While the world is going through a pandemic and the second surge of Covid-19 is slowing down business and the economy as a whole, India’s start-up scenario is quite different. After bouncing back from last year’s slowdown post the lockdown, most start-ups in India are expecting a hiring uptick. 72% of founders have mentioned that there would be a rapid increase in recruitment in the start-up sector in a survey conducted by InnoVenCapital. Logistics, digital media, e-commerce, and deep tech are the most prominent industries that are going to be more aggressive in their hiring strategy, the report mentioned. With the change in customer behaviour, the “digital-first consumer focus business model” has become the top priority for most companies.
While the pandemic forced some companies and industries to take tough calls like realigning team size, pay cuts, and job loss, the pandemic also added muscles to specific industries like EdTech, fintech, health tech, epharmacy, and they are expected to hire with a high vigour this year. For example, Ascent Health & Wellness Solutions is looking to hire 4,000-5,000 people this year and expand their current pharmacy tie-ups from 50,000 to over one lakh.
Investors are also investing a lot in tech-enabled business ideas post the pandemic, which is also giving birth to many new tech innovation start-ups in India at a rapid pace. In 2020, the start-up growth rate was 20% more in India compared to 2019. And the momentum will be continuing in 2021 too. However, the biggest challenge for start-ups is finding the right talent. 52% of the founders mentioned in a report that hiring right has been their biggest challenge.
The rise of the Indian Unicorn in 2021 and 2020
After the aftermath of the pandemic, several start-ups have managed to mint fresh funding and forecasting a solid growth trajectory. Many start-ups are now looking to hire, especially in crucial technology and leadership roles. Amidst all others, EdTech, fintech, software as a service (SaaS), and eCommerce have significant hiring spree.
In 2020, eleven Indian start-ups became unicorns reaching the much-coveted $1 billion valuations. These eleven Indian start-ups include Unacademy, Pine Labs, Nykaa, Postman, FirstCry, Zenoti, Razorpay, Cars24, Zerodha, Dailyhunt, and Glance. Not just that, 2021 Q1 saw a record highest seed funding deals since 2018. India witnessed the first health tech, social commerce, and e-pharmacy unicorn this year. The six start-ups that entered the unicorn status within six days are fintech start-ups CRED, social media start-up ShareChat, wealth management company Groww, messaging platform Gupshup, social commerce start-up Meesho, and epharmacy PharmEasy. It is projected that at this rate, India is about to have more than 100 unicorns by the end of 2021.
With the change in customer behaviour, the “digital-first consumer focus business model” has become the top priority for most companies
The hiring spree of Indian start-ups
Byju, the EdTech start-up, is planning to hire 6,000-8,000 employees in the next year. With schools yet to reopen, online learning is on the boom. While students are focusing on utilizing their time to the maximum for test preparation, this EdTech start-up is looking to hire for technical and nontechnical roles along with top-level executive positions to spearhead its growth. For an entry-level Business Development Associate role, the stipend is ten lakhs per annum.
On the other hand, the fintech farm, Bengaluru-based Razorpay, is looking to hire 500 odd employees. After raising $100 Mn in its Series D round, the company achieved unicorn status, led by GIC and Sequoia Capital India. The start-up’s most of the hiring will be for their engineering and product teams to boost new solutions as the company aims to build new banking solutions and payment methods for small and mid-size businesses. The company is also looking to hire its customer experience team, finance team, sales, and operations team. Founded by Shashank Kumar and Harshil Mathur, Razorpay is a payment gateway service that currently powers digital payments for over 200K small and large businesses. Among these, some of the prominent names include Airtel, BookMyShow, IRCTC, Aditya Birla Capital, NSE, etc.
The next unicorn that is looking to bolster its headcount is Pine Labs. The Noida-headquartered company has announced to hire 300 employees in sales and tech roles after becoming the first unicorn of 2020. Founded in 1998 by Lokvir Kapoor, Pine Labs served 100K merchants in 3700 cities and towns across India. The company has decided to bolster its digital payment offerings across the United Arab Emirates, India, and Malaysia, where it has already established its footprints. The company also plans to venture into new markets in South East Asia. As the aftermath of the COVID-19, digital payments will continue to see a more excel rapid lent adaptation. Thus, the company is determined to invest in its tech and sales workforce to enable them to take its products to the larger masses. Pine Labs helps online and offline transactions and claims to process $30Bn payments per year. In March 2019, Google Pay collaborated with Pine Labs to allow offline transactions on Google Pay through Pine Labs’ Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based digital payments product.
US-headquartered spa and salon software product company Zenoti has recently become a unicorn after raising $160 Mn in a Series D funding round led by Advent International through Advent Tech and Sunley House Capital. The start-up now is also looking to add over 400 new hires to its headcount. While the company is looking to add most of its headcount in India, the rest will be added in Seattle, Australia, and United Kingdom. The company currently has about 550 employees and is planning to add headcounts for new product development and create additional products to cater to the industry. The company also has a market expansion plan for sales and marketing as well. It is to be noted that Zenoti is the first vertical SaaS start-up that could enter India’s unicorn club. Vertical SaaS start-ups cater to niche customers as compared to horizontal SaaS start-ups.
Founded in 2010, Zenoti is an all-in-one cloud-based software salon, spa, and medispas. It has various capabilities, including appointment scheduling, billing, built-in marketing, CRM, loyalty features, inventory management, online booking, etc. The founders are Sudheer Koneru and Dheeraj Koneru.
Another unicorn that is looking to bolster its employee base is Postman. The company plans to hire critical leaders across various departments, including product, engineering, and design.
Glance, which achieved unicorn status in December 2020, is looking to ramp up its headcount by 30-40%. The current employee base is 400. The company plans to ramp up headcount to strengthen its capabilities in artificial intelligence, technology and product development, and international market expansion. The company is a part of InMobi Group and plans to expand in the global markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the US.
Top Indian start-ups that are hiring and should be watched out
Founded in 2015, UpGrad is headquartered in Mumbai. The most common skills they look for are digital marketing, customer relationship management, and SQL. With online education continuing, they are on a hiring spree.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, Cred is a credit card reward platform. They hire actively for engineering, support, art, and design.
Another E-learning startup based out of Hyderabad was among the top startups in 2020 in India. Their most considerable job functions include operations, marketing, and business development. They work on intensive and gamified models. The most common skills they look for are Digital marketing, C, and Python.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, Unacademy is another top start-up in India that constantly scouts for skills including C, C++, and customer relationship management. Their largest hiring departments include education, business development, and marketing. It is also the second e-learning startup to enter the unicorn club.
Another Bengaluru-based startup, Whatfix, is a SaaS company. It helps businesses to drive digital adoption and elevate user experience across enterprise applications. Their largest job functions include Engineering, support and sales.
Razorpay, another Bengaluru-based startup, look out for different departments, including engineering, business development, and sales, after launching a slew of products for small business owners, freelancers, and end consumers.
This Gurugram based startup has the most significant functions across research, business development, and engineering. It works in the fields of digital transformation, risk management, and enhanced data asset quality. It works towards building and managing data assets for customers and has been hiring actively.
Founded in 2016, this Bengaluru-based startup has the most significant job functions across engineering, business development, and sales. It offers conversational automation across different channels, including WhatsApp, Google assistant. As brands look to go direct to customers, the startup has been actively hiring and expanding its operations.
Pee Safe hires graphic designers, product development, and sales management. Based in Gurugram, PeeSafe has disrupted the female hygiene segment with its innovative offering. Apart from female hygiene products, they also have surface disinfectants, sanitizers, and face masks. The company has been seen a rise in online sales since the onset of the pandemic. Their largest job functions are sales, arts and design, and marketing.
This Gurugram based startup has gained momentum after the pandemic. It is a home-based grooming, appliance repair, and maintenance service that actively hires in marketing, engineering, operations, and data analysis roles.
Emerging skills in 2021 lie in cybersecurity, cloud computing, DevOps, AI, and Machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality, and blockchain
Few more start-ups that are actively hiring:
- SigTuple Technologies: Hiring across engineering and operations.
- Open Financial Technologies: This fintech is actively hiring for a designer, engineering, marketing, operations, product, and sales roles.
- Meesho: This e-commerce reseller network is actively hiring for engineering and marketing roles.
- DailyNinja: Is hiring for engineering roles.
- ClearTax: Is hiring for product, marketing, engineering, and designer roles.
- Alt Digital Media Entertainment: Is hiring for supply chain management, technology, and logistics roles.
2021 start-up salaries
Some of the start-ups and unicorns are paying handsomely in 2021. While 2020 had been a bad year for the salaried employees, 2021 looks different. AON’s survey across 1050 organizations across 20 sectors revealed that there would be a 7.3% salary increment in 2021 while the hike in 2020 was 6.1%. The survey further revealed that companies are genuinely going to offer increments, and it is not an alternative to previous salary cuts. The report also highlights that companies have not changed the compensation structure, although employees continue to work from home. Instead, many companies offer internet connections and ergonomic office furniture so that employees can continue to work without much hassle. Hi-tech, IT-enabled services, life sciences, Information Technology, and e-commerce remain some of the highest paying sectors.
Most demand skills in 2021
As the pandemic influence consumer behaviour and how businesses are operating, some of the emerging skills in 2021 lie in cybersecurity, cloud computing, DevOps, AI, and Machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality, and blockchain. Start-ups that work in these domains are willing to pay lucrative salaries even for entry-level and key leadership roles.
As start-ups are coming up with new business models in the pandemic hit world, they are ramping up their hiring. Moreover, the start-ups that have recently received funding from investors and have achieved unicorn status are aggressively expanding their operations and thus are in a hiring spree. If you have some of the most in-demand skills, you are sure to land up a dream job in some of the most promising start-ups.