Now hiring, say startups after firings

Around 101 tech firms fired 25,436 employees globally in the first few weeks of January, according to layoff tracking site layoff.fyi. The tech industry, including Big Tech and startups, together laid off over 17,000 employees in India in 2022.

Even as they continue to sack employees at frequent intervals, startups maintain they are also on the lookout for fresh talent and therefore hiring.For instance, Zomato, which recently fired over 100 employees, has said it is hiring for 800 roles. Cars24, which let go 600 staffers last year, announced it is looking for 500 new recruits. In December 2022, UpGrad sacked 70 people, but plans to increase its total headcount by 1,400 to 9,100 by March.

Byju’s which has axed over 3,500 jobs over the past year or so, plans to hire 10,000 more, adding to its 50,000-member team. Edtech startup Lead, which handed pink slips to about 60 employees last month, is also looking to onboard 100-150 staffers. More recently, another edtech firm, Physics Wallah, said it would be adding 2,500 fresh roles as the company continues to scale up.

According to Kamal Karanth, co-founder, Xpheno, a specialist staffing firm, the worst for the startup jobs market seems to be largely over. According to his estimates, startups sacked 22,000 employees last year, but active job postings from new-age companies alone were already at 15,000 as of January. That’s a 6% drop from 16,000 openings in December. Karanth said that candidates are now settling for hikes in the 50-60% range, against 100% they demanded earlier.

“Employees are also shopping for jobs less, because of which the offer acceptance rate has jumped to 70%, from 50% about two years ago. There is no real shift in the type of roles required, but jobs like customer service are not much in demand now,” he said.

Vikram Chopra, co-founder and CEO, used car marketplace Cars24, said from around October last year the company has moved to a set-up where employees pitch ideas and solutions instead of just the four founders steering the ship, and now hiring is vital for his firm’s revenue to grow. “I wish we had moved to this model earlier, this results in 10x more ideas. A business like ours will secularly go online and we need to prepare for that. In six months, the new roles will bring more revenues, which will minimise our losses,” Chopra said.

“Last year we went tighter and cleaned up the house based on performance, that will happen again in March. But we will add 500 employees to our workforce of 5,000-6,000 also by March,” he added.

Similarly, UpGrad remains upbeat about the edtech sector and has expressed plans to hire 1,400 people by March. Mayank Kumar, co-founder, of the company, said he would have added 4,400 roles by the end of FY23, which will then increase 1.5x in FY24. Nearly half of UpGrad’s 9,100-strong workforce was onboarded just in the current fiscal.

Kumar said edtechs moving away from a virtual only models to a mix of physical and online arrangement, or phygital, was creating more roles. “The offline and online learning formats are no longer competing with one another but rather collaborating…which is pushing up the demand for edtechs,” he said.

UpGrad has acquired around 13 companies between 2020 and 2022, because of which there were redundancies in certain roles and 70 employees were sacked. “We are continuing with our focus on adult education and hence took certain strategic calls in the recent past… we have built a strong army of multitasking and agile members who can easily adapt to the dynamism of the company,” Kumar said.

Not just UpGrad, most other startups are increasingly picking multi-taskers over just domain experts. “It helps in justifying hiring decisions. Founders are conducting more number of interview rounds, asking tougher questions and being prudent with money, so proving an employee can juggle between marketing and tech roles betters their prospects,” Xpheno’s Karanth said.

Aditya Mishra, CEO and MD, CIEL HR Services — which recently surveyed over 60,000 employees working in the top 60 startups — in a recent report said new-age companies are on the lookout for skilled talent and highly productive people who can adapt quickly to changes and stay ahead of the curve.

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