31 Aug 2015 19:30 IST

“We want enterprising, creative and result-driven people”

Housing.com’s Chief Administration Officer Ajay Nair adds that the organisation offers new hires an opportunity to work in a flexible workplace

Communication is the key to handle any complex situation says, Ajay Nair, Chief Administration Officer, Housing.com. Nair was recently in New Delhi and spoke to BLonCampus about Housing.com's firefighting days that include the recent leadership tussle; the prevailing company culture, and more. Excerpts of the interaction:

Ajay Nair, Chief Human Resources Officer of Housing.com

With the public spat that took place between Housing’s former CEO Rahul Yadav and the board, that saw him eventually resign, how did you manage to keep the house in order amidst such uncertainty?

When this came to my notice, I was concerned about how the situation should be handled. There is a traditional way of handling things, and then there is an innovative way to do the same. We took the innovative way: communication, and this is key to handling anything that is complex. With this view, communication channels were left open across all levels in the organisation. We foresaw that in such situations, employees want to interact with the leadership, including the people at the helm of affairs, to quell any concerns.

We had open sessions, where everything was laid out in the open to everyone. Transparency in operations is important; it’s the mature route to getting things done.

However, everything has settled down now and the focus going forward is solely on business and delivering results.

Housing has recently downsized, but there’s talk that you’re hiring? What’s the reason behind this?

Yes, we have downsized by 160 employees in some verticals that weren’t of relevance to the core function. Our focus right now is monetisation to generate revenues.

How did the downsizing exercise take place?

When we downsize, we do it in a proactive fashion, it’s not a reaction. We knew what we wanted to do. So, we first gave an option to everybody to apply within the organisation. We put out IJPs (Internal Job Postings) every month before we run a position outside. We have 52 people who were redeployed through this process. There were a bunch of people who could not get redeployed. For those, we made sure we have provided them adequate financial assistance. We are also providing them job assistance and the work space has not shut them out. There is a space in the office where they come and operate out of. Here, they can spend time looking for a job or get any kind of assistance that will help them with their careers. Our HR team is at present entrusted with the task of looking for jobs for these remaining people and have found some 14 jobs already!

And you’re hiring more people?

No, we are not hiring currently. Hiring is linked to strategy, and there are two types of hiring we would do, if and when we do. If there is a job need, we will first float an IJP. Our preference is always, and will be, to hire internally for roles that are critical, and hire people from outside for roles that are introductory.

Next, the new hires profile should be in alignment with our organisation’s strategy. The average age of our employees is 25, and we want to stick with that. And we can’t satisfy this requirement if we don’t constantly keep hiring people within this age range. At the same time, next year, we will be a year older, hence, the average age will move to 26. Our focus and need is to hire from campuses and we will continue to do that.

Apart from this, people who have an entrepreneurial spirit, want accountability, strive for opportunities to show that they are capable of delivering results fast and consistently, are creative and innovative – these are the kinds of people we are looking for.

How many people do you plan to hire off campus?

We will probably not hire as many as we did last year. Taking together the premiere and the non-premier institutes, we will be hiring close to 100-150 people this year. However, this is a preliminary guess and exact numbers will be based on business needs. If the business requires more people, we will hire more.

What is the overall sentiment at Housing right now, with the organisation’s focus suddenly shifting to monetising from building?

It's a business, and cashburn is taking place through channels: people and administrative processes. We are an internet-based business, so, we don't have any other costs. We were previously investing in finding a solution based on innovation to help and revolutionise the real estate sector online. Now, it's time to monetise this effort. So, the focus of the business has moved from building the product to finding avenues of monetisation

Housing recently acquired three start-ups: Realty Business Intelligence, HomeBuy360, and PropEquity. It's difficult to ascertain now if Housing is still a start-up or not, what do you have to say for that?

Yes, we are a start-up from the culture perspective; we are not a start-up from the perspective of overall business size and in terms of what we are trying to achieve. When it comes to culture, it needs to be a healthy mix, and this is the management’s responsibility. They have to preserve this culture (start-up) because it has fostered innovation. At the same time, we need to focus on the end business objectives, and one needs to have a structured methodology to achieve this.

These acquisitions are going to become SBUs (strategic business unit) and not SPVs (i.e. Special purpose vehicles that operate outside the motherboard, they have been acquired, it's not a merger). So, it becomes part of the Housing organisation and we are looking for business synergy, and each of these acquisitions have what it takes to build a more robust product going forward.

Employee retention and engagement can be an issue when your average employee age is 25. How do you manage to keep them hooked?

We can do that by making sure what their aspirations are. If you don’t mix around with your people, or become a part of them, you will never know what their aspirations are. It's a generation that believes in mixing and you have to make sure you are able to live up to their expectations. Their expectations can be in the form of what they want from their career, role, workplace, what they can do for society, their monetary aspirations, long-term benefits – it could be any of these. One needs to work around these. It’s important to be flexible, know what they want and give them what they deserve.

What makes a perfect campus hire?

We look for enterprising people, look for people who are honest and transparent in what they want to communicate. We look for people who aspire to solve problems that are relevant to the real world. Housing works on innovations, so we need people who think creatively and find solutions.

And what’s in store for new hires?

We are probably one of the greatest places to work. The workplace thrives on innovation and we are constantly looking for ways to keep them engaged. We allow flexibility within the work environment.

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