions.

This country needs a lot of the smart brains to get rid of their suits, take the plunge into the startup world and play a pivotal role in building out the new India.



Aditya Singh said...

Even in 2012 !! I thought that was a thing of the past. Its just a matter of time though. There are many many many positive people too coming up in startups ! Indian startups still have it tougher than their US counterparts.

mike doughty said...

Hiring work is very important in all type hiring and your article info is good for hiring like as staging hire.

S Madhu said...

Actually in the few start ups that I have advised, I have encountered more of a reluctance to hire experienced staff for leadership roles except perhaps in sales roles. I even created a small informal mentoring group to give pro bono advise. No takers ! Was an India specific problem though. Starting a similar group now to help incubate semiconductor and security start ups in the Chennai area, let us see how it goes.