Here’s why employees are no longer happy at startups

Source | The Times Of India : By Rahul Sachitanand & Rajiv Singh

It took Deepu Raina five long years to realise the professional blunder she had committed by flagging off her career with a startup. “I regret every moment of it,” rues the 27-year-old, who “wasted” five years of her life working in a Gurgaon-based ecommerce firm.

Initially — the first three-and-a-half years — everything was picture-perfect. Salaries were credited on time, work culture was fun and exciting, quite unlike the “boring” traditional sectors where some of her friends were working, and there was enough time for oneself, recalls Raina.

Then, suddenly things started going wrong from the second half of 2014. Salarieswere delayed, initially by a few days, then weeks and finally things came to such a pass that her last salary was delayed by two months last year. “I was under tremendous stress,” she recounts. “My personal life and career suffered.”

Raina says that it was not just salary delays and pay cuts that demoralised her and stressed her out to the point of burnout. Glaring absence of any employee benefits such as provident fund or medical insurance, unrealistic expectations (working on Sundays is just one instance) and a lack of organisational structure only added to the strain.

“Excessively long working hours were taking a toll on my family life and health,” she says, adding that an uncertain funding environment made matters worse. “Even the founders didn’t know if the next round of funding would happen,” she adds. Ask her if she would go back to a startup — and Raina sounds livid. “It might be a golden (opportunity) for founders, not for employees,” she says. “I will never go back.”

Welcome to the new — and tougher — world of startups in India. Compared with the sunshine days of 2014 and ’15, when wide-eyed investors and entrepreneurs couldn’t have enough of each other, the mood has soured in the last three to six months. As investors have tightened their purse strings and put profitability ahead of profligacy, many ventures have felt the heat.

While the rough-and-tumble of working in mida startup was a given, that supercharged atmosphere has increasingly given way to stress-laden offices and employees and employers have struggled to deal with this new normal.

The startup stardust that built up over the last couple of years has also worn off. As leading lights such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola and Zomato have pared jobs, seen valuations fall and shut parts of their businesses, the allure of working in this ecosystem has dulled. For those already in it, keeping one’s head above water at this difficult time has become paramount.

“Two years ago, it felt like the sky was the limit,” says Geeta Singh, a 25-year-old customer relations manager with a boutique travel venture in Bengaluru. “Now, I’m happy to have a job and my salary on time.” She’s seen almost her entire department leave and her employer make noncommittal noises about the future of the business.

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