Coronavirus outbreak: These companies are hiring robustly amid lockdown

Updated: Jun 14, 2020, 08:40 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan | Mumbai

It's not lay-off season everywhere. The pandemic has led to growth and expansion for some, and online grocers, ed-tech firms and fantasy sports and commerce are looking at a bright future

Grofers, the Indian e-grocery platform, has hired over 3,000 people for their supply chain operations, and plans to hire another 2,000 warehouse and delivery staff in the coming months after seeing 64 per cent new first-time online shoppers during the lockdown and after
Grofers, the Indian e-grocery platform, has hired over 3,000 people for their supply chain operations, and plans to hire another 2,000 warehouse and delivery staff in the coming months after seeing 64 per cent new first-time online shoppers during the lockdown and after

EVER since the economy went into an almost total shutdown, thanks to the Coronavirus-induced lockdown, companies across the country, and well the world, have been announcing layoffs and salary cuts in a bid to keep afloat. As per reports, the NaukriJobSpeak Index for May 2020, marked a 61 per cent decline in hiring activity as compared to May 2019. It marked the second consecutive month where the hiring activity registered a dip of more than 60 per cent.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that some industries have, in fact, remained steady if not seen a growth during this period and are hiring rather robustly. A post on LinkedIn, by one of its editors, lists companies such as Amazon, Dunzo, insurers, and Grofers and Big Basket, among edtech firms such as Whitehat Jr, Unacademy, Simplilearn and Vedantu, who are planning to, or have already hired across positions during the lockdown and will continue to do so through the year.

Karan
Karan Bajaj

Karan Bajaj, founder and CEO at Whitehat Jr, a Mumbai-based edtech startup that focuses on teaching coding to young kids, says his 18-month-old company, had been doing well before the lockdown was announced. "We were growing at 60 per cent per month in India and 100 per cent per month in the US. During the lockdown, that jumped to 100 per cent in India and 150 per cent in the US," he adds. While the company has been on a growth trajectory, he attributes the surge to the fact that education technology is in demand now, and with their teachers and students operating on cloud, this is a proposition that fits. And so, with an employee strength of 300 before the lockdown, they have now increased to 800 to 900 people and are looking at hiring around 2,000 employees and another 2,000 freelance teachers to teach on the platform. "They don't have to have a teaching background. Just be warm, engaging and interesting with a strong background in the logic field i.e. maths, science and like to spend time with kids." The money, isn't bad either. Bajaj says by the third month, a freelance teacher can earn anywhere between R6 lakh to R25 lakh annually, depending on time spent on the platform.

A Whitehat Jr teacher and student during a session. The 18-month-old firm which had 300 employees pre-lockdown has now grown to 800-900 employees
A Whitehat Jr teacher and student during a session. The 18-month-old firm which had 300 employees pre-lockdown has now grown to 800-900 employees

It's not just edtech platforms that have seen a growth, but sporting firms such as Dream Sports are also looking at increasing their staff strength. "We are looking at roles mainly in tech domain such as software development, data science and also in design, product, finance, legal, HR and marketing," says Kevin Freitas, CHRO, Dream Sports. Freitas says that while most of the 250 people that the firm plans to hire will be for their brand Dream11, some will also be for their other brands like FanCode and DreamX. Founded in 2008, by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth, Dream Sports is a Sports Technology company focused on making sports better by providing multiple avenues for fans to deeply engage with the sports they love through fantasy sports, live streaming, specialised content, commerce, experiences and events, among others.

Kevin Freitas
Kevin Freitas

While the firm that already hired in 75 positions during the lockdown, and a batch of freshers from IIT will be joining in July, the other positions they are looking at are experienced hires. "These are unprecedented times and sports fans are unable to get any live sporting action. Through Dream11 and FanCode, while we offer sports such as cricket, football, basketball, kabaddi etc, we have recently added handball and baseball for Indian fans during the lockdown and a bunch of longtail sporting events."

On being asked whether now would be a good time to expand, considering other firms and industries are being conservative, Freitas says, "We are a data focused company and have observed our consumption patterns in the past. Sports is coming back and demand is going to peak. And we want to be ready to meet this demand."
Albinder Dhindsa, CEO and co-founder, Grofers, says, over the last two months the e-grocery platform has hired over 3,000 people for their supply chain operations, and plans to hire another 2,000 warehouse and delivery staff in the coming months. Grofers is an Indian online grocery delivery service founded in December 2013 based out of Gurugram and allows customers to order supermarket supplies via their site and app across locations.

Amin Rozani
Amin Rozani

"We saw an unprecedented surge in demand during the lockdown, which we expect to stabilise at 30 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels. There has also been a 40 per cent increase in basket size now as compared to the pre-COVID era. To meet this surge, we ramped up our supply chain, hired more staff, and have been ensuring the availability of sufficient stocks from our brand partners."

On how consumer behaviour has changed, leading to this growth, he adds, "We expect to see a lot more consumers shift to online shopping for home delivery of groceries as social distancing is going to remain a norm. We are seeing 64 per cent first-time online grocery shoppers and 15 per cent first time online shoppers."

Not just are some companies hiring new people, but they are also seeing increments as per standard. Spartan Poker, an online gaming platform that was started in 2015, had a team of 80 pre-lockdown. Since March 24, they have hired two people and hope to hire another 15 soon. Talking of their expansion during the last few months, founder and managing director Amin Rozani, says, "Digital platforms and online gaming have seen a spurt in terms of volume. And so, we are evolving and upscaling skilled resources in customer service and marketing. While we haven't on purpose hired those who have lost their jobs in the lockdown, this has happened organically.

We are also creating poker-like platforms for games such as rummy and are looking for people who can help us initiate these projects."

He adds that 50 per cent of these resources have been hired from outside Mumbai. "The good part of being a digital platform is that it gives us the flexibility to hire from any city or state, and even from outside the country, though we haven't exercised that option yet."

Mohit Gundecha
Mohit Gundecha

In fact, it is this flexibility of being able to work from anywhere that is going to define the hiring process over the next few years, says Mohit Gundecha, co-founder and CEO of the Pune-based Jombay, a virtual assessment centre and digital learning company.

"In the last 100 days, three-four prominent trends have emerged. Multiple companies are announcing a movement towards work-from-anywhere and this will change the world significantly. Second, the brick and mortar world of retailing is transforming. People are not going to try a shirt someone else has tried before. And, third, the wine and dine style of selling and relationship management will change. Human behaviour and personal and professional aspirations are transforming. People are reconsidering their spending habits: how much time do I spend with family, do I need so many domestic helps and drivers? And so, the digital adoption that companies had planned to do in five years, they will have to do in six months. And companies that are strong digitally-enabled will do well.

"In our case, for instance, there has been an increase in demands for virtual assessment centres as opposed to people meeting candidates in person. Even those who prefer in-person meetings have now been forced to do virtual assessments. Education, retail, corporate training, assessment, software providers for sales management and enablement will be required as the customer may no longer walk into a shop for some time. And those who can enable technology across all functions such as HR, marketing and sales will be needed. The next trend will be selling from anywhere. If you no longer have to be present to sell, companies will no longer need to hire someone for $1,00,000 in the US, when they will be able to hire someone here at $30,000. Such areas will also see a growth."

Trends emerging in lockdown

  • Movement towards work-from-anywhere.
  • The brick and mortar world of retailing is transforming.
  • The wine and dine style of selling and relationship management is changing.
  • Human behaviour, personal and professional aspirations are transforming.
  • People are reconsidering their spending habits.

Mohit Gundecha, Co-founder and CEO, Jombay

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