Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

'Work from home won't kill the office': Vikram Ahuja of Talent500

Ahuja, co-founder of talent acquisition firm Talent500 by ANSR, says that this may be a good time for bold companies to hire, since a lot of good talent has been laid off; 'fishing in troubled waters could give you the best catch'

Rajiv Singh
Published: Jun 11, 2020 11:55:54 AM IST
Updated: Jun 11, 2020 12:03:28 PM IST

Vikram Ahuja, co-founder of Talent500

In a post-Covid era, the definition of work has changed. Vikram Ahuja, co-founder of Talent500 by ANSR, a talent acquisition firm for Fortune 500 companies, says, “Talent will demand flexibility. Enterprises will need to consider multiple models to engage top talent, from full-time to project based gigs.”

Ahuja reckons that ‘work from home’ is not going to kill the office. While many companies have taken conservative approaches, cancelling hiring plans, bold and ambitious ones are going on the offensive by investing in talent with the objective of true innovation in adversity. “At times, fishing in troubled waters gives you the best catch,” he says. Edited excerpts from an interview with Forbes India:

Q. When the word on the street is F (firing), how are you dealing with H (hiring)?
Due to Covid-19, the impact on hiring has been mixed. While some companies have transitioned to remote hiring and video interviews, others have completely put their plans on hold while monitoring developments. Interestingly, a few companies have ramped up hiring.

Hires of a strategic nature, as opposed to tactical ones, are continuing, giving us a strong outlook in the long run. Currently, we have 1,000+ open positions at various levels and for various roles. This includes full stack engineers, front end engineers, quality analysts, data scientists, data analysts, SAP specialists and many more.

Q. Is this the best time to hire talent?
Covid-19 has been unprecedented for governments, companies and people. Most companies, regardless of size, are in survival mode. At Talent500, we have seen more than an 80 percent jump in the number of assessed candidates since lockdown. The economic downturn has increased layoffs, particularly in the startup space. This has led to an increased supply of top talent. Our ability to continue offering exclusive opportunities that pay higher than the market standard has seen a tremendous uptake from the industry.

While some clients have frozen hiring, others share our silver lining view that this is the best time to capture top talent and start innovating. Bold, long-term thinking is necessary to come out of this situation on the front-foot. We are hiring for clients within the CPG (consumer packaged goods), supermarket retail, fashion retail, banking, fintech and automotive sectors. We are also recruiting for non-tech roles within procurement, finance and accounting. Most roles require between 2-7 years of experience. However, there are a those with 8+ years of experience too.

Q. What’s your advice to people who are getting pink slips? How long do you reckon this gloom and doom will last?
Losing a job is never easy, especially in an uncertain environment like this.

Our advice is to treat this time productively and use it as an opportunity to upskill. We have noticed many folks jump into open-source projects or associate themselves with community-led projects. At the same time, there are still companies that continue to hire, and we encourage people to think about what they may be the best fit for.

Covid-19 has presented so many twists and turns that it is impossible to predict how things will play out. We anticipate a 6-12 month recovery at least.

Q. How has the pandemic changed the meaning of 'office'?
For the moment, home is the new office. There is no alternative. Regarding the future, the truth is that we don’t know. That does not mean we cannot prepare for any potential outcome. The way offices are built and used will change, but offices will not go away completely.

Simultaneously, enterprises have recognised that home is a viable option and provides some productivity benefits. We think companies will post-evaluate the cost-efficiency, productivity and practicality of office vs. work from home and implement new structures accordingly. A hybrid model is what seems to be most expected.

Certain sectors such as manufacturing, F&B, hospitality and retail require physical presence, and there is not much room for adjustment. However, in tech, the question looms now more than ever on whether an office is required at all. Nothing can replicate physical collaboration, especially when innovating, but the show must go on and we must adapt.

Pre-Covid, top tech talent was largely sourced from metro cities and the vast majority previously employed by mid-to-large cap companies. However, we believe as companies open up to remote and virtual work in the future, talent will emerge from tier-II and III cities as well. Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Gurgaon are probably the top three cities today for tech talent.