Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Coffee with Monster.com’s hands-on MD

How are we looking for work in the age of social-media hiring; and where does a jobs site fit into the matrix of employment exchanges, placement agencies, executive search firms, LinkedIn and jobs aggregator sites like Indeed.com? These are some of the questions I want to ask Sanjay Modi, the 46-year-old managing director of Monster.com in India, Middle East, South-East Asia and Hong Kong.

For our interaction at Latitude, the all-day dining restaurant of Vivanta by Taj in Gurgaon, Modi is wearing grey slacks and a curious shirt: blue denim, full-sleeved, with “Monster" embroidered above the breast pocket. We’re meeting for a late breakfast, but settle only for a coffee each—Lavazza for him and a cold coffee for me.

One of Monster Worldwide’s first five employees in India after the company was set up here in 2001, Modi now sees everything from a jobs perspective. Whether it’s the conflict in Libya, the goods and services tax (GST), the rise of e-commerce or a Confederation of Indian Industries report on manufacturing. Look at e-commerce, he says, there’s a growing shortage of delivery boys. Look at the GST; once the countrywide tax regime comes into force, he says, companies will set up centralized warehouses and will depend on road and rail connections to transport goods across states. All of this translates into hundreds of jobs, he adds.

Modi’s single-minded focus might be a legacy from years of playing table tennis at the national level as a schoolboy—he went to Manav Sthali School in New Delhi, and only put down his Yasaka Mark V racket when he got into mechanical engineering at the Delhi College of Engineering (now Delhi Technological University) in 1986. By then, of course, table tennis had instilled in him a lifelong love for sporting discipline (his day still starts at 6am) and an ability to multitask (he writes a regular blog), and introduced him to his future wife, Deepshika, also a former national-level table tennis player.

When he’s not shuttling between Hong Kong, West Asia, South-East Asia and India, Sanjay Modi’s day begins with a morning walk, followed by a cup of tea with his wife, Deepshika, and Labrador, Goofy. They usually listen to old Hindi film songs together. He’s been known to go straight from the airport to a country club on weekends to play a game of table tennis against his wife. Dinner time is devoted to the entire family—which includes his 20-year-old daughter Drishti and teenage son Shwetaank. Work life for him isn’t about either-or choices, he says. Like his blog, My Thoughts, which he has been writing regularly since 2012. It’s his observations on everything, from disruptive technologies to the general election—it just happens to overlap with his work, which also involves teasing job trends from seemingly unrelated topics.

Yet, around 2012, job market experts were preparing an obituary for the online recruitment pioneer because they saw LinkedIn and Indeed taking monster bites out of its global market share. LinkedIn, which has been around since 2003, started as a networking tool for professionals. In 2008, LinkedIn launched its social hiring tool, Recruiter. And three-four years ago, LinkedIn streamlined its model to make social hiring—being able to search résumés and send “InMails" to eligible candidates—a big part of the portfolio.

Plus, experts thought Monster Worldwide might be teetering—it was trying to offload its deadweight stake in ChinaHR after betting huge on China’s billion-plus people to boost business. It’s hard to say if Monster Worldwide is indeed out of the woods yet: In the quarter ended 31 March, the company totalled revenue of $183.69 million (around 1,175 crore) down from $198.15 million in the corresponding three-month period last year. It’s annual revenue has steadily declined from nearly $1 billion in 2011 to $770 million in 2014.

Modi has been rolling out new sites and services in India despite these tidings. Monster.com launched its mobile job search service here almost as soon as it was introduced in the US in 2007. Monster.com launched csc.rozgarduniya.com in association with the Union technology ministry, to tap the rural market in 2009—the year Modi took on his current role at the company, from countrywide head of sales (2004-09). Prior to that Modi was the regional manager for the north and north-west regions in India. Monster.com tied up with DishTV, a direct-to-home (DTH) service, in 2009, to reach those who had DTH cable connection but no Internet connectivity yet. The company also began mining some of the big data that was piling up with it to start indices like the interesting salary index to benchmark your pay to industry. In 2013, Monster.com launched a virtual job fair where companies could set up a 3D simulation of their whole office, share videos and chat online.

“In the US, even truck drivers find work through Monster.com," Modi says.

Is India generating a large portion of sales for the company now, what with China being off the Monster map and US revenue declining? I ask.

“The company doesn’t give a country-wise break-up," Modi says. “What I can tell you is that we had 44.9 million visitors on our website last year from India alone, and 44.8 million of them posted their résumé."

Does the job give him sleepless nights, then?

“Sleepless, yes. But from the excitement, not anxiety," says Modi. “I have to remind myself not to call or text people in the middle of the night. And wait till the next morning to talk about a new idea."

Modi has a fluorescent green clay matka (pot) full of new ideas in his office. We’ve travelled the 1km from the hotel to his office to continue our conversation over more coffee. This time, Modi orders his favourite: Starbucks Cafe Latte. Ditto for me. “I can live on 8-10 cups of this coffee a day. I sometimes have to remind myself to break up meetings so people can eat lunch," he says.

The matka and the suggestions in it are remnants of the last company offsite. Modi is vetting each strip of months-old paper himself because “my next big idea will come from my people". Until the last piece of paper is investigated, the matka stays in his office.

“I am very hands-on," says Modi.

After chatting with him for 4 hours, I can just imagine him rolling up his denim sleeves for a monster cause.

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