Note to readers: Hello world is a program developers run to check if a newly installed programming language is working alright. Startups and tech companies are continuously launching new software to run the real world. This column will attempt to be the "Hello World" for the real world.
Salaries are at an all-time high in the Indian startup ecosystem. As M. Sriram and Chandra R. Srikanth of Moneycontrol wrote in June, this is closely linked to the funding boom we’re seeing. In the first half of this year, Indian startups have raised over $10 billion in funding, which is more than the money raised in all of last year.
This funding boom is driven by the fact that capital is cheaper now (interest rates are at their lowest in the US), India is a large internet market, and China’s ability to build global startups is under threat thanks to its government’s aggressive stance.
If there were only two dozen unicorns last year, India now has more than 50 companies valued at over a billion dollars. We’re on track to have 100 unicorns by the end of 2025, according to one prediction. All of them need talent and then some. Moreover, startups from countries like Indonesia are now tapping into India’s talent pool because they have a thriving internet economy and don’t have homegrown talent.
Remote work has also opened up more opportunities for high-quality workers. The problem with talent shortage is only going to get worse, at least until the boom lasts. This is a good time for the ecosystem to reflect on why we have a talent shortage at startups, and why they don’t stick around.
Besides the fact that the ecosystem is growing faster than anyone anticipated, one reason could be that we now have too many managers who failed upwards from the previous wave of startups and they did not mentor and create a talent pool. This means when they switch, they don’t have a well functioning team or resource pool that they can tap into. They also do not have the brand or respect in the industry to attract talent. They rely heavily on recruiters and company incentives.
The other problem is that companies did not emphasize enough on building an empathetic culture. This means employees switch jobs at the drop of a hat. A great workplace does not mean shiny office space or foosball tables. It means having well-respected peers and managers who are good at what they do, are empathetic and know how to play well in teams or manage high-performing teams. Equal pay, gender parity and weeding out biases from hiring are also good areas to act on.
Switching sides a little, as an employee, I’ve always asked myself whether the work I’m doing will be meaningful. The reason I advise people to look beyond salary is that the link between your salary and job satisfaction is weak at best whereas the link between ‘motivators’ and happiness is strong, as psychologist Frederick Herzberg said in the 1950s.
According to Herzberg, after a point, money doesn’t make you as happy as you think it will. Money should be treated as a hygiene factor and we should look for motivators. This comes from asking questions like is the job going to give me a chance to develop? Am I learning new things? Will I have the opportunity for recognition and achievement, and am I going to be given responsibility?
So when you pick your next gig, think of motivators and always help your peers and team members grow so when you are hiring, you have people who’d gladly work with you.