Monday, October 13, 2014

how NOT to hire for startup in India?

I've been trying to hire programmers for my startup for past 8 weeks and have learnt a few important lessons. I hope some of these lessons will help few people.

Which is the best job site in India for startup hiring? I've tried nearly all the job sites. Yeah, you heard it right: All. Indian job sites as well as Indian editions of global websites. Paid sites as well as free sites. All these websites claim to have thousands of actively-looking-for-job candidates who are eager to grab your job offer so you'll start with very positive note. Here is my first-hand analysis of few major websites:
  • is the biggest job site brand in India. It's just because of their brand influence that I paid them twice. First time for posting a job vacancy (they call that as 'hot vacancy') and the second time for their resume database access (their jazzy name for this is Resdex). Both these attempts proved to be a futile exercise. When you search as an employer on, it will show 2k-3k active candidates for your job criteria but that's just a mirage. 
    • For my Job posting, I got 42 candidates' responses. Many of the responses were from freshers (even though I clearly mentioned that I am looking for 2-5 years experience candidates). Most of the remaining candidates who fulfilled my job criteria had a very below average coding experience. They have mostly worked on small Wordpress/Drupal/Magento websites. None of them has worked on high traffic high performance websites. 3-4 folks had good website portfolio in their CV, but none of them could even qualify first basic screening round. 
    • In the second attempt, I took resume database access with Why did I try Naukri second time when they failed abysmally the first time? When I tried second time, by then I've been trying to hire for 5 weeks and exhausted all other options so I had to try this jazzy like database access as well. Database access feature allows you to mail suitable candidates in just 1 click. I mailed 1850 candidates (yeah, that's toooo many but I guess 5 weeks hunt and having tried all other possible options made me desperate). Plus I thought let people at least apply first, then later I can very well filter them. 40 of them showed interest, 10 of them were re-applicants from first posting, rest of them had so routine-nothing-to-brag-about portfolio that I didn't even call anyone for screening round.
  • is not so popular in India, but I anyways gave it a try. The majority of the candidates were outstation candidates (even though I had clearly mentioned that only Delhi candidates need to apply). No solid candidate applied hence nothing productive out of this website.
  • Linkedin India. I always had this firm belief that Linked is hoax (more on this some other time in some other post) but I had to give them a try as everyone I know is on Linkedin so I thought suitable candidates must also be on Linkedin. My belief tested positive and Linkedin didn't deliver. Stats: Got 40+ responses but none had good enough work experience.
  • AngelList ( proclaim itself as exclusively for startups. Most of the folks who applied here were freshers. I even tried to proactively approach many of the promising candidates, but no one seems to be interested in joining an unknown startup.
  • Third party recruiter/consultants: These guys claim to provide candidates' CVs and guarantee you job hire in 15 days. I didn't try them and neither should you. If you yourself wholeheartedly can't find suitable candidates even after scouring all possible job sites then how can these guys? They don't have any secret candidates who are waiting only for your job offer.
  • You may ask: did you try or or .....? yeah, tried them all.
Some of the above websites might work really well for big companies while others might work really well for well-known-established startups, but they are not meant for newbie startups. You might be willing to pay good salary or you might also have decent office in decent locality, but nothing works :)

The quality of candidates applying to startups: Most of the folks I got as candidates were from second rung engineering/MCA colleges with very poor work portfolios. Most of the developers have worked on basic websites for small businesses. None of the candidates I got had experience on high traffic decently successful product/website. Most of them didn't have working knowledge of git, unit testing or database/server performance measures. Most of these developers are employed with thousands of small (5-20 people) website-making companies that mostly get their business either from freelancing websites or from local businesses. These folks are not interested in startup idea or power/capability of the idea, they are just interested in their salary.

Does that mean India doesn't have rockstar developers? There might be small fraction of good developers in India but all of them are already working with big giants like Microsoft, Amazon etc who can pay them highest possible salary, provide them plush offices and best peers to work with in India. These coders are looking at startup only from a single angle: as a future founder/cofounder. I know most of them will not be able to leave their cushy well-paying job but still there is nothing wrong in dreaming about being a founder These guys won't even apply to your startup.

Let's find CTO first: I've seen many companies who, once they fail in hiring good developers, start to look for CTO. They think that once you've a good CTO then it will be easier to build the technical team. Plus CTO will start working on the product from day 1 so at least some progress is visible. Tell me one thing: If you are not able to hire a good developer, will you succeed in hiring CTO. The answer is NO. I've seen few companies trying this in vain so I didn't even try this.

Remote team: When I didn't find any good programmer in Delhi NCR, I thought let's find good developer wherever they are in India (I can't afford European/US developers) and work remotely with them. I tried this and burnt my hands. Working in remote team require highly disciplined self-driven folks (in addition to other technical skills) which is again a tough task to find. More on this later in some other post but for the sake of brevity let's say that remote working is not conducive for Indian startups.

Dude, Stop complaining. What's the solution? To be very frank, I've not found a solution yet. I think that having solid technical cofounder/s is the best bet. Cofounders together can design and code to launch MVP, gain some traction to make a name in the market and then start hiring. I would like to believe that better candidates will approach more established startup (I would write about that someday once I verify this:) ).

'Startup' is a glorified term that's mostly associated with glorious entrepreneurs, m/billions of dollars, innovation, brilliant people to work with, solving global problems etc etc but at first startup is just an idea. Everyone has hordes of million dollar ideas so no one cares about your idea. Cofounders are the only ones who will go through this unknown, not-glorious journey without plush office.

PS: Advice to Indian developers: I know Indian education system doesn't give you any practical training or right exposure but today they are so many open online courses from where you can learn everything from designing good UI to making large scalable websites. If you are not learning awesome stuff then you are just making excuses.

Edit: Do you have the technical capability and grit to change the world? If yes, I am looking for Technical Cofounder:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Doing startup in parallel with your job

Are you thinking of working on your startup in parallel to your job? Here is the news: It won’t happen.

Startup is tough. Startup is demanding. Startup is a roller coaster. You can’t do it while doing something else. You might be able to (very convincingly) fool yourself that you are doing your best while doing it in parallel but startup is 24*7 deal, you can’t do it part time. You'll work (it'll be more of trying-to-work) late nights or on weekends and feel good about yourself that you are working hard on your way to startup but feeling good is not same as delivering the product.

Why doing startup in parallel is a bad idea?

You won’t have sufficient time: If you wish to extract a few hours everyday for your idea execution then it won't be easy. Your job will keep you occupied. Your work will have phony deadlines, meetings for the sake of meeting, you'll have to deliver something howsoever useless that stuff is, your office water cooler gang will keep you busy, may be your have hordes of time in office but you need to pretend to onlookers that you’re very busy, may be you’ve to mandatorily spend 9 hours in office due to some shit office rule. Something or other will keep you away from your startup work in office. And if you manage to find some time to work on your stuff then: What if someone will look, what if someone will find out, what if your friend will ask you what are you doing, what if, what if and what if…… You’ll spend more time finding answers to what ifs than doing something constructive. Few days you might be able to devote more than 10 hours/day for your startup but otherwise it will be weeks when you’ll average less than 2-3 hours a days for your real work. Who has more success probability? The one who is focused and continuously slogging for 12 hours a day, day-after-day or the one who is somehow managing 2-3 hours a day that too with dissipated focus and energy?

Incremental Progress: If you are doing startup in parallel then because of smaller number of invested hours into startup you will not see incremental progress every day, every week. If you get stuck on some problem (and you’ll face a lot of them) then if you are working solely on startup then you’ve entire day, day-after-day, to solve the problem. But if you are solving something part time then you’ll take a few hours to get back to the problem, few hours to get into the groove and by then that day’s quota of limited hours would have been over. We work harder and with more passion when we see things are taking shape, when we see can see fruits of our hard work. If things are not taking shape or if they are not getting solved at expected pace then we lose heart, howsoever small dismay that may be. Incremental progress is the fuel to your dreams.

You will give up: Startup has lots of dark phases. There will be time - many a times - when nothing will seem to work and no solution seems to be in sight. Then you think of leaving. At the very least, you start to explore other options. When you have things going in parallel then you will have plenty of things to care for and plenty of second choices, so you unwillingly unknowingly give up during dark phases and move on to try other options. You might peace yourself with, “ I have given my best”. But with startup as the only option, you don’t have any other choice, you don’t have any other option. Either you fail or you succeed. So you will have to find some solution, some workaround to the problem. And there is always a solution a problem if you stay with it long enough and not give up. 

Reasons you are running things in parallel:

You are not convinced: If you are not doing startup full time then in simple terms you are not convinced. Either not convinced about your idea or not convinced of your capability. Both the cases are fatal. Stop wasting your time and go figure why you are not convinced.

If you are worried about your idea, then stop worrying. There is never a good idea. All ideas initially seem small, may-not-work-types. If you’ve done your homework and your gut tells that it’s kinda ok idea then get going.
If you are worried about your capabilities then give me one example when Superman founded a great company? None. People doing a startup do something because they really want to solve a problem, not because they can solve a problem. If you want then you’ll find ways to how you can.

I can’t start because of xyz reason excuse: Don’t have enough money to support yourself or your family? Need some backup money before you take the plunge? You want to gain some more experience in this field before you are ready? You are too young to start a startup or too old? You intend to start after 2 years? These are just excuses. There is never a founder who has enough money or enough experience or insanely great team before starting up. Everything gets done on the way, on the job. Trust your gut and startup.

You want to save your face: Startups fail. Oh yeah, majority of startups fail. If you are working on something in parallel then you have lots of excuses if your startup won’t succeed. “I didn’t have time”, “I was working on that other higher priority thing”, “this wasn’t a full time project it was just on trial basis”, “come on at least I tried” etc etc. But when you are working on startup full time then either you succeed or you fail. Nothing in between. No excuses.

Courage: You don’t have courage. Courage to think big, courage to take the leap, courage to execute, courage to stop giving excuses and stop fooling yourself, courage to stand up to your near and dear ones, courage to start. Finally it all boils down to courage. To start a startup you need courage, nothing else. Not money, Not being highly technically competent, not great team, no support of family or friends but ….Courage. Startup is so stacked up against odds that without courage you can’t beat the odds. By various means (education, reasoning, technology), you may be able to silence a few doubts, you may be able to sideline few obstacles, you may to able to beat few odds but to start despite ALL the odds needs Courage. If you don’t have courage to wholeheartedly dedicate yourself on the altar of startup then there is not much hope.

Job is a quagmire, especially if you don’t love it. Sometime you’ll cling to job for some promotion, sometime for next salary because you need that money for some important event, sometime you can’t leave because what will you tell your girlfriend, sometime you won’t leave because you’ll prove yourself irresponsible once again in your parents’ eye, sometime you need to get married so you can’t leave job, then you can’t leave because you’re married and need to run house, then who will have to pay fees of your kid and then….In short, You are screwed. Everyone wants to do a startup but how many of us finds time and dedicate that time for startup? The-job-you-don't-love kills your passion to conquer the world and s.l.o.w.l.y makes you from Alexander the great to yet another average guy.

Stop wasting time fooling yourself. Find courage to pursue your dream. That’s real you.