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Rediff.com  » Business » Start-up India: Bloodbath on job street

Start-up India: Bloodbath on job street

May 10, 2017 08:30 IST

Online marketplace majors, e-grocers, Internet of Things firms, app-based companies and transport service aggregators are among those that have had to shut shop or scale down operations.

Now, survival skills like upskilling and retraining will determine who makes it. Karan Choudhury reports.

Jobs unemployed

IMAGE: In the past one year, say sector experts, around 250 start-ups and e-com ventures, big and small, have left in the lurch almost 20,000 direct employees and up to 55,000 indirectly hired ones. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters.

 

If there is a sector severely hit by job losses after information technology, it would be the start-up and e-commerce space.

Online marketplace majors, e-grocers, Internet of Things firms, app-based companies and transport service aggregators are among those that have had to shut shop or scale down operations.

Amid the bloodbath in the job street, some are gradually picking up the pieces, trying hard to revive and put themselves back on the map. Companies have started looking at measures like re-skilling and redeployment of talent, not exactly part of the start-up lexicon in its growth years: so, that a tighter ship can be run, with an eye on profitability.

Take Snapdeal.

Over the past three to four months, the e-commerce major hit the headlines for letting go almost 85 per cent of its workforce and a boardroom battle over valuation among its investors.

Left with around 1,200 employees, it is still running a working marketplace, largely due to redeployment of existing staff. The company is using coders and programmers who were part of different projects to now work on the e-commerce portal. Some have been given crash courses of sorts in data sciences, to handle the basic tasks related to this.

"It is a way to deal with the current situation. Senior managers gave training to employees according to their need and requirement. This move is helping us to keep the day-to-day operations running, as well as helping us save the remaining jobs," said a senior executive. 

Re-skilling entities are also seeing a trend of e-commerce companies approaching them with requests to retrain employees, so that they can be given additional tasks.

"There has been a demand to up-skill to the latest technologies, such as big data, data analytics, data sciences and digital marketing," said Diwakar Chittora, founder and chief executive of Intellipaat.com.

There are instances of MBAs picking up business intelligence tools. "All these help in making people retain their jobs," he added.

His company has till date worked with at least 80 corporate clients and businesses, training 2,000-plus people.

Personnel experts feel the thrust towards re-skilling will gather steam in start-ups as these increasingly look at redeploying existing talent, having shed the excess workforce.

Till two years earlier, one of the most typed phrases on popular search engines and job portals was 'jobs in start-ups'. Any such search would throw up hundreds of listings, for positions ranging from delivery persons to data scientists.

Cut to 2017 and the picture has completely changed.

In the past one year, say sector experts, around 250 start-ups and e-com ventures, big and small, have left in the lurch almost 20,000 direct employees and up to 55,000 indirectly hired ones.

Snapdeal, for instance, has brought down its staff count from 10,000 in February last year to around 1,200.

Leading home stay and alternate stay aggregator Stayzilla has suspended operations. Business goods and supplies portal

Tolexo is learnt to be laying off as many as 300 employees, around 85 per cent of its workforce.

Consumer internet search platform AskMe had in August last year shut down its operations, letting go as many as 4,000 employees. According to ex-staffers, most had not been paid for two months before the shutting down.

According to experts, with consolidation in the minds of investors here, the jobs situation at the once celebrated sector is likely to remain fragile.

"With duplication in the e-commerce and start-up sector, consolidation was inevitable. We might see more job losses in the days to come. This will continue until the market stabilises," said Amarjeet Singh, partner at consultancy KPMG in India.  

Sector experts believe only a few of the e-commerce businesses will get more funding.

"The ones which are might again start the process of hiring," said Hitesh Oberoi, chief executive officer of Naukri and its holding company, Info Edge.

Those that do will be cautious on hiring, say head hunters.

E-commerce companies that are still on an expansion drive include Amazon India and Paytm.

Flipkart, which last year laid off around 700 employees, recently secured funding of $1.4 billion (nearly ₹9,000 crore); it is reportedly looking at adding to its headcount.

However, up-skilling and re-skilling of talent is something start-ups have to learn to live with in their next phase of growth.

Karan Choudhury
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