It has been interesting watching the start up space evolve from being an area people were wary of , to being the whole new aspiration and breath of fresh air for a whole new bunch of freshers and more experienced professionals.


For every few startups that make it big, there are an equal number or more that take off, stumble, flounder and then shut shop. And leave in the lurch or lay off hundreds who joined with dreams in their eyes and images of big $.


I feel the way this whole start up ecosystem is evolving, along with the risk taking ability of the entrepreneurs, investors, employees and the brand new, innovative services is a fantastic move forward for the Indian consumer.


But what is disquieting, is how hundreds of young professionals, and a fewer number of senior folk , and in some cases the founders themselves are being dumped unceremoniously. We read enough stories to know this is not an imaginary scenario. How many stories go unreported ?


Even though I am a big fan of disruptive thinking for growth and have worked with /alongside start up organisations that did this beautifully, the sort of disruptions that is happening here on the Human resources front leaves many questions.


The disruption is happening in a few areas which may not be good for the long term health of the workforce that joins this sector.


Some examples


– During a recent interview for a tech start up that I was involved in, a young techie with 2 years experience was being considered for a senior tech role. He acted as if he was gods gift to mankind and when I interviewed him on a Sunday at a time  as agreed, his first question was how long the interview would take as he had to go for a movie ! He almost was doing a favour by making time. Do we recruit for skills or attitude or both ?


– There was another case where a tech guy with 2 years experience was demanding a CTO role, and given the need of the start up organization, they were sort of willing to bend backwards and accommodate him. And he expected 30 lakhs ++++ and the title and esops which was possibly more than 2 X any other organization  would even consider for someone with that kind of experience.


– When founders, get bulldozed by investors into keeping on tweaking business plans that border on the verge of speculative trading. And then realizing one year down the road ,that the business plan was so far off from reality that tough actions are demanded. The quick fix – downsize, layoff , restructure ! Why were they dreaming dreams with their heads above the clouds without their feet on the ground too ?


It is great that exciting startups are now attracting more funds, more investors and more support than ever before. And raising the bar on compensation that makes them a big draw at institutes and placements over many of the earlier blue chip organisations candidates aspired for.


As long as those who join these startups know that these packages come with fine print( subject to performance, subject to 2nd round of funding, subject to the founding team still being around few years later, subject to their skills still being needed after all the juice is squeezed out …)


And also knowing that joining at much  higher than market rates, is also known as  working with golden handcuffs.

And even if one is unhappy with the organization culture ( or lack of it in many cases ) or the role ( which turns out to be quiet different from what was promised) or the leadership style of the boss, the choices get limited.


After all who likes having to change jobs at a lower salary, or give up the buzz of a start up for the boring structures and hierarchies of a more established organization ? I saw a lot of senior  colleagues at a large firm many years ago trapped in this ” golden handshake syndrome”  with large commitments and lifestyles and the helplessness with which they stuck on for a few more years till finally they said chuck it  and moved on – often with some sort of compromise.


As I said, the start up movement in India is a fantastic step forward, but the only caution is that in its wake it should not leave a lot of younger, full of life professionals in the lurch and shake up their mojo .


Or spawn egos or expectations that are larger than life early on in the career which have to come down to earth later on in the journey.

Founders, along with strong HR folks who can stand up  when unreasonable demands are made on salaries or on layoffs  can make a huge difference in bringing more stability and sanity to this ecosystem.


And most importantly treat people as long term assets and not to be bought, used and dumped when the shelf life is over.

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