Have A Failed Startup? Let It Shine On Your CV

By Himani Chandna Hindustan Times, New Delhi

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Don't be so ashamed by that big idea that didn't pan out. You may be kicking yourself over the fact that your startup failed but many people (specifically hiring managers at other companies) see courage, strength and creativity in your effort to succeed.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Four years ago, Suyog Agrawal quit his job as a research analyst to launch his own food startup, Zodiac Foods. However, reaching break-even seemed a distant dream in spite of all the effort he could make and investment he could muster.

"Considering my personal responsibilities, I decided to find a job," says Agrawal.

In no time he found one with Genpact. "A reference in my resume to the startup that failed did not subject me to embarrassing or demeaning questions," Agrawal says.

Genpact, a modern company and one of the pioneers of the business process outsourcing revolution in India, is not alone in valuing people with failed startups on their resume. Dabur, Book My Show, Paytm, Godrej and RPG Group are hunting for ex-entrepreneurs, whom they find to be highly-skilled, self-motivated, and creative, with good salesmanship and networking skills.

These companies say they receive 10 to 15 resumes every quarter from candidates with failed startups on their resumes. They do not need to hide the failure because recruiters have come to realize they transformed a concept into reality, and would have learned something along the way.

"Personally, I am fond of such candidates. They are mature, and the best thing is they know what not to do," says Supratik Bhattacharyya, vice-president, talent management, at RPG Enterprises.

Multinational technology giant IBM seeks out these candidates. It just hired one whose firm was working on internet and analytics solutions using open-source technology. "We were looking for a senior executive with domain strength in analytics. His entrepreneurial experience made him the apt choice for this role," says Dilpreet Singh, vice-president, HR, at IBM India and South Asia.

Then, of course, there are startups that are keen to hire people with failed startups. And it is not just about the brotherhood of entrepreneurship. The hiring startups believe the failure would have taught critical lessons in what not to do.

Ankur Anand, who heads experience and marketing at co-working space provider InstaOffice, had failed twice as an entrepreneur, first with a B2B marketplace for coffee, and then a travel startup. Says Vikas Lakhani, co-founder, InstaOffice: "Ankur had underestimated the need for resources, which hampered his ability to execute. But he had developed a knack for deconstructing problems and defining a solution into a list of actionable items. It's critical for us to be able to maintain a certain level of standardization in the experience across our spaces."

Even a company like Deloitte, an audit and consulting firm that values specialization, likes entrepreneurs, even failed ones, for their felicity with mixed roles. "I have hired several entrepreneurs who failed. They are like sharks in fish tanks. These guys, by nature, are disruptive and flexible, and have strong communication skills. People around startup guys in a traditional organization get to learn a lot from them," says SV Nathan, chief talent officer at Deloitte India.

All these companies hire failed entrepreneurs knowing that they may not hang around for long. Once they have tasted entrepreneurship, they are likely to try it again. But while they are around, they teach others the value of resources, and leave behind invaluable ideas. The challenge for the employer is to match their aspirations. "We are predisposed towards such employees, but it also involves the risk of losing them as they always have the desire to build a great company on their own," says a spokesperson for Paytm.

However, it is not all rosy for failed entrepreneurs. For all the attractiveness of their maturity and their ideas, employers are stingy in paying them. "Most of the organizations hire them at their existing salaries, with average increments ranging between zero to 10%," says Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of Teamlease Services, the staffing firm.

Additional reporting by Rozelle Laha

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