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BENGALURU : As a flood of money chases the next big winners in India’s startup ecosystem, early-stage companies are finding it tough to retain and hire employees as unicorns, flush with cash, are poaching talent with eye-popping salaries.

Software engineers including back-end and front-end developers are joining freshly minted Indian unicorns at almost double their existing salaries, according to two early-stage startup founders.

Fintech firm BharatPe on Monday offered several perks, including superbikes, to new tech team hires. The company is offering the new joinees an option to choose between a BMW G310R, Jawa Perak, KTM Duke 390, KTM RC 390 and Royal Enfield Himalayan. This is in addition to the joining salaries that BharatPe will give the new tech hires.

If superbikes are not to one’s liking, BharatPe has an assortment of gadgets to choose from, including Apple iPad Pro (with Pencil), Bose headphone, Harman Kardon speaker and Samsung Galaxy Watch.

The company will also fly the hires to Dubai for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup that is scheduled to be held between 17 October and 14 November.

“As we build the next generation of banking in India, we want to invite and excite the best tech talent to work with us on building market-leading products at scale. We will, therefore, be taking the lead in tech talent compensation in India because that’s the only real investment our business needs, given the capital efficiency of our model," said Ashneer Grover, co-founder and chief executive officer, BharatPe.

The company, which is reportedly raising an additional $250 million round from the likes of Tiger Global Management, is looking to triple the strength of its technology team and hire an additional 100 members.

The competition for talent is pushing early-stage startups to raise funds prematurely to compete with their well-funded peers. Indian startups raised a record $43 billion in investments during the first half of 2021, shows a recent report by market research firm Grant Thornton.

“As investment activity reaches new heights in the Indian startup ecosystem, it will get difficult for early-stage startups to attract quality talent and make competitive bids, for the short term, when compared to late-stage unicorns," said Karan Sharma, executive director and co-head, digital and technology investment banking, Avendus Capital.

“The startup unicorns are making it very difficult for early-stage startups to hire new talent. Unicorns are rolling out offers to good quality tech talent within 24 hours. In comparison, our processes take at least three days with the candidate having to go through different rounds. Further, offers to good tech talent are being rolled out at 150% higher pay than their existing remuneration," said Deepak Abbot, co-founder of digital gold services startup, Indiagold.

Abbot, who was earlier senior vice-president of product at Paytm, said that his company is currently hiring 20 members for its tech team. The competition is so fierce that Indiagold is adding one individual to its technology team every month as compared to three members a few months ago, adds Abbot.

The current surge in demand for tech talent isn’t just limited to startups but has also spilled over to the IT industry.

“As the outlook towards hiring became positive and IT companies began hiring in the first quarter of 2021, the demand-supply gap began to show. During the first few quarters, we saw every second candidate rejecting the offer, with tech talent now ‘window shopping’ for higher remuneration. It has become crucial for the IT industry to hire for technology roles since the mandate for every company and clientele is to go digital," said Yeshab Giri, director, staffing, Randstad India.

Giri adds that increments at IT firms remained muted in 2020, causing technology talent to actively look out for higher-paying roles, and making it even more difficult to retain good talent.

Recently, Infosys’s chief operating officer, Pravin Rao, said that its employees are also becoming targets of hiring from Indian startup unicorns.

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