For much of the last year, global venture capital investors were in a competition to cut checks for Indian startups, catapulting over 40 young companies to the vaunted billion dollar valuation in 2021. Then a mighty concoction of troubling economic forces — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Federal Reserve hiking interest rates, and rising inflation — caused a dramatic shift in investor sentiment. Now, as fear and panic set in, venture capitalists are shooting email notes to portfolio companies to ditch the longstanding mantra of “grow at all costs.”
The market is “bearish all the way,” Vaibhav Domkundwar, founder of Better Capital, told me. “Except for hot deals, everyone is taking way longer [to raise funds]. Pricing is down across the board. Growth rounds are pretty much nonexistent.” Most India-focused venture capitalists are bracing themselves for partial write-offs of some of their portfolio companies, and other startups with inflated valuations will have to be marked down.
This pressure to become sustainable has led to over 10,000 tech workers being laid off in 2022.
The silver lining, however, is that the cutback in hiring among tech companies isn’t uniform, and there are pockets of sustained demand for jobs. “I actually don’t think that the overall hiring ecosystem will be hugely dented,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of TeamLease, a staffing and recruitment company. “Those who have to hire, who are at that phase in their evolution, are hiring.”
E-commerce, banking and financial services, and manufacturing are some of the sectors that are witnessing a significant uptick in hiring. “There is prudence at play, and it was much needed, given how erratic some of these organizations were behaving,” Chakraborty said. It is also forcing startups to get better at allocating resources.
In the past year, demand for super-specialized profiles such as “consultant content writer” for e-commerce and tech startups grew by 10.11%, according to the Jobs and Salaries Primer report by TeamLease. The report also highlighted that jobs such as area sales manager and support functions such as senior graphics designer, logistics workers will witness salary stagnation in fiscal year 2022-23.
Despite the sequential decline in the money deployed into startups, multiple venture capital funds have announced India-focused funds in 2022. Sequoia Capital has earmarked $2 billion to invest in Indian startups from its latest fund. Yet in the near-term, stories of entrepreneurs raising millions over WhatsApp texts are unlikely to return. Tech startups ought to survive the winter to capture wealth and wallet share in the next cycle.