The novel coronavirus fear has gripped India’s Silicon Valley and multiple startups are now opting for 'work from home' for their employees. However, founders and managers are grappling with issues around managing staff and ensuring productivity.
Looking at these developments, companies like GoScale and Pesto are finding fresh business opportunities for offering their services to help smoothen the process.
Several companies like insure tech startup Acko, discount broker Zerodha, online micro business enabler Instamojo and credit card company Slice, have all gone remote to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
India already has over 80 confirmed cases of the virus and at least two officially reported deaths.
While startups have gone remote as a knee-jerk reaction and are leveraging multiple tools already available to let their employees for them to work from home, they are looking at software solutions to manage their productivity.
Frequently Asked Questions
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GoScale connects engineers with technology companies from across the globe where they can be hired and employed remotely. It has techies working from small towns like Darjeeling and others for companies across the world. The bootstrapped company helps clients manage these remote engineers. Now that many startups are going remote, these companies are hoping to deploy their solutions here.
“I have been receiving inbound calls and requests from multiple startups in India as well as in the Valley (California) who are looking for ways to deploy remote working for their employees in the wake of this (COVID-19) outbreak,” Raghu Bharat, co-founder of GoScale said.
“We are expecting a doubling of business in a few weeks,” Bharat added.
For many founders like Bharat, this is the demonetisation moment for remote working and could propel far wider adoption of this culture across the Indian startup ecosystem.
“The one big question startup founders are asking me: How to ensure that employees still put in eight hours per day, how can productivity be tracked,” Bharat said.
One solution could be having digital time sheets, which can log how many hours the employee is spending on their laptops working on the project. There are auto monitoring tools which GoScale uses to track its remote engineers, they can be used here as well.
Only tools and software will not be able to deal with all such problems. Founders are grappling with issues around employees feeling less motivated at home, getting disturbed by family members or in some cases just getting distracted.
Here comes Pesto, a Gurugram-based startup which is into educating and training remote engineers.
“Indian startups are not wired for remote work; hence, I am going to start education content, where startups can get registered and learn about how to manage remote work,” Ayush Jaiswal, co-founder of Pesto said.
“I have received registration from more than 100 startups already like Innov8, Swiggy, Zest Money, Zeta over the last week,” Jaiswal added.
Pesto imparts coding skills to engineers and encourages them to work for global companies sitting out of their home towns. The Matrix Partners-backed startup gets 50 students in each batch through a three-month intensive programme and then helps them get a job in companies across Germany, United States and Singapore. About 70 percent of their graduates are working remotely.
Pesto has named the initiative Remoteli. They are getting their existing graduates, who have been working remotely, to offer sessions to Indian startups and share their experiences on working from home. They can talk about the best practices to be followed to ensure overall well-being of the employees.
Jaiswal said that they were currently working on the curriculum to decide the format of the sessions which are set to start next week. Remoteli will offer hour-long classes free of cost for three days in a week to start with, and depending on the uptake, will continue them for the coming months.
Industry insiders feel, remote work is here to stay and this could be a starting point. Many prominent global tech companies like Github, Wordpress, Stripe and Invision have already gone remote for a major chunk of their employees.
Google and Twitter have also given asked their employees to work from home in the wake of this COVID-19 pandemic. Indian companies will follow suit as well.
As of now, startup founders are hopeful to get back to normal office work soon. But they are not sure as to when that would happen.
For instance, Instamojo, which went remote recently, is set to remain like this till the spread is contained. It is relying on Slack for communication, Zoom and Hangout for video conferencing, and WhatsApp, emails and messages for instant messaging.
“We have to play this out as long as required, we use ERP Next for all our internal employee management, so we had tools ready and the transition was not difficult,” Nithin Kamath, Chief Executive Officer of Zerodha said. The largest discount broker went remote from March 12.