‘Soonicorns’ to drive next phase of hiring

Start-ups that have potential to turn unicorns by attaining billion-dollar valuation are set to double headcount next year

Published: 26th December 2019 06:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th December 2019 01:07 PM   |  A+A-

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By Express News Service

Even as increasing cost pressures and uncertain business environment have prompted discerning companies across sectors to go slow on hiring, HR experts predict 2020 may see the next phase of recruitment driven by start-ups.

At the forefront will be the ‘soonicorns’, or start-ups with the potential to become unicorns by attaining billion-dollar-plus valuation, as they are set to double headcount next year, according to a report from HR firm Xpheno. It has categorised 79 per cent of tech start-ups such as Lendingkart, Nykaa, Pinelabs, UrbanClap, Practo, Zoomcar, Grofers and ShareChat as soonicorns.

Currently, there are around 60,000 job openings for digital and new-age technology professionals for 2020. While some of the high remuneration openings are with the big boys such as Capgemini, Accenture, IBM and Wipro, the new entrants in the unicorn club this year like Lenskart, Delhivery and Udaan, along with other funded start-ups, are also catching up.

The soonicorns have bagged massive capital. Xpheno estimates that they will double their headcount to 36,000 next year. These firms are expected to offer competitive pay packages to hire and retain top talent, almost at par with the unicorns.

“Once a start-up gets the unicorn status, their ability to pay equal or above the top tech players like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook also strengthens. We saw this during the OYO and Swiggy scale-up when they turned unicorns,” Xpheno co-founder Kamal Karanth said.

Some of the sought-after talent would be people trained in artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, data visualisation, blockchain and robotics

Separately, cab aggregator Uber aims to make India central to its engineering plans, outside its San Francisco headquarters, as a move to attract more investment in the country. Apurva Dalal, director of engineering, Uber India, said the firm is looking to hire over 1,000 people for its technology functions by end of 2020 across its offices at Hyderabad and Bengaluru, where several core technology functions such as map intelligence and algorithms to match riders and drivers are being developed.

The move also follows the recent raising of Rs 1,767 crore by Uber India Systems from its parent Uber International Holding BV.

However, some HR experts say the job market may remain muted in the new year. “2020 is expected to stay flat in terms of employment or, at best, have a marginal growth. With the GDP and key economic indicators yet to gather steam, it remains to be seen if consumption and/or investments will go up and, if they do, only then we have hope for employment growth,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of TeamLease Services.

Indore, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Kochi and Nagpur exhibit varying levels of negative sentiment in net employment outlook for October-March period compared to April-September 2019-20. However, roles for the ‘right people’ continue to exist in the market, experts said.

Opportunities open
Currently, there are around 60,000 job openings for digital and new-age technology professionals for 2020. Xpheno estimates that soonicorns will double their headcount to 36,000 next year.


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