The Whys and Hows of Student Entrepreneurship

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak with a few aspiring entrepreneurs from my alma mater in Mumbai. The event was on the lines of Startup Weekend and was organised by a bunch of bright students from VJTI, Mumbai. Here’s their website. Now, it’s always a pleasure to be in the company of other entrepreneurs. This occasion, however, was special because it combined three things which hold an important place in my heart – entrepreneurship, starting early and VESIT.

Since what I had to say that day is what I feel strongly about, I decided to sum up the key points here. It would be interesting to know your views about this, so feel free to comment.

There are a few questions that keep popping up when I discuss startups and entrepreneurship with students. There are some ‘Whys’ and some ‘Hows’. Today, I will try to put forth my answers to these questions.

The WHYs

Why Entrepreneurship?
On two different levels, entrepreneurship is extremely important. On a macro level, entrepreneurs are the growth engines of a nation’s economy. Without enterprising businessmen, who dared to dream, huge industries like construction and shipping might not have been in existence. And without today’s startups, industries of the new economy would not be taking shape as you read this.
On a personal level, it has the potential to generate immense wealth for you and enable you to have a huge impact on the ecosystem – in terms of taxes, infrastructure and jobs. A huge payoff and creating lasting wealth in the long term is what every entrepreneur has the chance of achieving.

Why Me?
It has to be you – because you are brilliantly positioned to make a mark in the world of startups. You belong to a fabulous educational institution with teachers who can be good mentors, peers who can be amazing sounding boards and alumni who can be your stepping stones as you venture out. You have access to resources that others would give an arm and a leg for. You are also part of the age bracket where most of today’s early adopters and tommorrow’s highest spenders come from. You think and live like them and are thus best placed to design products and services that would appeal to them. In short, you have a crucial connect with the market.

Why Now?
As students, your brain is currently in a phase of discovery and innovation. Devoid of conditioning by a job routine, you can think up creative solutions to problems and needs. With time to spare after classes are over and a ready pool of talent and test customers, you can launch and iterate your startup quickly. And is there a downside? What if your startup fails? I can assure you that having the experience of launching and running your own startup will be an amazing addition to your resume.

Why Not?
There are some reasons why you should NOT pursue entrepreneurship. Do not launch a startup because it is ‘cool’ to do so. Do not do it because your friends are doing it and do not do it because you think you can do a better job of running a company than your next-door neighbour. The main reasons you should ‘do a startup’ is if you have the passion, ambition and drive to pursue a dream.

The HOWs

I have listed 6 steps that form the crux of how a startup should be launched and run. These are by no means the only steps involved nor does it mean that each startup has to pass through each step. Consider it a short checklist for your entrepreneurial journey.

  1. Ideate – An idea can be an epiphany or may be born out of a personal need or brainstorming. Think through your idea and be very clear about each aspect of it.
  2. Plan – Once your idea is in place, create a business plan. Your B-plan can be an elaborate 50-page document or a simple two-pager listing your significant objectives, strategies and milestones. The plan will help keep you focussed.
  3. Validate – You need to validate your idea and your plan. Do some market research through personal conversations and surveys; carry out test runs on small groups of users. Solicit feedback and really listen to what they have to say.
  4. Execute – Don’t get stuck in a vicious cycle of reading and planning. You need to get out and test the waters. Unless you execute and bring your idea to life, you will never know whether it will work or fail.
  5. Evaluate – Look at your plan periodically and check if your startup is meeting expectations. This will tell you if you are losing the way and need to re-focus your energies.
  6. Refine or Pivot – If your evaluation tells you that you are falling behind on your milestones, you have to work smarter and harder to make up for it. If, however, it keeps happening frequently, it might be time for your team to pivot to an idea more suited to you.

So, if you are a student who want to start up but is unsure, take a deep breath and go out and startup.

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The author is Director, Virtual Ladder HR Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and Founder – Jobs In A Jiffy. Views expressed are personal.

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Recruiters – A Better, Faster Interview

Dear Recruiter,

Do you go into an interview with a plan in your mind? Or do you just decide to wing it most of the times? If you are like most recruiters, you will have taken both approaches at some point of time. Think back to those occasions and try to recollect which interview went better and got you more insight in a shorter time!

Chances are very high that you will remember the planned interviews having been shorter and better. It has been observed that preparing for an interview for as little as 15 minutes can cut the interview duration by up to 60 minutes. So, if you want a more meaningful evaluation of an employee in a shorter interview, here are a few things you can do:-

  1. Split your job requirements into “Must-have” skills and “Good-to-have” skills. Go through the candidate’s resume and put a tick against all the tangible skills she has listed on her resume.
  2. Note down all the information that you need to collect to make a decision on whether to hire the candidate or not. This includes information about work skills, soft skills, location preferences, flexibility and salary requirements.
  3. Create the questions which will help you elicit this information. Remember, the key to getting more accurate information is to get the candidate to express his thoughts rather than give a simple Yes-No answer. Follow up the candidate’s answer with more questions if required to get specifics.
    Some examples of such open-ended questions are:-
    a. Please describe your relationship with your immediate boss
    Insight: Candidate’s initiative and need for supervision
    b. Please tell us about a hectic period of your job
    Insight: Candidate’s ability to multitask and handle stress

There is also a strong case for going beyond the resume to seek out the facets of the candidate’s personality which determine suitability for the job. This is especially true in the case of startups. That will be the subject of our next post on this blog.

If you have any more tips to make the interview shorter yet better, please comment and share with us.

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How Human Resources Will Rely More on Technology Now

The HR profession has seen a dramatic shift over the past few years. From the days of personnel management, HR has now become a significant ‘Board’ function. HR professionals are today looked upon to provide strategic business partnership and play key roles in developing better business leaders and shaping world-class organisations.

Here are five key trends prevailing in the human resource space today.

1. The changing face of HR talent

Gone are the days when HR was considered a ‘second option’ function vs marketing and finance. We now see some of the sharpest brains opting for a career in human resource management given the infinite opportunities to learn and excel.

The need for qualified HR professionals who are technology savvy and have sharp business acumen is on the rise. The tremendous insight and expertise that professionals with such backgrounds bring adds significant value to organisations.

There is however, a dearth of such professionals and institutions need to scale up to meet the shortfall of such qualified talent with solid HR related education too.

2. Increased use of technology

There is an increasing realisation that investing in better technology can help make HR more efficient and impactful. The focus of HR systems is evolving rapidly from mere employee databases to higher order human capital analytics.

From competency maps to career frameworks, training hours to employee engagement scores, HR systems today are expected to record thousands of bits of data and provide leading indicators of impact to business.

3. Leveraging social media

People management succeeds where there is free interaction and exchange of information and ideas. When social media is all the rage among the Gen-Y population, even the knowledge industry cannot be immune to its influence.

In addition to external social media like Facebook and Twitter, internal social media is also evolving.

Meetings will soon become passe as discussions can be held and decisions taken in online forums. In this age, social media can also be a great tool for HR professionals especially the area of talent acquisition for reaching out, connecting with and attracting great talent.

4. HR as a business partner

The HR business partner role will get more and more polished to be very specialised (which is contrary to the ‘generalist’ concept). She/he will be expected to very close to the business and it’s challenges and then provides solutions which will directly touch the business goals.

The competition from people from the business side of the house, interested in an HR career will increase.

5. Outsourced centers of excellence

As organisations evolve and increase focus on their core line of business, traditional centers of excellence functions like organisation development, learning and rewards are most likely to see increased outsourcing and external partnerships.

HR professionals wanting to specialise may find themselves opting for careers in HR consulting organisations rather than within the business organisations.

Author: Niketh Sundar – Head, Global HR, UST Global
Source: rediff.com

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Are you cut out for a startup job?

Working for a startup is more than just a job – it is a way of life.

Being an employee in a startup is not everybody’s cup of tea. Startups need employees of a particular mindset. Though it might be wrong to generalize and knowing that each startup job will have some unique requirements, I can at least list down some characteristics which are common to successful startup employees.

  1. Have No Fear
    A startup employee should be brave even before she joins a startup. It takes some amount of courage to forego a job at a more established company with a higher fixed salary and more security. Once she has started working in a startup, the same fearlessness has to be carried forward in all aspects. She should not be afraid to try new techniques and implement solutions at the risk of failing. Fear of failure is a sure recipe for a mediocre career in a startup.
  2. Take Initiative
    There will be no hand-holding in a startup. Somebody from the team will show the employee around once – but only once. She might be told what needs to be done, but no one will tell her how to do it. They assume that she either knows how to do it or will figure it out. She has to take the initiative to find out a way to get things done. She will also be appreciated for voicing her opinion and coming out with ideas to help the startup.
  3. Have The Drive
    Most startups will have impossible deadlines – the startup employee has to have enough passion and commitment to burn the mid-night oil, if required, in order to achieve the impossible. Doing this without complaints and maybe even enjoying it can be a bonus.
  4. No I in Team
    If the startup employee cannot gel with the rest of the (typically small) team, she will not find the environment very conducive to doing productive work. In a small team, even a single person who does not mesh with the rest is enough to cause an imbalance. So, she should ideally be friendly and have a personality that is easy to get along with.
  5. Be Perseverant
    A startup tends to do a lot of things wrong before getting it right. She should have the perseverance to stick to the cause, no matter what.

There are more characteristics that employees working in a startup should have, but these are the absolute essentials according to me. If you have more to share, feel free to comment.

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How to increase your car’s mileage

It’s really exasperating to see fuel prices skyrocketing, right? We can only feel helpless in the face of recurring and economy-driven price fluctuations.  Seeking measures to improve fuel economy is the only way to combat rising fuel prices. Hence, we decided to shift focus from our regular topics (courtesy Rediff) and shine the light on some easy tips to increase your car’s mileage.

Do not disregard these simple guidelines; each little step can really start adding up to significant savings to your budget.

car mileage

Check Tyre Pressure

Keeping the tyres well inflated is one of the simplest things you can do to help improve your car’s fuel efficiency. You can improve the mileage by about 3.3 percent if you keep your tyres inflated properly, according to the DOE.

Lighten Your Load

Empty out your trunk of unnecessary items. For every extra 45 kg you carry, your fuel efficiency can drop by 1-2% in a typical vehicle.

S-L-O-W D-O-W-N

The faster you drive, the more fuel you use. Driving within the speed limit recommended by the manufacturer helps save fuel. Driving just 10kmph over the speed limit can affect fuel economy by up to 23%. Likewise, quick acceleration consumes too much fuel; accelerate slowly and gradually.

Do Fuel Quality/Types/Additives Help Mileage?

Petrol pump attendants often try to convince you to go for ‘Speed petrol’ or ‘X-tra Mile diesel’. But this need not necessarily help improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Always use the grade recommended for the vehicle by the manufacturer. Higher octane fuel may not only be a waste of money but may harm the vehicle, as well. However sticking to one brand of fuel is always good for the engine.

Tune Your Engine

A well-tuned engine can improve fuel economy by up to 4%. So change your oil and follow your car manufacturer’s recommendation on servicing.

Clean the Air Filters Regularly

Air filters keep impurities from damaging your engine. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve fuel economy by as much as 10%.

Keep the Windows Closed

Driving with your windows open considerably reduces mileage, far more than keeping the AC on while driving along highways. So preferably keep the windows closed and the AC on if you want to keep cool. Of course the air-conditioning decreases fuel efficiency considerably, so use it judiciously. Windows down or A/C on — which is more fuel-efficient?

Clean Spark Plugs

Ensure your spark plugs are in good condition. Renew the plugs and wires at intervals specified by the manufacturer. This will keep all cylinders firing properly resulting in higher efficiency.

Don’t Be a Clutch-Driver

Never keep your foot on the clutch while driving. When you do this, pressure is being placed on your clutch, and it not only reduces mileage, but also wears out the clutch plate, replacing which is not cheap.

Keep the Car in Showroom Condition

It’s always prudent to keep the car in the showroom condition. Remember that any modification to the car, such as broad tyres, diffusers etc., will adversely affect the mileage.

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A Helping Hand in Patent-filing

We got this from a reliable source on a NASSCOM forum. It is a great initiative and much more needs to be done in this manner to give a boost to India’s knowledge economy.

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CDAC, with the support from Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India,  intends to assist SMEs for their inventions in ICT/electronics/computer/hardware/software domain in Patent Prior Art Search and invention analysis i.e. SMEs can be from any sector but its invention should be in ICT domain to avail this free assistance. The offer will be provided free of charge up to 31st March 2011.

Objective of this assistance is to motivate Indian SMEs to file more Indian and Foreign patents.

Prior art search is a pre-requisite for patent filing and helps:

  • In avoiding duplication of R&D efforts
  • Focussing R&D on specific issues
  • Updating the latest technologies in area of interst

In case you wish to avail this offer, please visit and register on www.ict-ipr.cdac.in or write to Mr. R Y Deshpande ( Head Legal Contracts & Quality – CDAC) ryd@cdac.in for further information. He is based out of Pune office at Pune University Campus, Ganeshkhind, Pune – 411 007. Ph: 020 – 2570 4100 www.cdac.in

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Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New

If you are actively looking for a job, a new year can be a fresh beginning. Many job seekers are disheartened or upset with the lack of results and it is easy to understand why. It is a tough process.

Unfortunately, a prolonged job search can cause resentment about the search itself. And then, you’re in a downward spiral as the bad attitude can dictate a poor performance.

So how does one break out of the viscous circle?

You must try something different. You must begin with a positive attitude and see the new year as a fresh start. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of this before. But ultimately, you control more of your destiny than you might think. You have to be the one to make something good happen.

Here are some things to think about as you progress your search in 2011.

Changes

Consider first what worked for you in 2010. What sources led to job interviews? What parts of your network led to warm leads for jobs? What efforts led to nowhere? Take inventory of your tactics and put more time into the effective ones. Also, consider new tactics you’re not sure about.

Motivation

Know that 2011 is already looking better than 2010 in the employment world and your chances for success may increase with the right motivation. To be actively motivated means setting goals for yourself (how many hours of each activity should you plan for?) It also means, no looking back. Learn from the past, but then move on.

Focus

Not only focus on the tactics that work, but make your job search laser-tuned to the jobs where you have more than 75% of the qualifications. With so many applicants, you are wasting your time (and potentially damaging your reputation) by applying to any job you see as a remote match.

Resumes and Interviews

Have you asked friends or colleagues to critique your resume? Have you had mock interviews to see how you present yourself? You might be surprised to find you come off as “too confident.” Or that your resume does not adequately showcase your strengths. I’ve read some crazy comments about “only pretty people getting the job.” Appearance does count, but mainly in how you present yourself — your interview attire, your demeanor, your attitude, and your preparation count a lot more than you might think.

Dedication

Lastly, be honest with yourself when it comes to dedication. How much time are you putting into the search? A job search can be a full time job. Certainly it must take a high priority over time-consuming hobbies. Build a plan by outlining resources to research and key people to contact. And create a schedule, too. If you get discouraged, share your concerns with a few trusted friends who can offer good advice.

Bottom line

I know it’s tough. Many folks with careers longer than 20 years have been through it, or have a significant other who has. Setting expectations that it will be a longer process than we’d like may help to keep you in check. Remember, a creative strategy, tenacity, and proper attitude are all critical to having a productive job search in 2011.

(Article Courtesy: Jeff Lipcshultz)

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In The News

It’s always a nice feeling when your efforts get recognized. And it feels even better if the recognition helps spread the word about a good cause. So, it came as a pleasant surprise for us when the wonderful article carried by Rediff gave out details about Jobs In A Jiffy and also mentioned the cause of creating an ecosystem for startups and startup employees.

You can read the article at http://bit.ly/JobsInAJiffy

 

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SME Hiring Scales New Peaks

(Article courtesy SME Buzz @ Bizxchange)

Small companies worldwide are more prepared to take the gamble for growth and hire new staff than larger companies

Indian SMEs are getting back to their hiring ways. A survey by workplace solutions provider Regus says that Indian entrepreneurs are more bullish on economic growth than their global counterparts and are expected to be on a hiring spree over the next six months. In the survey which spanned over 5,000 entrepreneurs across 78 countries, 40% of Indian entrepreneurs surveyed said they plan to go on a hiring spree in the next six months as compared to 36% global entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurs worldwide are more prepared to take the gamble for growth and hire new staff than larger companies,” the survey noted.

A survey done by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) last month also pointed out that employment prospects in SMEs look bright with a Business Confidence Index value of 73.6. The overall Business Confidence Index (BCI) of SMEs for quarter October-December 2010 is estimated at 67.0 on a scale of 0-100 (from most unfavourable to the most favourable change in the outlook). This is an improvement from the BCI of last quarter estimated at 65.6.Interestingly, the Regus survey says that small and medium enterprises are becoming more flexible about their employees’ working location and willing to employ them even from smaller places in order to secure top talent. In India, 78% of businesses are flexible about their employees working location, net 37% intend to add staff, and fully 60% of businesses plan to hire mothers returning to the workforce. While globally, the survey found that SMEs are more likely to be flexible about work location (76%) than overall businesses (66%). “Rather than cutting human resources, SMEs are choosing to increase flexibility of location and reduce fixed office space in order to attract and reward top staff who will benefit from working closer to home,” Regus Country Head Madhusudan Thakur said.

Given that in India, SMEs account for 45% of industrial output, employ over 60 million people and are expected to contribute 22% to the growth of the economy by 2012, the hiring plan will have strong implications on the country’s economy. “India can boast more positive indicators than some other regions, and micro, small and medium enterprises, accounting for almost 80% of employment and 35% of exports, show strong signs that they do not intend to step out of the limelight once the full momentum of the recovery begins,” Thakur added.

In Europe, a net 7% and 4% of British and German entrepreneurs respectively recorded a rise in profits alongside increased revenues. Entrepreneurial growth is also, unsurprisingly, taking place in China and India where a net 8% and 22% net of companies have turned increasing profit in the past 12 months. While in India 36% net of entrepreneurs experienced revenue growth, in China this was true of a slightly lower net 22% of companies.

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Looking for a tech startup job – What should your resume say?

Programming is best done solo

Tag-team Programming!

Are you a software developer applying to a small company? Here’s a tip on what to put on your resume. When you’re applying to a startup, or a small software company, you may want to highlight the coding parts of your experience, while downplaying the managerial parts of your experience. When a startup CTO sees a resume that says things like:

* Architected new ERP platform

* Managed team of 25 developers

* Optimized business processes

* Overall in-charge of project documentation

He thinks, “We do not need somebody to manage people or optimize processes, we just need someone who can write good code.” Here’s the stuff CTOs at startups want to see on a resume:

* Developed robust 100,000 threadsafe C++ lines of code

* Contributed to kernel development

* Wrote almost 75% of the ASP code on previous project

If you’ve been working in a large company for a long time, working your way up from being a coder or programmer to now being a Vice President of some sorts, and you like the meetings and travel and seminars, and are not too keen on coding, you could now be thinking of jumping onto a cool new startup. So you send your resume with your ERP, SAP and Vice President stuff to the startup, and it will get you nowhere. Startups just don’t have those kind of VP jobs, and the few VPs they have are the founders and a key early hire or two.

And startups certainly don’t need extra middle managers. To a startup founder, middle managers are like an added expense without more code getting written and better products being developed, and the only thing they really need is

* code to be written, and

* customers to be contacted on email/telephone.

A lot of candidates tend to slightly overemphasize the management/leadership/“architect” parts of their jobs, and slightly down-play the coding parts of it. That might work fine if you want to land yourself a management position at a big company. But for startups, everything about your resume has to indicate your willingness to get your own hands dirty. Otherwise your resume makes you out to be looking for the kind of job where you can call meetings that take people away from coding all day long – exactly the sort of meetings which can sound the death-knell for a startup.

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