Monday, December 20, 2010

On your Mark. Get Set......

There is always something for everyone in December.

Those who have had a splendid year are busy consolidating the great momentum. For others, it is a wonderful moment to take stock. Time for pulling out those resolutions - then review, renew, and start afresh with a lot of energy & enthusiasm.

This time around -it could be even a better dawn post the forgettable global downturn. If one were to believe the media-the job market for India is an
unbelievably optimistic one. Humming, bouyant, among the fastest growing markets in the world, companies battling for talent....

And so it seems-that everything is hunky dory. Or is it?

I am not yet sure if the ground realities are different. Over the past one month-I am yet to get off my writers block-(the last post was a long way back!)-I have been getting extremely confused signals :
-a sudden glut of openings from the clients- in all shapes & sizes. Existing clients, past clients, suddenly remembering us, and new ones reaching out with a wide range of opportunities.
-hordes of aspirants reaching out with alibis to stay connected

All in a desperate tearing hurry to be first off the starting block...ostentsibly to make amends for the last 24 months. Hey, is this a sprint? Or is life a marathon?

Let me reflect on three separate conversations I have had -with different stake holders in the last three days!!

A CEO of a fast growing group in the infrastructure business quipped "- Only one in three offers end up reporting for work. Even when people are joining -there are those who abscond within a month or two.
-We are thinking of making an offer valid only for a month. Most candidates are utilising the period of 2-3 months notice period to shop around."

A fellow recruitment professional is busy spending most time hiring for himself: " The strike rate is 1 in 50 we screen. Invariably, almost all claim to have skills they do not possess-and have expectations not entirely in line with their experience."

A neighbour of mine came to me for a second opinion regarding an overseas assignment, "as the 'travel agent' was seeking some 'visa expenses' for an otherwise fabulous offer of employment". Fortunately -
googling helped us validate the suspicion of a cleverly made website that could hoodwink any 'quick fix' solution of a job seeker's quest!

Are there any winners in the seemingly 'zero-sum' game??

It is all happening!! Are all of us in our anxiety to 'make hay while the sun shines' on our way to tripping ourselves? In our hurry, are we looking for shortcuts? Aren't the means just as important as the ends? Shouldn't our credibility be linked to our integrity??

Do we really need some one to police us? After all, isn't a person's true character about doing the right things when no one is looking?

What are the solutions? Do we learn and move on? We see it on the roads too. Notwithstanding the poor infrastructure to manage the bulging population of vehicles on the roads, perhaps if only one followed the rules, the traffic jams wouldn't be as frequent, right?

If you think I am spoiling the party, psst: here is an
interesting recruitment campaign a major MNC is running. Would you want to be stolen ? Holier than thou, right? Your comments most welcome...

Did I hear someone say GO!!?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Partnerships to build ecosystem-anyone?

It is time we built our own bridges!

Some of the impressions interacting with start ups at the Nasscom Product conclave earlier this month were reinforced even as I listened to the concerns of the small but very intense gathering at the NEN workshop yesterday- most (wannabe) entrepreneurs expect that Venture capital is the solution that would make their dreams come true!

It is my perception that we in India must find out our own paths to building sustainable organisations -especially since what worked in the Silicon Valley may not be as truly transplantable-as there are some fundamental differences in the US & Indian economies:

-The cost of capital in US being around 2-3% has seen most investing in the stock markets to enhance their personal wealth. In India, the higher cost, combined with the native propensity for savings provides for a much more stable & secure life.

-The success stories of start ups making millionaires out of one's neighbours in the US-spurs not just entrepreneurs but also aspirants who are willing to be employed . In contrast, the growing economy in India has made employment a lot more glamorous option (with juicy placements at entry level, lucrative salaries as MNCs chase those with a proven track record-and an assured annual increment of 10% -and close to 20-30% hike in salaries if one jumped on board!)

-There is also a huge parallel economy in India-that drives investment in real estate-apart from the largess of 'benami' money finding its way into many a business. In fact, it is not surprising to find a lot of wealthy family businesses/owners with 'financially sick' companies-at times even vehicles of converting black money into seemingly honourable avenues. So you see, the ROI is incomparable!

-Add to the above-the social /peer pressure that condemns failures in business opportunity, and the nascent stage of the banking system to promote businesses without collaterals-the odds are very much against the aspiring entrepreneur.

Here is a silver lining though. All the bubbling spirit we see all around - is in spite of the hurdles! Hats off to the spirit of entrepreneurship!

There is a caveat though. Almost all of us have offerings that would find acceptance within our own local communities. If only start ups bartered their services /products with the ones in the ecosystem-I feel there is a tremendous scope for all the players to go one notch up-finding paying customers, find talent to scale, and get past the 'break even points' or the threshold where one finds maximum mortality of small ventures. In fact, most entrepreneurs spend lot more time looking for funding ..than their own core competencies. Further accentuating the decline of their enterprises...isn't it?

The willingness to invest in improving partnering capabilities is one of the factors that help successful companies develop collaboration as a new and important source of competitive advantage.Take Boeing's case study-rather than trying to become the primary expert in the new composite materials that were being deployed, Boeing tapped the expertise of smaller firms that already possessed leading-edge capabilities in those materials.

"Leading firms make significant investments to develop their collaborative capabilities—for instance, by experimenting to learn what processes and practices work best or by selecting a new partner in order to tap its broader experience of cooperating with others. These firms don’t assume that their existing staff and processes are equipped to work with creative partners around the globe. In fact, they believe the opposite—that they must discover new skills and organizational arrangements to make collaboration work."

Let me try and articulate what I could probably have to offer to my potential partners, beyond merely providing resumes!:)

-Over 26yrs of experience in the Indian industry beginning from 1984. A stint of 9 yrs in the corporate world and the rest in an entrepreneurial mode trying to leverage on the opportunities-first in a liberalised India -and now looking to global avenues.

-Functionally-hands on experience in selling agricultural inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, diesel engine spare parts) to rural markets during my employment days. Since embarking on the recruitment consultancy -I have worked with over a 1000 companies -across industries, and differing life cycles of growth/decline, a variety of professionally/owner managed firms, and hence a pulse of what makes organisations/people tick!

-Access to an ever growing Rolodex-not just restricted to the relationships forged over the last 3 decades, but also to those being consolidated-thanks to the growing social media power to build and engage more potential relationships through collaboration.

I look forward to hearing from you...can we partner?

RSVP [email protected]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Geography or Google?

Is Geography history?

Earlier this month, I visited a friend in Kuala Lumpur-who had moved in there few years back- immediately after having sold a very successful business in Hong Kong. Being a truly globally networked professional, (he is a Westerner, and has close to two decades of experience across a dozen countries in the Asia-Pac) he has been orchestrating a network of contacts/relationships across the world -across industries, and business domains -thanks to the growing power of Internet, technologies & communication that erased many a nation's borders.

What amazed me- was that he had a nagging feeling...was he missing out some action elsewhere? Interestingly-he had visited China last month-and changed his Linked in status to being based in China. And hey presto, there was this sudden avalanche of enquiries-trying to leverage on his multicultural exposure!!

The same person. Same capabilities. But a change of location...and the perceptions changed!!

If you aren't google-able you don't exist, right? Or do you?

Juxtapose it with a couple of more tidbits I came across recently.

At one hand, as per reports from CB Richard Ellis, we see that India is the only country in Asia where there is a strong disconnect between GDP per capita and real estate costs! Mumbai is the now the 4th most expensive office locations across the world! In such a scenario, does one still need to have multiple offices?? Even if those offices just had a token physical presence?

Yet an industry which believes in "location, location and location" as the mantra-retail -is also moving closer to the customers. Or 'where the business opportunities are'!!

However, globalisation is changing a lot of old mindsets! Companies are relocating, resizing and re-looking at their strategies as a consequence!

Options is now well positioned to become a global player. Do we invest in offices/locations or do we expand by leveraging on the expertise and reach of our international partners and collaborate?

As a potential hiring manager or a potential job seeker..who would you want to reach out to? Are you happy connected to an automated email id? Or an IVR system?

We are in a world where one can Skype and actually see & talk with someone across the world..and transact business even from home-with someone REAL. Or even better, someone in your own country-who understands your aspirations & motivations- and strongly networked across the world.

RSVP [email protected]. I shall be glad to have your impressions!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jobs for locals...globally!

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced-the future is going to be driven by networks! And the power of collaboration..

Globalisation has changed the way companies have approached businesses in the past decade. Outsourcing.
Off shoring. International trade. Emergence of worldwide production markets.And consequently, brain drain. Movement of jobs.

While companies have been pushing for dissolution of boundaries to facilitate seamless flow of products and services, governments are getting paranoid about their sovereignty. More and more countries are resorting to barriers to protect jobs and shelter local industries from international competition!!

At the recent conference of NPA, The Worldwide Recruiting Network, that our firm is part of, we had over 50 participants from 13 countries under one roof for a couple of days and constantly comparing notes. While there is an increased hiring activity across the globe-especially compared to the sentiments in the preceding 18 months, there is a certain pattern to it!

-Cautious Optimism : While companies are willing to fill in (actually 'back fill") the roles, they are lot more choosy and fussy about whom to hire. There is no tearing hurry to hire, and in absolutely no mood to compromise.

-Lesser number of expat hires. There is an increasing trend and clamour for hiring 'returning natives' -or those of local origin but with international experience.

-Increasing use of social media to attract and retain the attention of the Gen Y! (there is an increasing emphasis on 'balanced life' in this segment compared to the GenX or the Baby boomer generation!)

-There is a slew of innovative initiatives most clients are experimenting with! For example
*Should they hire an expensive person for 6 months vs hiring a junior person for a whole year?
*Flexible offerings from third party vendors ( Not just sourcing, but providing semi in house services such as screening and assessment!)

But if there was one common thread that was obvious- it was the emergence of the Asia Pac region as the new market for most companies. Western companies looking to the East for growth & consumption, not just for reasons related to cost arbitration. As also regional players going global in their aspirations.

As NPA partners, there is a huge opportunity for most of us to help our respective clients-as they expand globally-while still hiring local talent -in each of the regions!! With over 350 owners -with over a decade of expertise in the respective domains/geographies, the extended reach is immense.

Imagine-as a prospective job seeker- the odds that someone among the 1800 recruiters in the network is working on a similar mandate, matching one's aspirations & abilities, could be quite enriching !!

PS here is an interesting presentation..

Sunday, November 14, 2010

#nasscompc, entrepreneurship & some thoughts

This blog post is almost an afterthought!

This year's Nasscom Product Conclave was a super hit-considering that they had stopped taking (with over 1200 ?) registrations a week before the event! The media coverage, blogs..and the tweets (at last count over 12000 posts on 11th November afternoon..with even half a day to go!)and the bytes there-of, only validate the views, opinions, and so I was inclined 'not to blog' about the same events!

At least not until I saw a fresh bunch of comments last evening- for some posts blogged by me 4 yrs ago (courtesy recruiterblogs@naukri)! It was nice trying to understand/reflect on my view points then-in the context then!! Some of those thoughts are still part of my core belief's while some have since been totally revisited!! As an aside, I had then 'promoted' networking by scrapping on orkut (!!)-guess Facebook wasn't as popular then!! So, this post is more to record my random thoughts for posterity...something I could revisit a few yrs from now and reminisce about :)!?

My takeaways?

-great place to network! Under one roof one could catch up a lot of people- some old pals, some business acquaintances one had lost contact with, a few celebrities, apart from rubbing shoulders with folks one had been following online!

-get a ringside view of the latest fads in the industry, and pick up contemporary jargon. The themes predominant in this edition being

a) Lean start ups

b) Cloud as a disruptive phenomenon

c) Partnerships -both practical & tactical ones to help one 'go2market' and scale up faster!

-great insights from the 'one-one discussions' with a couple of speakers & some fellow delegates-as I had a vicarious pleasure of learning the way they have been able to navigate through the uncertain twists & turns that occasionally impeded their progress.

-a software product focused using social media for recruitment and enable me hopefully to stay engaged with some of the communities of my interest.

-a new product that would help my daughter -prepare for her ICSE Xth Board exams -giving her 'enough net practice'!

New heights?

Well, there are a few other thoughts that have been triggered- and only time will let me know if someone had the prudence to act on it: Much was waxed about opportunities being thrown up for different mobile applications using the UIDAI. Or some veiled references to making business plans to capitalise on the offerings courtesy National Skill Development Corporation ! Is there a way one could 'productise' the recruitment services-to the huge ocean of SMEs?

I somehow feel a lot can be done by collaboration! Presumably, there were over 500 start ups participating in the conclave-with some outstanding solutions to the daily life problems that most of the start-ups face. Now, if only there was a way -to focus their applications/test market within the ecosystem, I would believe the mortality rate of many a players would increase!!

Some points to ponder : Some of the interesting quotable quotes one overheard during the course of the interactions/deliberations need more introspection and analysis!!!...

"Indian IT services cos have a DNA of 'throwing more people to solve a problem'. In contrast, Israel, because of it not having enough people-make world class hi tech products! "

" the ecosystem of mentors & investors is more than adequate- an entrepreneur should also know when to change course..even pull out if necessary "

"Learn how to become a good partner...A Business Alliance must be approached like a marriage-both parties must have interest in winning"

"Cloud computing is today's version of the timeshare concept!!"

"people coming from humbler schools seem to try harder to succeed..there was little or no correlation between academic performance, as measured by grades & the type of college a person attended, and their real on-the-job performance! " ( Review war for talent?)

"Give away your products free to early adopters. They often have the power to influence the customer who can pay"

"Location is in our mind-It is the same all over - ONE GLOBAL INTERNET. Make the most of it. "

"Only a 'nobody' will help another 'nobody'. A 'somebody' is not likely to help 'a nobody'!

"Keep experimenting. Scale successes. Discard failures. Simple, no?"

Time to put some of the learning's to practice. And evolve, right ;)!?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Growing as a Partner

The past few months have been an exciting period of my consulting career! In an environment where recruitment consultants are treated as 'vendors', trying to grow oneself into becoming a partner is much easier said than done...

Post the 'global' downturn, there is a lot more hiring activity. The game has changed, mandates have become tougher, expectations are different in the new scenario from both employers and prospective employees..leading to cautious (and often, delayed) decision making., and as a consequence, longer working capital cycles for the recruitment professionals like me!! But one good byproduct has emerged..companies are recognising good quality service, and are willing to experiment.

While we do have our share of exclusive retained searches with International companies setting up offices in India, (both directly and courtesy our global partners,) the sudden glut of positions from an array of past, existing & new clients came by our way, we at Options -find we can do more justice by partnering with a few handful clients who believe in our capabilities/competencies a little more :)!

We have embarked on focussing our best attention with a small bunch of clients-who with a token monthly retainer fee ( an advance that is adjusted in the settlement of the fees as soon as a selected hire joins)-has the undivided attention from Team Options. We work very closely with the hiring managers(complementing the staffing team in their efforts)-with a motto of improving the quality of every hire.

It has been an exciting journey-but it is amazing to discover a few realities:

-It ain't just about the money at all!!

Given the fact that a client has advanced money- one naturally assumes that they would be more pro-active as they had 'more skin in the game'! Well, for a while the pace of hiring is just as before: the process is just as viscous, and not too different turnaround times!

We noticed that it was initially difficult to get the 'internal recruiters' to be more transparent. For one who is not used to giving feedback (other than perhaps saying 'duplicate', 'tech reject', or at times 'on hold'!), we soon realised it wasn't a deliberate ploy. Most often, they themselves are in the dark- at times disconnected from the business demands, and most times stretched too much -to go beyond talking shop.

Most often there are blind spots that emerge as the system takes over. A thorough audit often unearths the process flow.

The retainer fee helped us dedicate time to delve more-and address the bottlenecks, and put a well oiled system to remove the inertia.

-Complement not merely supplement

We realise that every organisation-has a comprehensive source of knowledge- among the various employees itself. Often this knowledge isn't captured as most professionals are working 'pigeon holed' with their own focus and priorities. Once the internal recruiter accepted ''us" as not competition, and were willing to share their challenges, our accountability too has significantly increased. Using the increasing tools in social media -has been enabling us to reach out to a larger but homogeneous community -and stay engaged with them- to improve the reach on behalf of our clients.

No longer are we content with some 'keyword' driven searches-we are now forced to look at 'how the candidate could add value' beyond the immediate task at hand. We have had instances where we had to figure how solutions on how to reduce the cycle time at every level.

-Not merely CV pushers but providers of insights

Often we external recruiters have the benefit of working with different industries, comparing the best practices across them-and understanding the complexities of hiring for companies at different life cycles of growth-and challenges unique to them. The ability to be able to transplant, and apply some of the proven methods-often do the trick.

We have found that being part of the initial phone screens when the hiring manager interacted with aspirants, the 'hidden' rather 'inarticulate specs' often emerged-helping us to address these aberrations in the subsequent levels of interviews, fine tuning each iteration. Conducting skype interviews and administering online technical screening tests to improve the benchmarks -have also become an extension of our services !!

-Old habits die hard

Among the initial hiccups was the metrics! Most companies are used to 'interviewing' upwards of 10 candidates for a role-as a part of screening-and had almost internalised the screening schedule across levels and even set expectations thereof!

It is amazing how with revisiting the 'traditional job description', and using the increasingly available tools -one can actually not only reach out to a target community of desired profiles, but also screen them by doing some online methods, one can significantly increase the strike rate of hires/ interviews. And thereby freeing the management time of techie folks to do the jobs they are most suited to!!

-First principles work!

We have found that whenever we have been able to articulate the outcome and the actions required-we have been more successful! eg. addressing basic issues like developing questions that test the knowledge & skills, assembling a specific interview team, reviewing the interviewing competencies, and even the art of reference checking!

Well, recruitment is not rocket science. I am sure all of us have been exposed to the the nuances of hiring -having done it -at some point of time and for varying periods of time. Raising the bar is a challenge. It helps to take stock-review-and sharpen our skills.

We are learning. The gains are much more than we expected. The pipeline is getting better....

PS: Here is a treasure... I just came across a masterpiece of an article, a blog post -a Primer for hiring by Ben Horowitz-giving us a detailed prescription on the science. I personally feel one cannot have put it any better; it is a must read !

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Techniques to repel top talent?

The headline is from an intriguing tweet "Are you using the most effective techniques to repel top talent?" I saw in my timeline earlier today!

The author Kelly Blokdijk, a "talent optimisation" coach-has shared some thoughts on how easily some better worded/communicated advertisements could be considered as talent magnets!

As I reflect back on my experience as a catalyst in many a hiring processes, I realise there are so many other, subtle as they may seem, touch points between a prospective employer and an aspirant-which if managed well ,may lead to a lot of productive engagements!!

More so, in a world, enabled by Internet scrawling alerts, and 'trigger happy' keyboard clickers, most recruiters are faced with a deluge of responses due to overly broad or incoherent job descriptions and a sluggish economy.

Searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack, using innumerable practices to screen the responses -the challenge is to 'uncover people who would perform well and for an extended time in the actual role', as opposed to somebody who is good at resume-writing or who hired a good resume-writer!!

(Ironically, in an earlier blog post I have alluded to that when I wrote selection happens when one fails to reject!!)

Successful recruiting is about lots of small interactions, handled well. The real job of any recruiter is to manage outcomes in the interests of both client and candidate. I for one -feel there are at least three areas employers should focus on!

1. Deciding whom to look for!

Would you believe how most hiring managers develop cold feet in articulating what are the attributes they are looking for? Most often, one finds solace in an amiable HR person doing an impressive 'cut paste' job of something they have seen in the past :-)!?

I advocate that most hiring managers list out certain 'non negotiable competencies' while highlight'ing desirable /good to have' that would help in evaluating those who can hit the ground running -and those who might shape up..with a little bit of hand holding and on the job orientation.

One must also realise that for the same role- different organisations in differing life cycles of growth-would need varied competencies and skills! While start up companies may want multi skilled members who can handle ambiguity, those in a turnaround situation call for personalities different from a firm that is ramping up with acceleration!

2. Screening those captured

Simple as it is, are we sure that the right folks are interviewing the aspirants?

The acid test that is often neglected...are interviewers trained? Do the hiring managers end up hiring pygmies as they less threatened?

It is not amusing-in the mad rush to fill in numbers, one cannot over emphasise the need for a structured mechanism to sensitise the panel to be consistent!!

The most commonly used template- list out what the candidate ought to do, work out what they ought to know in order to do that, and then work out the questions to ask (or the features to look for) that demonstrate the candidate knows those things.

Of course..the challenge is to hire for a greenfield opportunity. What if we were to hire other specialists/ people unlike ourselves?

3. Post mortem- of the hires (and if possible, the 'no hires')

Do we have a practice where we actually store the applications and also record the outcomes—whether we hired them, how they did—and then use that data to constantly improve how we select /shortlist profiles?

One interesting review we could do -say 6 months down the line-is to go over and track who answered correctly and who answered incorrectly and whether the answer had any correlation with a candidate’s eventual job performance.

Can we from time to time, often have people stayed on..not only performed on the roles..but gone on to take on positions of higher responsibility & authority!!?

How do we find out whether any of the profiles we passed over-belonged to people worth hiring? Do we look at the ratings of candidates we passed up and how they ended up producing for other companies that ended up hiring them?

Isn't it time we are serious about hiring really good people, and stopped putting the blinders and demand “Five years of Java J2EE or financial analysis.” And instead identify those who are “smart and get things done.” ?

I shall be glad to have your comments!

PS -Improving the overall interview experience for any applicant- is a topic which will perhaps need another post!! I am sure in time, we will learn to acknowledge the sensitivity/ confidentiality of their candidature-apart from maintaining transparency and providing timely feedback !

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Winners -Keeping it Simple!

The setting was perfect. The event was to felicitate the top 25 India's fastest growing entrepreneurs . The venue: Indian School of Business, Hyderabad jointly organised by All World Network and the TiE Hyderabad.

A panel discussion on Secrets to High Growth Entrepreneurship. The participants were 3 entrepreneurs -from different industries-an online bus ticketing service, an organic farming co, and a travel planning service for the Indian middle class consumers, joined by representatives of a Venture Capital firm, and Centre for Entrepreneurship Development. Amidst a bunch of ISB students, entrepreneurs, mentors, and some aspirants in the ecosystem.

It was interesting to hear the recipe of success. While each of them had anecdotes to share their experiences in their journey so far, what was distinct-was the clarity of thought and the focus-while they set about achieving the objectives they planned for their organisations, while adapting on the way-to battle and overcome the temporary hiccups.

1. Contrary to most beliefs-the most critical factor was NOT " money"!Unanimously, it was TALENT!!

Speaker after speaker, reiterated-that it was the team that made all the difference. Not just identifying the right persons, whose personal interests were aligned with those of the companies interests, but the ability to retain them. Which also meant- letting go of the wrong persons, if need be-to ensure the right energies in place.

The motivation for the right employees-too was not 'money'-for each of them explained how they were among the lowest of 'paymasters' !!

2. FUNDING was seen more as an enabler that allowed the team to focus more time for execution!

Capital was often referred to as hygiene. While all agreed that a huge amount of failures of ventures happen -despite great ideas and wonderful execution, as a result of undercapitalisation, it was pointed out that all of them gained from the mentor ship & guidance -that came along with the right investors! In terms of getting the business model right, by adapting & tweaking the operations, to the changing customer expectations.

3. Another aspect which most speakers dwelled upon-was to decide how to scale up-especially since it is in the DNA to grab all opportunities that come by. The key was to decide whether to 'diversify' or to 'be the best in the niche' they have focused on.

While there were many temptations -the winners clearly didn't stray from 'what they had originally set out to solve a pain point of the customer'!

It was interesting to note that as the companies grew -in India, the senior management team spends more time on 'improving the execution aspects' while in the west, the emphasis is on 'customer acquisition'!

Looking back- what I learnt wasn't rocket science. Just another reinforcement of keeping things simple. Do the right things right. Each of the winners had backed their instincts, followed their heart -and stuck to the course!

Well, I am delighted to be a catalyst- part of the most vital ingredients of the ecosystem-that helps companies identify the best talent, while enabling shaping careers for a better world tomorrow :-)!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cleantech in India- Less rhetoric, more business!!

The energy at the TiE 2010 Cleantech Seminar was palpable!

If the first Cleantech conference last year was all about gushing about the huge potential, and the sudden urgency to rush into the 'next dot com' boom, there was a lot of maturity in the latest edition. The ecosystem was just perfect-a very good balance between a bunch of entrepreneurs that TiE Hyderabad was able to encourage -and a community of venture capital firms, investors, management consultants, 'wanna be' entrepreneurs, service providers,...keen to zero in and be part of the next big story.

During the day, the 150 plus eager listeners were treated to about 16 presentations-of folks showcasing, very articulately, their products and services, on the progress they have made in their respective forays-and a glimpse, of what could be the potential-if the right kind of resources were provided. Close to a dozen VC firms also trotted up-and mentioned about their global portfolio, their focus on cleantech and their sweet spots-handing out their coordinates!

To me, it seemed the theme wasn't so much of the 'pot of the gold', but the evidence of a lot more opportunities for the asking.

-The emphasis this year, was not as much on the energy efficiency & smart grid domains, but about the huge potential in recycling & waste management- and more so, in the Water segment.

-The romanticism of the solar voltaic solutions seemed to be less, as there was a distinct need for more economic solutions- with people talking about alternates like thin films, and patents in the pipeline.

-VCs too were no longer willing to fund 'ideas on paper napkins', but the emphasis seemed to be on those with a proven track record in the 'go-to -market' ability. Most of them have eyes on investment sizes of 3m US-and so were naturally desirous of a certain critical mass!

-Among the assortments during the day, were some established players in the green space wanting to scale up with new applications ( Nandan Biomatrix, Sharada Inventions), some new kids off the block ( Waterlife, Mobile Water cleaning plant), some wanting to penetrate into the rural markets, and a couple of old economy companies -changing their avataar and jumping into the bandwagon of the "energy' euphoria!

-I must mention the networking sessions were very vibrant with folks reaching out very comfortably with purpose. Almost every group had someone with an "American accent'-driving home the point that there were quite a few NRIs/ returned Indians conscious about the domain.

-It was interesting to see a slew of management consultants, representatives of angel investors, as well as some prospective service providers who could prove as catalysts /incubators and perhaps ride on the greenfield projects.

As a recruiter, it was particularly warming, as almost as the promoters mentioned 'the need for talent' almost in the same breath as 'the funding required'...though I must admit I was a little disappointed that our fraternity wasn't represented -apart from yours truly!

Yes, the trend is apparent. Opportunities for jobs -especially in the middle & senior management exist galore for

- the R&D /technical operations. I can see options for scientists, and all those environmental engineers who can transplant their experience internationally to help companies put systems in place in India.

- sales & marketing-especially those with experience in rural marketing of products/services-reaching out to remote locations with almost negligible electricity. The challenge is to also spread awareness and increase adoption!

(Incidentally, we have mandates for a 100 crore solar company-that wishes to foray into the telecom industry by expanding their applications to as the power back up for towers etc. )

-finance professionals to help the technocrats present their financials with a bid to attract investments -not just at angel, but also project financing and if possible, venture capital.

-I can also see a lot of opportunities for all those in their mid career blues- some of who had missed out on the wave of IT & Telecom in the last decade- and especially those who have taken a break to pursue that one year MBA-to take course least till such stage the cleantech space finds ready made & qualified talent. Not to mention -for those have 'been there, done that' and now want to give back to the society and lesser privileged.

And for those abroad..I reiterate -as I did when I signed off at the end of the last conference. there is a huge opportunity to lure some in the Indian diaspora, either NRIs (non-resident Indians) or Indian-origin foreign nationals, to return to India to participate in this growth sector :-)!!

Cheers! Please feel free to reach me offline for some specific clarifications, as usual! I shall be glad to connect you to those who are in the know ....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Changing Workplace-Different Strokes?

It’s kind of an eerie feeling!

Just earlier today, I was making a point to one of my clients-how we ought to be striving to become an employer of choice. In this globalised world, we need to think beyond being a ‘local hungry outfit’-and as we anyway woo and wow MNC customers across different geographies, we ought to be better off wondering how to attract ‘world class talent’!

Maybe we should be tinkering our hiring process as today, as more and more professionals are gravitating to finding 'work life' balance, working in the domains of their choice, even choosing technologies and the employer they would like to be associated with! Perhaps it is time for a fresh approach to change our communication to prospective talent banks -to first connect, then increase our visibility, and then engage them...

So it was a sense of deja vu that I read the cover story of the latest issue of Business Today-Born to Rule @Work -. I highly recommend the brilliant piece on how some of the better employees in India are changing their workplace for the ‘twenty somethings’!!

  • L&T has changed their pay packets as youngsters want money in hand rather than security in the long term.
  • Nokia has started reverse mentoring.
  • Maruti Suzuki & Genpact have overhauled appraisals to ensure instant gratification to give feedback all through the year.
  • At Apollo Tyres, mandatory structured training programmes seem to be more effective than salary hikes as retention tool as nobody wants lifelong employment anyway!
  • There are some in Infosys working on community empathy projects as they want ‘meaning in work'
Gen Y is unique.

"There is a desire to acquire –higher compensation, instant recognition, learning, the power to make decisions and above all, a desire to have absolute control over their careers and life.

They don’t respond to command-and-control type of management. Give them work, tell them what is expected and you will perhaps get better results that what you were looking for."

Well, time will tell if these brilliant individual performers can merge their identities with the team and add tangible value to the workplace by aligning with the organisational needs.

Yes, it is imperative that one be sensitive to the changing aspirations, and so one must change tack to attract and retain the kind of talent one needs -which are different at the different stages of the life cycle of the company (growth, recovery or crisis) as well as situation one's company is in (Startup, Turnaround, Realignment and Sustaining success).

In a country where one in two citizens is younger than 25yrs of age, are hirers taking notice?

There is a need to change the archaic way of recruiting. Go beyond 'numbers' or 'seats to fill'. Time for metrics other than 'cost per hire'. Concentrate on getting the right people in, and ensure a large majority stay on, grow and contribute to the organisation. What about waiting for the right person to serve out her/his notice period and join, and looking beyond hiring tresspassers-just because they are the ones immediately available for joining ?

Personally, I am of the opinion that no size fits all! In most organisations, one can find a pattern of some jobs being ‘developmental’ in nature –while a lot of others are ‘maintenance oriented’. The former needs an air of creativity and flexibility-while the latter revels on discipline and order.

Perhaps-there is something we have to learn from the world of sports. I recall reading an interesting article on how to pace oneself while running a marathon. It is much more fun if you can finish with the group you start with. Isn't life a marathon? The journey is just as important as the destination, right?

It is time we found our own solutions-tailor made for the best fit!