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Indian startups on hiring spree after two years; some looking to double headcount in FY19

Posted by:   Courtesy: Rica Bhattacharyya, Varuni Khosla, ET Bureau Date:Mar 29, 2018

Courtesy: ET Bureau | Mar 24, 2018

Indian startups are on a hiring spree after a lull of almost two years with several of them looking to double headcount next year. More than a dozen startups across sectors such as food, grocery, digital payment, education, logistics, financial services, healthcare, among others, told ET about their plans to hire in big numbers in FY19 led by revenue growth, business expansion and fresh rounds of funding. 

Companies such as Rivigo, MobiKwik, Netmeds, Zerodha, Pharmeasy, Sattviko, Toppr, Razorpay, Quikr, etc are increasing headcount in a bid to strengthen their teams to service the growing market. 

There are currently an estimated 7,500-8,000 open positions in nearly a dozen startups. In addition, BigBasket alone plans to hire 10,000 people in the next financial year, taking the total number to about 18,000. 


“FY19 will be the year where everyone would be hiring big and fighting hard for a larger share of the consumer wallet,” said TN Hari, head of human resources at BigBasket. The leading online grocery retailer, which recently raised $300 million in a Series E funding round led by Alibaba, will raise its headcount to 23,000 from 13,000 by March 2019 as the grocery fight heats up amid Amazon’s entry into the space and Flipkart’s upcoming plans. 
 

This will mean a headcount addition across all levels, including managerial and at lower levels, as it looks at growth of two and a half times in 12 months with an annual run rate of Rs 6,000 crore, or nearly $1billion, in FY19 from Rs 2,400 crore in FY18. 
 

“We are also strengthening the technology and product functions significantly and plan to increase headcount by about 25%,” Hari said. 
 

Tech-enabled logistics company Rivigo, which recently raised $50 million from Warburg Pincus and SAIF Partners, at a post-money valuation estimated at $1 billion, is planning to hire 2,500 people across functions in 2018, which includes 500 engineers and the rest in sales and operations. “One of our biggest focus areas this year will be on building India’s best technology and AI (artificial intelligence) team. We are looking at hiring 500 top engineers from across the world for our technology team this year with a dedicated AI team that will work on futuristic AI applications in logistics,” said Gazal Kalra, cofounder, Rivigo. 
 

“Startups are once again in a hiring mode, but this time it is being driven by a clear business case and real business need,” said CK Guruprasad, consultant at Spencer Stuart. “It is real growth that is happening and not one that is artificially inflated by capital infusion. The companies are a lot more cautious about the kind of talent they want to hire as there is a lot more clarity on business requirements.” 

ET reported on Friday that Flipkart is aggressively hiring in technology, data sciences and analytics functions among others with about 700 open positions, according to estimates by HR consultants. 

Early on, startups hired widely as they sought to scale up and money poured in. That tapered off about 18-24 months ago as funding dried up. Companies were forced to go back to the drawing board and rework business models as they figured out ways in which they could grow revenue streams. The battle lines in several industries are now being redrawn as players are well-funded and fresh rounds of investment are coming in. For instance, in the grocery space, BigBasket will be in a fight with Amazon and Flipkart. In food tech, Zomato and Swiggy are slugging it out. Then there are the likes of Ubereats and Ola entering the fray. “Hiring is set to increase in a big way. 

The fight will not just be about taking market share from one another but about expanding the online market itself. The market will grow and all companies will hire people in large numbers,” said Hari. 

“The overall sector is far more positive than last year as realism seems to have set in in the ecosystem, where investors are largely investing in businesses where they see longer-term sustainability and that are well differentiated,” said Thammaiah BN, MD, Kelly Services India. Among those in hiring mode are digital payment startup MobiKwik, which is planning to expand its team by 20% this year from 425, and online pharmacy Netmeds, which is looking at doubling manpower by the end of this financial year from about 550. Online brokerage startup Zerodha, which has trebled its user base to 600,000 this fiscal year, is planning to step up headcount by 20-25% from 1,000. It will double the technology team from 50, said Nitin Kamath, CEO, Zerodha. 

 

Healthcare startup Pharmeasy, which has 450 employees, is recruiting for tech, analytics and operations jobs, and will strengthen the rolls by 60-70%, said Dhaval Shah, cofounder. Delhi-based health food startup Sattviko, which has raised an undisclosed amount of pre-series A funding from angel investors, plans to double headcount to about 600 as it expands its presence to tier II markets such as Jaipur and Chandigarh and looks at setting up small teams in Dubai, London, US and Singapore. “The growth has been good for us. We will be hiring across five major cities, and are expanding our presence to tier II markets,” said Prasoon Gupta, cofounder, Sattviko. 

“We are looking to hire across domains including technology, financial services and business development,” said Upasana Taku, cofounder and director, MobiKwik. “We intend to grow not just in terms of numbers but also diversify our teams across sectors as the brand continues on its growth trajectory.” 

 

Others such as ed tech platform Toppr, which has 1,200 direct employees, is looking to add over 30% in the next three months. Online payment gateway Razorpay, which currently has a workforce of around 160 employees, is increasing headcount by 100 by the end of 2018. 

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