Today, thriving companies are getting the support they need from venture capital firms in order to be able to increase their growth. A key characteristic of such support is the increase in investment capital and mentoring. This creates a space for hyper experimentation, as well as an obligation to execute these plans in the real world in quick successions. However, making that requires product teams to be able to scale quickly. And unfortunately, tech hiring is one of the most difficult problem areas given the stiff competition and thus scaling engineering teams quickly is easier said than done. We wanted to know more about the experience. Thus, we asked Praveen, our guest speaker on a recent Hiring Diaries episode, this question.
Praveen is probably one of the best talent leaders to answer this question given his extensive experience from talent leadership roles at some of India’s fast-growing technology startups like Flipkart, Bounce, Ola, and now the $7 Billion dollar technology giant, Meesho.
Mudit Srivastava, Host:
First off, based on your extensive experience of leading talent at India Inc, let’s start by deconstructing what blitzscaling tech hiring really means. You have experience in leading talent acquisition at several tech unicorns and working on hiring at different scales. How would you compare hiring 100 to 500 people and hiring 500 to 5000 or just a few thousand people, based on your experience? How do you think these two things are different in terms of implementation?
Praveen Nair, Guest Speaker, Meesho:
Firstly, thank you for that opportunity to come and speak here. It’s a pleasure to be here on a Sunday evening.
Yes, I have been recruiting for about a decade and a half now. In the technology space, it’s been around the last few years, right from the get-go when you started startup companies joining the bandwagon. In fact, earlier, we would know tech hiring only to be at the services companies, which would employ a lot of engineers. And that would be mainly from campuses and a few laterals.
Startups have revolutionized the way tech hiring has been happening. And that’s that evolution has swept India as well. If I were to think about these sorts of problem statements, companies like Flipkart, Ola, Bounce, and Meesho were typically startups when I joined them, and the kind of scaling is very unique in that space.
They were looking at solving very consumer problems. And therefore, these sort of technology folks they wanted in the companies had to have a specific bar of talent and that has not been in plentiful supply in India, unfortunately. We churn out almost a million engineers a year but we’ve struggled in the space of high-caliber technologists. This technology goes primarily into further studies, or they go abroad for other opportunities and stuff. And some of them, of course, work in a governmental organization and property. But that outlook towards private sector companies was reasonably low.
Well, startups revolutionized it. So, when we were hiring initially, the concept of figuring out the lateral talent, which was typically into various tech stacks, data sciences, or AI and ML related areas, one of the biggest things was even to figure out how to recruit them. Because even the recruiters did not have the experience to recruit these folks. If I were to look at look back in time, when we were scaling from like you said, the initial part of the business, and setting up the first set of engineers, right, and I remember this even going way back in 2005 or 2008 when some of the startups based in Silicon Valley would set up their technology or their R&D teams here in India. The goal would be to figure out the sort of folks who will understand this technology to have the proper conversation with these folks. Because you’re talking about an engineering subject, which was pretty advanced, and the sort of engineering work that we would then do in India would be typically back-office and typically services related. Those conversations, the scale of conversation itself moved, and therefore it was essential to identify the right tech hiring teams. And you need to get that done first, right.
When you’re initially setting up any startups, the first thing to do is to identify the set of rights recruiters build that team, which is enabled to figure out where these engineers are. How do we start the conversation with them? What is the line of dialogue? Then you come to the process of hiring. I mean, what is your bar of talent? What sort of companies are you benchmarking your kind of problem statements with? Which other companies or which types of folks in this area have worked on a similar scale and similar lines, and therefore you try and attract them, and consequently that conversation through selection processes. So you build that entire recruiting engine to run through that.
Then you come to the part of differentiating in terms of how you bring about the storyline for your startup. I mean, what is it unique that you’re bringing onto the table? And why is it that an engineer at that scale needs to come and work with you? So these would be the usual conversation that would happen by understanding the core of the business and, communicating that to these engineers who are trying to apply to you. And today, you don’t have the luxury of a couple of years, you have a luxury of a few quarters to do this. Because by the time you would have reached some scale, you’ve seen the sort of investments that have come into the space, and therefore, many other companies have started, booming in scale, right. So, you will quickly try to move from your initial 10-20 engineers to 20-30 plus engineers, and then there is a different ballgame also that sets.
Then it is no longer about the team on processes. Still, it is more about creating a differentiation, talking the proper storyline, talking about your employee’s successes, and how you are making an impact by doing that particular business. Eventually, engineers today look beyond what they do during that day’s work, right. They also want to see the impact of their work on society on social causes, and so on. So for us in Meesho, for example, one of the things that have like you correctly pointed out, one of the things we are impacting is 100 million-plus resellers, right, to a sort of a target segment which is which had not had the access of applying technology to their business practices. That sort of impact has been able to be called out. And that’s the differentiation, which has been capable of succeeding in getting to this sort of scale. When I joined almost like a year back, almost around a year back, we were an engineering strength of about 100-150 people today, and we are in a few hundred rights. And that is primarily happened because of this sort of a differentiation that we’ve been able to communicate back to that talent pool and have been able to engage with them.
Mudit Srivastava, Host:
Okay, but what we have seen from some of the talent leaders out there is that they don’t have this runway as you mentioned. There’s no luxury of abundant time to propagate a particular employee value proposition in a sweet amount of time. One has to be very agile and quickly communicate that to a large audience. How do you think it’s implemented in practice?
Praveen Nair, Guest Speaker, Meesho:
You see, then once you have created your initial set of engineers who build, say, your product, your first set of products, and then the value on that product is mainly from a scale standpoint, right? Because you have already built a platform that is working for you, you have a proof of concept there; that concept has been validated. And that’s the reason why you’ve been able to attract an X amount of valuation of your company. And so you moved in scale, right?
Once that is achieved, then it is more about scaling up tech hiring. And that scale-up is where you, like you correctly pointed out, don’t have the luxury of time. So, for example, I mean, we always believe that a project that you’re running is being run, planning, what would be a 10x scale on it. And what will be some very short-term and a midterm impact on it? So there, the engineering strength you need to build is to get you to that level of scale.
And then when you’re once you’re making that scale, and then you have regular periods, where your technologies stressed out or checked out, as to how well do you stand during, you know, whether it is your Big Billion Day sale or your flash sale. Your engineering strength is virtually tested there, your engineering endurance is tested there, and that sort of number is to be built. You have no other goal but to reach out to a more considerable talent.
You start engaging with a larger talent pool. You started reinventing some of your selection practices, and you look at how you include them, offering them different sorts of assessments, figuring out how do you bring them to the table, and have those conversations with them? So like I said, you know, the first set of engineers is always based on the immediate problems that you need to solve, and then you’re talking about the scale business, or the story of your company, right, and the impact that you’re going to create. Today, when an engineer speaks to you, she/he wants to know more about what is the impact that they can create on the team. And what is the social impact that it causes in the backend? That’s the reason for them to come and work with you. As long as you build, you’re able to create that story and communicate that to them quickly, and then you can achieve that scale.
About this Discussion
The following excerpt was taken from a recent episode of Hiring Diaries with Praveen from Meesho. Our discussion covered a number of topics around tech hiring, including the following:
- Optimizing hiring funnels at scale: practices that worked.
- Culture-first tech hiring in a time of skewed supply-demand.
- Surging recruitment with the right technology stack
- Forging the right partnerships at high velocities
- Preparing for hiring sprees at growth-stage startups
- And more.
To view the entire episode on-demand, visit here – https://skillspace.ai/hiring-diaries-203/.
More about Skillspace.ai and Hiring Diaries
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