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Do People Still Want to Work in Pakistani Startups?

Jehan | May 24 2023
Do People Still Want to Work in Pakistani Startups?

Pakistan’s current economic climate is uncertain, with many individuals joining the workforce feeling unsure about the kind of stability working at a startup can provide. Given these concerns, the question remains: do people still want to work in Pakistani startups?

At Founders Take the Stage, an event hosted by Katalyst Labs, the conversation revolved around Hiring and Retaining practices in Pakistan.

Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram, Co-Founder of Sehat Kahani – a telemedicine startup that connects online doctors to patients – shared the challenges she faced when hiring for her company. As Dr. Sara put it:

“We have been dumped for love, marriage, education, immigration, and better companies.”

The Culture Fit Conundrum

While Sehat Kahani faced high growth, it was simultaneously facing high attrition. Often, Pakistani startups take on employees and invest in developing their skills only to have them leave for companies that provide better compensation. This is not a phenomenon specific to Pakistan, with a record of 50.5 million people quitting their jobs in the US in 2022 alone.

Chart: Gabriel Cortes / CNBC
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey via FRED

The problem lay in the fact that while Sehat Kahani was hiring at a rapid pace, some employees were not the right cultural fit for the company. Psychometric tests during the first stage of interviews can help filter out which employees are not a good fit for the company. This also includes an assessment of long-term goals and culture fit from the start, while also leaving room for flexibility and diversity of the types of hires.

Another good way to measure culture fit is to look at the data of the first few hires of your startup that have been with the company for 6 months to a year. Based on this data, founders can create a profile of what kind of traits to look for when hiring their next employees, thereby avoiding attrition.

Hustle Culture

Anusha Shahid of OkayKer was of the opinion that as payrolls normalized with the economic downturn, so has the desire to work at startups. While issues relating to job stability remain, this applies to FMCGs and big corporations as much as it does to startups. Transparency regarding where the company is heading is key, as well as aligning the progress of employees with the growth of the company itself.

Ultimately, according to one founder, it boils down to whether you want to be a small part of something big or a big part of something that is growing day by day. For most individuals, particularly young people joining the workforce, the autonomy that startups offer can be very alluring. In order to succeed at work in Pakistani startups one may be required to go above and beyond.

Startups give potential employees the opportunity to:

  • Be part of a team that is building from the ground up
  • Foster their creativity
  • Take more risks

In addition to this, startups offer employees a lot of learning. The dynamic environment allows them to wear multiple hats or switch between diverse roles in order for them to gain a better understanding of where their strengths and interests lie. This sense of ownership and influence over the direction of a company can be incredibly attractive to individuals looking to see the direct impact of their efforts.

For employees working in a startup, an element of hustle is essential. According to Anusha, this hustle is an innate quality that a vast majority of roles in startups require of employees – those who want to work hard to prove themselves. In order to work in Pakistani startups an employee needs grit and tenacity, a trait not all individuals possess.

Quality over Quantity

If you’re building something you truly believe in, your company will naturally attract individuals who are also passionate about the problem you’re solving.

Rooshan Aziz, Co-Founder of the Edtech Maqsad, was of the opinion that talent is irreplaceable. Moreover, holding onto existing people working in the company is more important than hiring rapidly. Another way to also retain employees is to provide them with a sense of tangible ownership. As a startup grows, employees that have equity in the company benefit from its value appreciation – this can be motivating for both potential employees as well as for employee retention.

Learning to Let Go

In a nutshell, if an individual is driven, ambitious, has a flavor for risk, and is passionate about the immense learnings a startup environment offers they are likely to turn down better offers at larger corporates. However, this boils down inherently to the nature of the individual themselves. A founder’s job is to convey their vision to the potential hire and provide clarity in communication.

Ultimately, employees may leave your startup for better offers. This is an inevitable part of the process. As a founder, one must be comfortable with the idea of groomed employees leaving.

Anusha shared her insights on the topic:

“If there is someone who is part of our team and I build them up to a point where they can leave me for a better opportunity, I consider it a win on my part.”

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