Hiring Your First (Right) Employees for the Win 0

Mrinal-Shah,-CHRO,-Cars24

Mrinal Sinha, CHRO at CARS24, talks about the company’s journey, the role of ESOPs and D&I in early hirings, and the importance of defining hiring goals.

Q.What was the procedure of hiring in the early days of CARS24? 

A. The biggest asset to a company is its employees. The founders of a startup cannot do all the work on their own. CARS24 co-founders Vikram Chopra and Mehul Agrawal learnt this from their earlier furniture venture – ideas are easy but you need a team to execute them. Keeping all the factors in mind, the hiring process focused on searching forthe right fit for CARS24 and creating a family of smart individuals that enabled them to create the leading brand in the pre-owned cars industry.

Q.What is the importance of D&I in the initial hiring?

A. Emphasis on diversity and inclusion is a necessity in the current scenario. It can bring more creativity and innovation to the table. We have always ensured to keep a diverse employee base as much as practically possible. This enables us to boost productivity and create a healthy work environment. Our main goal is to enhance customer experience and inclusion helps in understanding a wider base of customers.

This year, we went global and it gives each employee a great sense of pride to be working with people from different nationalities. To give an estimate, I feel, right now we have employees from 17+ nationalities working with us.

Q.What is an ideal number of employees to begin a startup, if there is any?

A. The ideal number of employees in any organization always depends on the priorities and goals of the organization at that particular timeline. There is no ideal number, to begin with.

For a business like us, a huge base is occupied by customer-facing staff, technicians, and customer experience and service teams along with other functions. Simultaneously, being an auto company, we are also investing heavily in building and further strengthening our data and tech teams. Currently, we are 7000+ employees strong.

Q.When is the right time to look for senior roles and turn a function into a department?

A. We just turned 6 in August and we are definitely focusing on building our C-suite. We feel it is important now more than ever as we are growing exponentially and also venturing into newer territories globally. I joined the company this year as CHRO, Kunal Mundra as CEO for Cars business in India, Jitendra Agrawal has joined us as the Global CTO.

Q.Can you elaborate on CARS24’s journey from the start to now being one of the leading brands in the space?

A.

Emphasis on diversity and inclusion is a necessity in the current scenario. It can bring more creativity and innovation to the table. We have always ensured to keep a diverse employee base as much as practically possible. This enables us to boost productivity and create a healthy work environment.


CARS24 journey began in 2015, Co-founders Vikram Chopra and Mehul Agrawal, along with Ruchit Agarwal and Gajendra Jangid together founded CARS24. In the very first month, CARS24 was able to sell 18 cars. It reached 50+ outlets in 2016 itself. In 2019, CARS24 was awarded the most innovative startup of the year. In 2020, we became the first Indian startup to achieve unicorn status in the automotive sector. This year we went global by launching operations in the UAE and Australia, and also launched the new business model of online buying, which makes more sense post-pandemic.

Also Read:  Paycheques are Passé, Shift to ‘Employee Delight’ Model to Retain Employees

While I have already highlighted the landmark achievements in our journey, each year, since our inception, we have faced challenges as an industry: 2016 – demonetization, 2017 – GST, 2018 – the collapse of IL&FS, 2019 – migration from BS-IV to BS-VI engines, and 2020 – the pandemic. Yet, we are pioneering the online vehicles buying culture in India, became a unicorn, and are now a global company. And we attribute this success to our stakeholders, partners, investors, and most importantly our employees.

Q.What characteristics do you look for in a prospective candidate when hiring?

A. I have had long discussions with the co-founders to understand what they look for in a potential employee. Through these conversations, I have come to realize that we as a company have that hunger to grow and work like it is Day 1. They are open to collaborating with people who can challenge them. This just reflects that the company is open to feedback and constructive criticism and every employee should work towards the common ultimate goal of making CARS24 the biggest auto company.

 COVID-19 stood as a barrier in front of many organizations and we were not concealed from it either. The question arose of whether to let our employees go or innovate, much as we do on a daily basis. And we did! We introduced a voluntary pay cut for employees that would be invested in the form of 2x vested ESOPs. The price at which they were issued was $11.12 with the roll-back price we offered at $18.26.”

Q.What are some remote work challenges while hiring for startups? 

A. In the current scenario, work from home and the hybrid work model are the most suitable in practice. Remote working requires better connectivity and coordination among the employees in the organization. Technology being the enabler, remote working and hiring can be performed seamlessly through the digital remote route. The goals of hiring should be clearly defined and the right employees can be found

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Q.What role ESOP played in early hirings? What other benefits convinced early employees to travel the unexplored startup journey?

A. Building Trust. One of our core values was born from the train of thought of having a ‘give and take relationship’ with our employees, whom we deem no less than a family. Each and every one of them has been an immense contributor to the innovation and dynamics of CARS24. In them, we lay our faith and invest in all possible facets. COVID-19 stood as a barrier in front of many organizations and we were not concealed from it either. The question arose of whether to let our employees go or innovate, much as we do on a daily basis. And we did! We introduced a voluntary pay cut for employees that would be invested in the form of 2x vested ESOPs. The price at which they were issued was $11.12 with the roll-back price we offered at $18.26.

Following this, in the 3rd quarter of the last financial year, we held a liquidation event to tell one and all, the grandeur of what their faith in us meant and rolled our regular ESOPS as well! This not only made employees regain their faith in us as an employer but defined a new nexus between them and us.

Q.Who are your first set of employees, names, and designation? How and why did they choose to join the company? Are they still in the company?

A. You know it speaks volumes about us as a workplace and we are ever grateful to these employees, who have been part of our journey from the very initial days and are still with us. For example, Nida Naushad, Head of Brand, has been with us for 5+ years. Sonam Lama, People & Culture Head has been with us for 5 years now. Ashita Sharma, AVP, Customer Experience has been with us for over 6 years now. Pooja Dudani, Director – HR (Leadership & Talent development) for 5 years. And there are so many more who believed in us.

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Mrinal Sinha is the Chief Human Resources officer at CARS24. He is an HR Professional with 19+ years of experience in Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, Performance Management, and Leadership Development. Before this, he headed HR at Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

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