Indian startups Guide to strategic hiring and making it to unicorn hood

In the end “Talent is all that matters”

Right now most of the Indian startups are moving into mature phase while there is plenty of opportunity for new players to establish themselves in the current market. The ambition to achieve Unicorn status is a goal of every entrepreneur in the Indian startup scenario. The winning edge that new players have is they can set/innovate their businesses based on the success and failures of trial n error experiments done by their previous counterparts.

Since it is difficult to get into the data of successful companies one can use ab-initio to figure right from the wrong. It involves skipping all the parameters that prove the hypothesis right or wrong but taking the actions on the data after the event.

With the same lens let’s take a pick into what are top 5 reasons stated by the failed startup founders


No. Reason for shutdown breakup
 1 No Market need 42 %
2 Cash bust 29 %
3 Wrong Team 23 %
4 Outcompeted 19 %
5 Price/Cost Issue 18 %

A deeper look into the data boils these points down to two main aspects

  • Business Model
  • Human Resource

Once you have put your foot on the paddle you are left with a choice of cycling only in the forward direction but business model can be modified to some extend if you are opportunistic enough with good VC finance backups. It is hard to say even changing and selecting adjacent business model would work as many founders have habits of not doing enough research before saddling on a horse to realize it was a donkey.

Then comes the second and the most crucial reason that is Human Resource, in fact it is the asset which impacts 3 out of 5 failure points. So we are left with the question of how to strategies such an asset to avoid from becoming a liability?

Half of the answer lies in the question itself. If you look at the points impacted by human resource are Cash Bust, Wrong team and getting outcompeted then you have to start breaking them into simpler terms and start asking yourself on how to handle these problems

Cash bust – Is your core team worth spending on? Example:

Are Ideas of Marketing/promotion expenses based on the right numbers for generating enough sales?

Is your HR budget optimized to sustain other business needs?

Wrong team – Is your team right for meeting your startup goals? Example:

Are people determined to go an extra mile for getting assured results?

Will they stay with you in a rough weather or leave?

Getting outcompeted – Will you have an edge over the competing companies with the type of team you have? Example:

Do your team players have steep learning curve or do they prefer playing in the comfort zone?

Do you have aggressive enough people to beat out the competition?

Many founders neglect HR strategy due to their inexperience and many choose to avoid tough questions as there is too much chaos to handle and bare minimum resources to begin with. But there are few who understand the value of asset or liability a single employee brings in a startup.

While establish companies can enjoy recruiting, training and firing workout due to their sheer size and streamlined business activities but for startups time is a killer, if it is lost due to bad fit then it is lost and then it is either  pull up or pull off.

A better way to achieving strategic hiring goals is partnering with an HR consultancy but as there are so many it’s difficult to choose from. There are certain parameters which make your job easy to choose a consultancy form like

  • Consultancy with at least with 10+ years’ experience
  • Should have catered to startups core roles at their inception
  • Have successful startup clients who have grown into unicorns
  • Have tech competency on understanding your needs
  • Lowers your workload to minimum and you can rely on them
  • Should fit to your budget

All said and read one can sail to unicorn status only when you have the long term vision of survival and instinct to action plan crucial aspects of the voyage. This sailing becomes easier when you can rely on your assets and difficult with the weighting liabilities, so one should plan on whom to carry in your boat accordingly.

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