Start-ups in India, even now, continue to find it difficult to attract good talent. Primarily because of risks associated with a start-up. More importantly, the initial team in any start-up has to be very differently motivated and driven in order to ensure that the start-up gains stability and gets into a position to scale-up. To ensure that, entrepreneurs have to be extremely choosy in the quality of talent they engage as first team mates.
After observing a number of start-ups, we realized that past professional successes of a person were no guarantee that the person would be able to deliver the same in a start-up. Self-motivation, proactivity, ability to embrace shifting strategies, ability and willingness to multi-task, the desire to participate in more than the immediate task, getting kicks out of participating in shaping the foundation of a company, etc. are critical qualities that early team mates in a company should have.
In many ways, even if by default and not by design, we realized the benefits of not making an early stage company top-heavy. It allowed us to leverage the wisdom of our investors and mentors, take quick decisions and implement it through the enthusiasm of the young team with limited experience and therefore limited inhibitions towards deviation from previously discussed approaches or tasks outlined.
However, it was also important for us to have high-quality talent with deep experience in specific areas where those qualities mattered. It would have been quite difficult to employ people who met the criteria to leave a well-established company and work for a start-up. (And even if we convinced someone to consider working for us, we certainly did not want to play the “we will pay more than what you currently get” game.). It is for this reason that we decided to try an alternate approach.
In a place like Gurgaon (or indeed Delhi NCR), there are several women who after a number of years as a successful professional have taken a break for various reasons – child and ‘husband moved to Gurgaon so I gave up my job and moved too’ situations being the top reasons. Many of these professionals are keen to engage in an assignment that allows them to contribute with their skills and experiences but in an environment which gives them time for family or other priorities that they may have set for themselves.
We decided to focus on such high-quality talent to participate in our early-stage team on ‘flexible terms’ and work-out-of-home options. We realized that this approach opens up the talent pool beyond what is traditionally possible. More importantly, it gets you talent,driven not by monetary compensation, but by the excitement of what you are doing and the interest in participating in what they believe to be a potentially exciting business. Also, because of the advantages and flexibility it offers to professionals, their commitment to the task is self motivated.
In fact, so successful has this model been for us that we are now actively seeking professionals who prefer to work out of home. So, should you know someone who can participate in our story, do let them know that we always have room for people who can contribute and add value.