Indian FinTech start-up tests three-day workweek to attract talent

Due to a shortage of tech talent, Indian companies are offering sweeteners such as more vacation time and paternal leave as they compete for graduates and professionals. A Bengaluru start-up is trying a more dramatic solution: a three-day work week.

FinTech Slice offers new hires a three-day week with pay at 80% of the prevailing market rate. It is a win-win approach that allows workers to pursue other passions or interests – or other jobs – while maintaining a stable salary and benefits from Slice, said Rajan Bajaj, founder of the company.

“This is the future of work,” said Mr. Bajaj, 28. “People don’t want to be tied to a job. “

Global investors are investing billions of dollars in Indian tech start-ups, putting pressure on entrepreneurs to strengthen their teams. A massive talent shortage has ensued as IT contractors, Silicon Valley giants, global retailers and Wall Street bank tech hubs vie for engineering and product talent alongside hundreds of fast growing start-ups.

Slice is betting that his approach will set him apart from the competition. The company has 450 employees and hopes to recruit 1,000 engineers and product managers over the next three years.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” said Mr. Bajaj. “Workers can get full pay and benefits by working three days a week and spending the rest of their time chasing a start-up dream, looking for a co-founder, or pursuing a passion other than work. “

The move towards shorter weeks has been going on for at least a century. In 1926, Henry Ford adopted a five-day work week instead of the usual six, after experiments showed that productivity would not suffer. Businesses and countries have experimented with four-day weeks for years without widespread adoption.

Proponents of shorter weeks cite studies showing increased productivity and employee well-being, prompting countries like Ireland and Iceland to give them a try. The world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, piloted a four-day week for some employees in 2018, and even China is trying to limit its excessive working hours.

As in Silicon Valley, the work-centric culture of the Indian start-up industry leaves some engineers disappointed while others exploit the opportunity for all it’s worth. Salaries for engineers have tripled in the past three years, Bajaj said. Bidding wars are common, and workers have been known to ignore start-ups after several rounds of wage negotiations. Founders joke on social media about advertising on matchmaking and food delivery apps to get workers.

This is the hiring bonanza that Bhavish Aggarwal, founder of ride-sharing start-up Ola and electric car start-up Ola Electric Mobility, tweeted in part jokingly that he was considering outsourcing work to a cheaper destination – the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States.

On the edge of capital, start-ups also invest in other initiatives to attract engineers and designers. Social commerce platform Meesho announced a 10-day company-wide hiatus in November so workers can unplug and recharge. FinTech start-up BharatPe offered benchmark gifts like BMW bikes, gadgets and cricket vacations to Dubai.

Slice started offering his three-day option on Monday, and he’s betting his timing is right: Millions of engineers are preparing to return to work in person, after nearly two years of working from home.

The start-up, founded in 2016, specializes in offering credit cards to young Indian adults. Its physical card was launched in 2019 with the company touting registrations of less than a minute, cash back rewards, and a variety of payment options. Slice issued 110,000 cards last month, making it one of the country’s leading providers. Its backers are the Japanese Gunosy Capital and the Indian Blume Ventures.

Update: October 5, 2021, 4:30 a.m.

About Donnie R. Losey

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