Hiring in India

Our startup Gridstone Research is now about 140 strong in Mumbai. So far hiring in India has been a mixed bag. Some hard work that has paid off. And some frustration.

We have broadly two streams in India. Research and Technology. The Research Operations carry out the analysis which goes as content in our product. The software for the product is developed by Technology.

Our Technology development is outsourced to Persistent Systems, who do a fine job, by the way. So our Mumbai operations are primarily Research oriented. Over 120 of the 140 staff in Mumbai are in Research Operations. I think we already might be one of the largest equity research shops in India.

At the entry level, where most of the hiring in Research is done, we have built a solid team. We hire largely from the Mumbai based MBA programs and have been able to attract the cream of the crop. Our training is top-notch and the work involves in-depth fundamental analysis of companies. Outside of buy-side shops, we may be one of the best entry-level jobs around, if someone cares about what they will learn on the job. Clearly, young MBAs do.

At the middle manager level we recruit Analysts and Research Operations Managers. Our Analysts typically have an IIM or other top-tier (ISB is a good program) MBA and 5 years of experience in jobs where they have analyzed industries and companies – typically, management consulting, corporate strategy and equity research. Hiring this profile has been tougher but we are finding our groove as we grow and gain maturity. One of the advantages that we don’t have in India, which we would have in the US, is the advantage of being a startup. The pace of change, the excitement of doing something new, a collegial culture – a startup offers all these benefits for the entrepreneurial, bright sorts. This is pretty well understood in the US, especially in the Valley. The average mid-level employee in India wouldn’t mind such a work environment, but does not readily make the connection between it and a startup. Also, stock options are not terribly well understood. In spite of these early challenges, slowly but surely, we’re building a solid mid and senior management team in India.

Hiring in Technology hasn’t been easy at all. You would think that a company that was founded by ex-Infosys guys would at least pull in the techies. But that hasn’t been the case.

To be fair, we are looking for Product Managers, not techies really. Since Product Management is an almost unknown function in India – the IT Services industry swamps the Software industry, if you can call it that – we knew looking for Product Managers would be like looking for needles in a haystack. Instead, we started looking for IT managers with good business backgrounds. I don’t know if we are picky or not, but so far it’s been slim pickings.

The Product Manager’s job is actually quite interesting. You are shaping the technology product based upon what users want and your understanding of the solutions that technology can offer them. You’ll use your technology experience and will gain an in-depth understanding of the equity research business.

I don’t think the job is so much of the problem. The problem, I think is that to a bright rising IT manager in a growth industry a Product Manager’s job doesn’t look like anything familiar. It seems like too much of a different thing, a risk. ‘What will happen to my career if I do this Product Management thing for two years? Will they count it as relevant experience when I want to get a Delivery Manager/Business Manager job at Infosys/TCS/Wipro?’ Such doubts are bound to arise.

In a way, the job is self-selecting. To be interested in a Product Manager’s job, you have to be looking for more intellectual stimulation than you can get at your current job. You have to be entrepreneurial enough to take some risk. And you have to want to work in a small-company, open culture setting.

If you do, drop us a line. We are looking.

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17 Responses to Hiring in India

  1. Anon says:

    It’s a pity that the IT managers in India are not open to product management as a career. In my limited understanding it is much more challenging,satisfying and rewarding then the roles of delivery managers/project managers in service companies.

    Like

  2. Shreyasi says:

    This is Unique…thanks!
    May be some souls will come in looking for the aptly promised intellectual simulation.
    Apart from the tech guys, prospective Analysts also need to see the promise of learning, freedom and the blinding light (ESOPs)at the end of the ride!

    Like

  3. Saleel Panse says:

    Hi Basab,

    It was interesting to read your comments about hiring in India, especially about the risk taking ability of job seeking Indian techies and also about their understanding of the ‘startup’ concept. I think what Gridstone reseach requires is a helpful hand of a genuine Executive search consultant.

    I am sure you must have hired services of good recruitment agencies; but looking at what you need, I feel, you must go for a topclass headhunter.

    The product manager Job needs to be sold to the candidate before you interview him. The excitement of a startup needs to be created in his mind right at the first step by a good consultant. Ultimately this screening should help you to interview the top 4 shortlisted candidates for each position, who are keen to join you.

    Having worked in executive search field for the past 6 years with Ray & Berndtson (A top 5 global search firm) and having handled 3 startups in India, I feel we can deliver what you are looking for… It would be great to have your or Ramesh Gopalan’s co-ordinates.

    Regards,
    Saleel

    Like

  4. Neo says:

    hey cnt find ur latest post on Model for Indian IT services

    Like

  5. Old Hand says:

    Good points. I was hoping that after the critical mass of product offshoring companies (Persistent, Symphony) in India, we’ll have more talent in product mgt in India.

    But it now seems that the engineering-centric approaches these companies have taken have not nurtured their people on the product management side.

    An idea: How about getting a great senior product manager from the Valley and shipping her to India for 1-2 years purely with the aim of nurturing 2-3 future product managers (more like moulding).

    Like

  6. Adithan Karikalan says:

    I agree with you. Being a Product Manager myself, I find the job lot more satisfying than the run of the mill jobs that the IT services industry has to offer. But then I made my shift to Product Management while I worked in the US and it was just my luck that I landed in a similar job in India. I have also had a tough time to hire and train people in Product Management – it is just not easy to get someone with the background and mindset to be effective PMs.

    Thanks for this article.

    Like

  7. Satyajit Parekh says:

    Very interesting article. I am in total agreement with you when it comes to points you have raised about the dilemma in a young IT manager’s mind about entering product management.

    Though product management sounds interesting the doubts that you have mentioned definitely crop up. I thought you would have written about the future for a product manager’s career in a services-oriented industry. I am interested in knowing your views on the same.

    Satyajit

    Like

  8. Anuradha says:

    About 10-12 years back,when IT companies starting establishing in India, no II professionals (developers, analysts, Project Managers) existed, no schools churned them out, so the industry had to innovate its own ways of creating the IT population. They did it by having their own tarining programs which not only prvided skilld to the people but also contributed to the scalability of operations.
    Can product companies think on similiar lines, as number of people with Product Management experience in India is very limited and going forward the demand is going to increase with more and more product development outsourcing and offshoring happening.
    I like Grooming idea as well by Old Hand.

    -Anu

    Like

  9. Sameer says:

    It’s interesting to read that there are not many takers for PM roles.Perhaps one way to increase interest is to talk about the future benefits of being a Product Manager in charge of a product or product line.I see the role as being a much better stepping step to more strategic roles and general management roles and opportunity to diversify from there into product marketing,corporate business development etc.

    Perhaps adding a P&L twist to it if applicable and talking about the benefits above could draw more interest.

    Like

  10. Basab says:

    Some great ideas in the comments.

    @Old Hand, you are correct. Product Engineering doesn’t automatically provide the quals to go in for Product Mgmt which is more business oriented.

    I think the impetus for Prod mgt as a career will come from all the tech startups coming up in India.

    Like

  11. Sudhi says:

    I still feel that product management is in a very nascent phase having been working for a product company myself.We have been so engineering centric that recruitng product managers is a daunting task.We should look at more FMCG and manufacturing companies to fill in this demand.
    -Sudhi

    Like

  12. Anon says:

    Hello,

    I feel both sides are to blame for the lack of product managers in India. The US eco-cystem is very well developed to support product managers. Companies in the US value Product managers as an integral part of their long term strategy. Product Management salaries (which are quite high) are seen more as an investment rather than an expense. This is true for start-ups as well as matured companies.

    On the other hand, INdian companies or companies operating in India want to see immediate results from product managers. They do not understand the value product managers can add in the long term and hence are unwilling to meet salary demands of product managers. Infact, start-ups frequently state their lack of resources to fund product manager salaries. There are very few startups in India that are willing to shell out salaries to product managers because they understand the value in the longer run.

    As a result of this, product managers stick to companies that value them and seldom leave. Indian companies really need to change the way they think if they want to attract talented product managers. Salaries must be seen as an investment and not a short-term expense

    Like

  13. Arup Bhanja says:

    This is great! I like the idea that software product management is so respected a desig now. I am into my CFA and this inspires me to think that my future role as a product mgr in a financial software product/services company has not yet reached crticial mass and is well respected.

    Regards,
    Arup Bhanja
    ClearWater Tech.
    Bangalore

    Like

  14. aryan says:

    The Delhi High Court has dismissed the writ petition of CFA Institute. However, the detailed order is not yet available yet. Basically the situation is that the CFAI has lost this particular case. The detailed order should be available soon.

    Source: http://www.kprofessionals.com/phorum/read.php?8,1159

    Like

  15. Amita says:

    Basab – I begin from the beginning. “6AM Pacific” is a great name for a blog and quintessentially reflects the nature of your current and future posts.

    I am tasked to define the role of a PM (and hire one) in India – this actually led me to your wonderful site. I have a few comments on this post and a question – it would be great if you or anyone who is reading the blog answers.

    Comments:
    1. I have worked with Persistent Systems as outsourcing partners and it has been a great experience.
    2. I am from XLRI, Jamshedpur and it always cringes when people omit to mention XLRI in the same spirit as IIMs… I have great respect for my Alma Mater and people, you would do good, if you hire from XLRI as well 🙂

    Question:
    What should be the role and job description of Product Manager, if hired in India for a Product Company, based and having market in the US and Europe? What would be the key responsibilities that would keep them productively engaged?
    FYI – I am a Product Manager for the same company, based in the US – and to hire a PM is our approach to improve communication protocol. Is this a good scenario to even hire one PM in India?

    Long shot at that –
    Thanks,
    Amita

    Like

  16. anon says:

    I have been in Product Management for over 7 years — some years outside India. The reason Product Managers dont grow in India because US folks dont let them grow. They treat Indian Product Managers as clerks whose ideas can be stolen. This happens at all large companies. People who could be Directors of VPs of Product Management never get promoted in India — and they have no where to go because small companies cant pay properly or have wierd culture.

    Like

  17. Khanna says:

    Hi Basab,
    I am in total agreement with you when it comes to points you have raised about the dilemma in a young IT manager's mind about entering product management. As because growing in this product management is very difficult. So people are not showing interest here. Every body is trying go for project management.

    http://toostep.com/insight/product-manager-vs-pro

    Like

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