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HR Role

The Role of the HR in a Start Up

By - Raja Shanmugam

Launching a Startup involves a few key factors – an ‘idea’ that you believe is the need of the hour; convincing others to ‘fund’ your idea; and finally ‘executing’ on realising the idea with conscious handling of the risks and constraints, while building and maintaining the capacity to develop, market and sell your product..The reason why many of them fail to fly is that they do not fully understand the fundamental needs of executing and operating aStartup and sustaining the momentum to scale into a viable corporate entity.

While one may have an idea that will rock in the market and investors who are convinced on the idea and provide the financial backing, the thing that is the real backbone of any new organisation is a team that believes in your idea and does whatever it takes to execute it. This team should have unconventional ways of thinking and working, open to innovations and is capable of high performance. Amidst all this what makes this team click is a culture that enables and nourishes the quality of balancing personal work life for the team member.

"So, where among all this does HR fit in?" is probably a question that pops up in everyone's mind!

I strongly believe that Human Resources (HR) plays a very crucial role in a Startup by playing the role of a strategic business partner in achieving the key results. From the launch of the company to its growth, maturity, and failures, HR binds the company in one string. Let me elaborate.

1. The Talent Hunters: Like I mentioned earlier, the right team is the key to the success of any new organisation. It is purely the responsibility of the HR team to bring together all the right members in the team who have the right talent, capability, and dedication to make your idea work wonders and deliver the benefits to the intended customers, the company and its investors.

2. The (Wire) FrameMakers: As we discussed earlier, what makes a team click is the culture of the company. Imagine a country without any governance, won’t it bevery chaotic? Now imagine a Startup still in its evolving phase already in uncertain stress, constant change, and tension. The HR brings a rhythm to this discord and establishes operating procedures and models. I call it “Cooking in a kitchen that is still being built.”The processes and policies need to be strong and stable enough to provide consistency, fairness, and comfort, while being stretchable and flexible to accommodate the numerous unknowns, twists and turns any Startup to adopt changes. The HR is the sole owner to maintain this balance in flexibility and governance and enable some level of consistency and continuity in the organisation.

3. The Cheerleaders: Have you ever thought about putting all your hard work in a company and no one bothering to give you a pat on the back and say “good job”? Won’t it be a demotivating and dissatisfying atmosphere? The HR invests in infrastructure, both physical and emotional, to support extraordinary growth and scaling. It is responsible for building a culture that recognizes, appreciates and rewards your hard work. A culture that manages your talent and understands your creative capacity and does competency building.

4. The Binders: Now we all agree that a Startup environment is a very chaotic one. It is very easy to drift away from goals, be demoralized by failures and doubt on the future goals etc. The HR then plays a very important role of binding the team together and sustaining the energy throughout the journey. They engagewith people, define and align the organisation to a common vision. They build people brand and (Employee Value Proposition) EVP for future growth of the company.

5. The Future Thinkers: While everyone in the startup is thinking about the present, developing products, marketing them and selling them in the market, there is one team that is constantly thinking about the post Startup phase. The HR is responsible for preparing the company for the post Startup phase while handling the current Startup problems. They are constantly building and innovating on the company’s structure, managerial capabilities,new skills required in the team, leadership style, policies, etc.

6. The Nurturers: Working in a start-up can be stressful. It can mess up with your physical and emotional health and your relationships while you are pursuing the holy grail of creating the next break through innovation or the next Unicorn. The HR team is responsible for keeping you grounded, ensuring that you survive and thrive in the chaos by helping you to focus on your wellness along with delivering on your tasks. This is extremely important – nobody – neither the company nor the people nor the society gains much by generating a huge number of burnt out millionaire technocrats.

Happiest Minds Technologies started out as a Service Provider exclusively focused on Disruptive Technologies 5 years ago. We were launched as a company uniquely focused on the dual platform of Disruptive Technologies and People Happiness – delivering customer Happiness by building the culture of happiness and wellness at the workplace was and is our USP. Thus, it is the prime responsibility of the HR team to be the driving spirit for the people in the company by enabling their happiness and helping them focus on enhancing happiness within themselves and their peers – we call this the culture of Happiness Evangelism.

Happiest Mind Technologies even as a Startup was launched with base infrastructure and scalable model of a big established company. Which is also one of the key challenges that the People Practice team (that’s what we like to call ourselves) has faced and still faces. With three Business Lines who are almost independent entities in their own right with very senior and experienced leadership teams, unique business rhythms, service offerings, customer preferences and competitive landscapes, the People Practice team strives to maintain reasonably consistent processes and practices across all of them. We have shouldered the responsibility of reconciling the constant tension within the structural identities and still create an organisation with a unique and overarching identity, values and culture.

The explosive growth and expansion of Happiest Minds Technologies to 16 different locations around the world is a live example of a role that an HR team is constantly performing in such a startup environment.It is a matter of great pride and fulfilment to me and the team to see the distance we have travelled while enabling the growth of Happiest Minds to a 2000+ people company in this period.


Mr. Raja Shanmugam

Raja Shanmugam is Co-Founder & Chief People Officer, Happiest Minds 




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