Author Archive for Mrityunjay Kumar

Is performance management an issue for startups?

This is performance review time (at least in US) and I have been posting about my thoughts on these on my blog. One of the topics that I deal with regularly is the need to grow the engineers and managers reporting to me to the next level, in a way manage their career according to my company’s needs but keeping their personal needs in mind. Having been in India office for my company for 4 years, I know companies of size >100 or so try their best to hire managers who are/can be people managers and keep that an important criteria for promotion and hiring. And I have seen benefits of doing(and perils of not doing) that because that helps us grow leads and managers from within the organization and provides better succession planning at all levels.

However, I am wondering if this is a problem for companies of size 1-100. In other words, are topics like ‘performance management’, ‘succession planning’, ‘leadership development’, ‘growing from within’ pertinent for companies of this size? If they are not, is it because the effects are not visible, or is it that the size of the company allows these problems to be solved in some very different ways (town hall meetings as communication mechanism, etc)? Has anyone faced any of these problems in companies of size < 100?

Career/Talent Management for individuals

One of the thought process I have been going through ever since I posted my previous (and only) post in June ’07(giving back to society in the area of education) is the notion of career/talent management for individual careers in Indian companies. Particularly, the fact that if you look at the talent lifecycle of an individual from start (say class X) to when he/she retires, there are may phases where right intervention in the form of counseling, training, education, or placement can make the difference between a great career and a mediocre one. In my mind, this will require an integrated ecosystem of career counseling, education systems (formal, vocational, short-term courses) and placement services. I have been blogging about it on my blog site and the first post describes these initial thought processes. Sanjoy had a different definition of career management here if you want to compare these two definitions.

After those initial thoughts, I have been spending time in understanding what these individual segments of industry in India are doing towards such an integrated eco-system and I am surprised by the data I have got (based primarily on internet search since I am currently in US):

  • There is very little traction on career counseling. As an industry, this seems very underdeveloped, and most of the references I found were of offline-presence only. Of those counseling companies, most seem to deal with education guidance part of counseling (“I am a B.Sc. in Bio-technology, what jobs can I get after this?” kind) and not on career-related problems (“My manager is difficult to work with because he is impatient, how do I ensure my career is in good hands?” kind).
  • Job portals (naukri, monster, etc) have very little presence in career guidance/counselling area, even though almost every site has a ‘career zone’. In my view, career counseling should be a strong point of these portals and a differentiating factor if done well, but I do not see traction on these sections of these portals. Most of them contain a few generic career guidance articles and then bunch of useless user-generated content.
  • Most of the short-term training course institutes are competing on price (“C# course in Rs. 1400/-) and not on how effective they are in getting you a job or make you successful in your existing job. I tried very hard to get some data, but it seems to be totally missing.
  • Even though there are lots of private colleges, I found very few of them getting into short-term vocational courses which get you job or make you successful in one. The model that works great in US is the notion of community colleges which provide reliable, affordable and targeted courses for various careers and this helps job-seekers and professionals alike, this seems to be completely missing.
  • These lead me to believe that if my definition of career management is correct, career management as an industry is pretty broken in Indian environment (when I tried to get similar integration data for US, it didn’t yield any better results, but my focus is India and hence the comment). Given that there is so much of talent shortage and demand for talent, it surprises me that there aren’t more innovative ideas coming up to solve it.

    I am wondering if it is lack of online data which leads me to this conclusion, or is it indeed the case? And if so, why aren’t startups/existing companies trying to do something about it? Or is the notion of career management=integrated eco-system a flawed notion?

    I will love to hear your opinion and comments on this, and if there is any data/resources you can point me to, it will be great.

Giving back to society – Can for-profit and not-for-profit coexist?

Every once in a while, the question about giving back to the society pops up in my mind and in my friend’s circle, but we end up dropping it and continuing to do what we have been doing: earn more money.

Howver, so many things have been happening around about me on this topic recently that I am inclined to believe this is a signal to do something now.
Sample this:
1. 2 weeks ago, we (friends from IITD) started talking about PM’s speech to CII and the fact that while we didn’t agree with such a socialist tone of the address, there is some merit to it that we should explore, and then the discussion went on to “what have we done so far for this, and what can we do?”.
2. 1 week back, someone forwarded me Harvard Commencement speech by Bill Gates, which posed the same question, and gave amazing insight into why people do not give so much to society and what can be done to change it.
3. Around the same time, I picked a book “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” to read during my India trip and have been reading it since. This again talks about how a real zeal to do something for society triggers thousand others to join and support such a cause. In this case, it helped create “Room to Read”

The area that I think requires significant support is providing quality and pertinent education to children and adults alike. However, this is a huge task; according to a survey by govt of India, there are 19.4 crore children in age 6-13, out of which about 80% study in govt schools and 7% are not in any school. This requires substantial investment of money, technology and manpower.
Typically (as near as I can tell), non-profit organizations in India (as elesewhere) have been generating money from donations and grants. However, I feel that this is not a sustainable model for creating a big impact. Instead, I am thinking of models where non-profit company can be a shareholder in a for-profit organization that generates enough money to support this non-profit, and also exerting enough influence in the way the work is done so that the technology can be leveraged both ways. So for example, the for-profit org can create technologies to help teach students on web and apply it to give certificates to engineers (and earn money), and then turn around and license this technology to non-profit to help it use it in rural setup where resources are scarce.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the feasibility of such business models, conflict of interest issues, and other issues that you think will be pertinent when someone goes about doing this. If you are interested in the actual idea, do drop me a note and we can talk about in more detail.