Every few years, there is a subject that assumes the status of being the “flavour of the month” in the media. And soon this effect is seen spilling over to campus placements. When I was a proverbial wet-behind-the-ears management graduate seeking employment, it was the fast moving consumer goods business that had become ‘the-next-big-thing-to-be-in’ sector. Companies such as Hindustan Lever were day-zero companies, at least for some of us.
Soon, FMCG gave way to the finance sector to make an appearance, and then for a few years before that software was the only solution to everyone’s problems. The banking sector beckoned for a short while after the likes of HDFC, ICICI and Kotak came to campus to recruit hundreds of people for business development and relationship management. Similarly, for a short while retail was king as mall after mall opened in Gurgaon, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Then consulting and investment banking became top dogs and they still continue to offer higher-paying jobs at least to the premier management institutes.
At present, in my view, e-commerce ventures such as companies like Flipkart, Myntra, Ola, Amazon and Zomato to name a few who have come to become the darlings of the investors and students alike. This is a trend, I suspect, which will continue for a while.
Just open any business daily, say, BusinessLine , and you will find ads primarily from real estate and e-commerce firms.
Amazon and Flipkart are going head to head in their efforts to woo consumers by offering offer upon offer. Do bear in mind, I am naming only two of the principal spenders. There are many others who are too diverse to be named in a single piece. And the good news is, that they are are all recruiting!
Yet, it is important for me to put out a word of caution. For after all, being forewarned is being forearmed. In my time, if one joined advertising the opening message would read:“welcome to the madhouse”. I suspect that today’s start-ups put out a similar welcome note, given the frenetic pace of work. Remember many of these are start-ups and even the ones I have mentioned, the bigger ones, are still in start-up mode, which means everything is done that much faster.
It also means that people who join them, even if fresh out of school, have to fend for themselves. This is a great opportunity to learn and even make mistakes at the cost of the employer.
The rush a new recruit will experience in these organisations has to be seen to be believed. These places are abuzz with ideas and activities. Many of the founders of some of these companies may not be much older than you, and I have a feeling young people run organisations in a much more democratic fashion than old fogeys like me.
Your opinion will be asked for and it is important for you to have a point of view and to be able to think on your feet. Of course you need to do some introspection whether this sort of challenge is what you are looking for.
You do have the opportunity of going to a company which is even younger still, where you might find that you are even given equity on joining, but remember the risks are more in these sort of companies, so be prepared.
Ideas are your weapon
While start-ups are fun and exciting, they also have to face high and often unreal expectations from the investors and this will place more demands on you as an individual. Ideas will be at a premium, to save time or money or both.
Companies such as Uber keep thinking about customer engagement schemes which do not involve advertising. Advertising is easy, the agency will think for you, but with customer engagement you have to think through an idea, evaluate its feasibility and finally get it done. There is enormous scope for learning. You will learn far more in a start-up about the overall business, cash-flow, and logistics in a fairly short time than in a large corporation.
So you want to be on your own?
Many of us harbour ambitions of being on our own and setting up a venture where we call the shots. And in today’s environment it is definitely possible.
An e-commerce start-up is a wonderful learning ground to observe the challenges that start-ups face and this sort of experience is not readily available in most other industries.
Embrace it and you will be that much readier for entrepreneurship when the idea and the opportunity present themselves. And one quick word about entrepreneurship. It is better to start while you are young than when you are old. You will have energy and a burning desire to succeed and in case of failure (heaven forbid!) you can still go back to work.
So, have I convinced you to look at e-commerce seriously? If I have, start looking at these companies, follow them socially and in the media, gear yourself up with courses that will help you talk to them with confidence and, who knows, I may be helping you with brand strategy for your start-up very soon.
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