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New is Now.

In the recent inauguration of the Bengaluru Tech Summit, Mr. Narendra Modi said that our governance model is Tech-First. 

The tech adoption rate has been the highest during the pandemic, forcing people to forgo usual tasks and work online. This phase has been called “the quickening” where a decade’s worth of tech adoption happened in 6 months. With sectors such as education, retail, and finance going online, it’s been a great boost for the country with respect to technology.

According to Narendra Modi, India is at a very advantageous stage where we can create technology solutions in India which can then be deployed throughout the world. India has good technologists with the ability to find solutions. One of the most beneficial of these advancements were farmers and families in rural areas, who were able to order necessities at the click of a button.

With the mitigation of compliance with regards to the IT sector, it will be easier for India to deploy its solutions to different parts of the world. The theme of the tech summit is “Next is now”. Modi said that it was only fitting that technology was aiding with the organizing of this event. In the inauguration, the PM also spoke about the importance of technology in the Indian government, and the benefits it has yielded for everyone, and how Indian technologists will keep yielding benefits for themselves and everyone related to them.

Technology has already become a huge part of our day to day life and it will only make life easier for us. Improved technology requires the best minds to come together and find solutions. And thereby calling for the fortification of tech teams. Without great tech leaders with visions, there is no scope for improvement. This means every company will look for tech leaders as CTO’s will be indispensable for an organization to thrive.

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ESOP Buyback

With employees working hard despite the slump in business due to the pandemic, companies like Unacademy, Zerodha, Meesho offered the ESOP buyback options to their employees as a way of showing their gratitude as well as incentivize them. ESOP is a way of letting employees know that they are a part of the company and it motivates them to work smarter.

What is ESOP buyback?

Under an ESOP buyback, employees holding vested ESOPs can sell their ESOPs to their company or employer. Startup companies may choose to buy back the ESOPs at a premium under specific instances. Employees get a chance to share the rich valuations and feel rewarded for their continued commitment. The buyback creates wealth for both the employer and employee.

Buybacks can easily be called a method of employee compensation by startups. The scheme is offered to improve pay packages thereby ensuring a higher employee retention rate, which is the biggest challenge faced by many startups today. 

Two of our clients- PharmEasy and Swiggy have announced that they will be buying back their stocks from the employees as a way to support their families and as a way to deal with the operational losses caused by COVID -19. 

Leading Health-Tech brand, PharmEasy has decided to buy back the stocks for around $3 million. With the competition increasing in the sector, with Amazon and Reliance entering the market, PharmEasy is using this as a wa`y to inculcate confidence within its employees. The buyback will benefit the early employees majorly. In the latest funding round in November 2019, PharmEasy raised $220 Million.

With FoodTech getting back to their feet after the lockdowns, Swiggy says that they’ve recovered by 80% with the food delivery services. To incentivize the employees, they will also be introducing the ESOP Buyback options. The buyback will benefit both current and former employees of the company. Some of them may profit about 3x from the initial price. 

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Technology is the way forward: A look at Sequoia’s $1.35bn investment in India

Sequoia Capital India raised $1.35 billion across two rounds of funding for India and SEA, $525m for venture funds, and $825m for growth funds. In the past, they’ve made more than 200 investments in both India and SEA. With the Indian market and entrepreneurs proving themselves, Sequoia Capital India has been able to raise these funds for India and SEA, hoping that their returns are mutually beneficial. As per CB Insights, Sequoia Capital India invested in 80 startups in 2019 alone, in various funding stages including seeding and the other funding levels.

Another change that we’re seeing is that people are more willing to invest in startups after seeing the success of startups in India, the major cities being Bengaluru, NCR Gurgaon, and Mumbai. The most successful startups in India include Flipkart which was bought by Walmart for a value of $16b, and other notable startups from India are Ola, Swiggy, Zomato, Paytm, BYJU’s, and OYO, which are considered to be unicorns.

According to an article from Wharton, Entrepreneurship is embedded in India’s culture and economics. It might not have been technology-related but it only took the first wave for it to focus on technology. And that the last decade has seen a significant rise on many fronts such as startups, investment rounds, global investors, and internationalization. 

But, now there are other factors to be considered due to the pandemic. These are times when the business models are going to be tested. They want assurance that their investments will reap rewards. Investors and CEO’s are forced to introspect and calculate the unit economics in such a volatile market where cashflow is less and businesses are slow. When startups grow, it is difficult to measure their business at a large scale and the essence of business growth is unit economics.  Simply put, it is the cost price and the returns from the acquisition. Given the situation of the pandemic where the businesses are losing out on revenues, it has become non-negotiable especially for startups to measure the ROI and spend/invest money smartly to ensure maximum customer retention and revenue.

 But, the major reasons for this decision could be COVID which is going to expand tech business in the Asian market as companies are forced to digitize, also because Chinese apps and products are slowly being removed from the market and to match the manufacturing processes and to meet consumer demands and requirements, technology needs to be improved. Another reason could be visa restrictions which might cause the repatriation, and as per  ET, with the lockdown, and the recruitment of IIM and IIT graduates being a little hazy, they would rather start a company of their own than risk being repatriated. Risks are high in both, but at least startups have more hope than with the way things are going in the other end of the world. 

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Episode 13- Abhinav Yajurvedi, Tech and Product, PharmEasy

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Episode 12- Nitin Gupta, Head of Product and Engineering, Milkbasket

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Episode 11- Sriram V Iyer, VP Engineering, Flipkart

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Episode 10- Dimi Taslim, Investor, GGV Capital

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Episode 9 – Vishwanath Ramarao, Chief Technology and Product Officer, Acko

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Episode 8 – Viraj Chatterjee, Director, Last Mile Technologies, Amazon

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What skills will see an increased demand post COVID?

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the horizon, it is important to invest not just in innovations but also in people who understand technology. With AI and automation on the rise, developing software is just as important as understanding them. Many employees will need to reskill and upskill based on their job requirements to stay relevant to the market.

There were mass layoffs when COVID happened. People were not sure if they’d continue having their jobs or not. But while some industries were firing, some were hiring. Especially tech professionals, after the shift of most businesses to the online platform. Along with software developers, the cybersecurity field, cloud and infrastructure, and data science fields were hiring. Even before COVID-19, the skill requirement of major companies was changing. The pandemic has simply forced people to evaluate their business models and the skills expected by their employers for future business purposes and to accelerate digitization. 

According to an article from McKinsey, employees will need four sets of skills that could help to lay a business’ foundation. They are digital, cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptability and resilience skills. The pandemic has escalated the desperate need for digital professional skillsets to help companies integrate themselves with the various technologies and platforms of today. Companies are also looking for people who can take initiatives, look at the broader picture, and sustain the business from any part of the world.

Many businesses have moved to the digital space, and hence, the employability of candidates with digital skills seem to be the highest. But it is not the only skill employers are looking for. They want candidates with other skills such as leadership skills, creativity, innovation, and adaptability. Because of the inability to conduct personal interviews, the ability to articulate and express themselves makes communication an important skill. With most of the companies now looking towards a hybrid remote-working future, these skills are going to be the most in-demand.

According to an article in Forbes, the work assigned to the employees must be as independent as possible because Work From Home does not ideally mean standard working hours, good connection, and a WFH setup. So, the skills that will essentially be required would be basic technical skills, leadership, and communication skills. Digitization has increased the demand for technical skills and analytical skills, as the consumers now prefer online products and services rather than offline experiences and hence more data is available for the analysis.

Demand for both “digital” and “human” factors drives growth in potential occupations. In parallel, seven main professional clusters are emerging. These represent, on the one hand, the adoption of emerging technologies — increasing demand for green economy jobs, leading positions in the data and AI economy, as well as new roles in engineering, cloud computing, and product growth. On the other hand, the ongoing importance of human interaction in the modern economy is also expressed in developing occupations, giving rise to greater demand for employment in the care economy; positions in marketing, sales, and content production; as well as positions at the forefront of people and culture. Indeed, the future of work highlights the need for a wide range of skills to complement these career opportunities, including both disruptive technological skills, but also advanced industry skills and core business skills.

In the Post- COVID scenario, the highest-demand skills will include both technological and cross-functional skills. Growing demand for high-growth careers has further driven the value of a range of distinctive skill sets which promise growth and prosperity in the new economy. While some technical clusters, such as Data and AI and Engineering and Cloud Computing, require strong expertise in digital technology, other high-growth careers place greater focus on business skills or specific industry skills. These in-demand skills can be categorized into five distinct skill clusters: Business Skills, Specialized Industry Skills, General and Soft Skills, Tech Baseline Skills, and Tech Disruptive Skills.

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Episode 7 – Santanu Bhattacharya, Chief Data Scientist, airtel X Labs