In our 6th episode, we speak to Vedansh Gupta, the Founder and Head Solution Provider of Artica International DMCC and The Coniferous.
Since 2014, Vedansh has founded and scaled two paper trading companies - one in Dubai and the other in India. We speak to Vedansh about the his hiring practices that have helped him scale his paper trading business. He's been able to build a super efficient team of young individuals who had no background in the paper industry before they started working with Vedansh.
Vedansh Gupta on Linkedin
The Coniferous on Linkedin
“Every mistake that they make either tells you that your SOP wasn’t in place or that you have something new to learn.”
Some surprising words from Vedansh Gupta, while speaking about the importance of hiring outside the industry and letting people make mistakes. Vedansh, the Founder and Head Solution Provider at Artica International DMCC and The Coniferous, spoke to us about how he thinks about hiring for his business as a 29 year old entrepreneur who has new and different ideas about the world. He doesn’t believe in hiring from the industry and he doesn’t believe in hiring people much older than him. You might think this slows him down but it doesn’t — he’s expanded his business across the world in just the past 6 years.
How do you scale your personal culture, thought process and way of working as the organization grows? Are you hiring a certain kind of people? Are you putting some systems and checks and balances in place? These are the challenges people face in small businesses: when you’re starting out you believe in a lot of those things but you have to now find people who can scale those beliefs because your time is limited.
Vedansh: We only hire people who are around my age, I think we are one of the youngest companies in the industry. Our mean working age is around 30.
Whenever a colleague comes up to me with a problem, I just ask him to start thinking about the logic behind it. I’m not saying don’t think by your heart, but I’m saying you should understand the logic. Once they started understanding that thought form then they started thinking along the same lines as me.
What I have noticed in other SMEs is that people just tell their colleagues that they need to do this work and get it done. They never tell them why they are asking them to get that work done. And they don’t appreciate questions. I’ve seen my superiors, they never appreciate questions from their colleagues.
I like it if my colleagues question me. I’ve given away discounts to a lot of customers and my colleagues have actually come up to me and said, “Why have you given a discount, we shouldn’t have given a discount, we would have fared well without giving a discount.” And I had to explain why I gave the discount to the customer and once they started understanding the rationale behind it, they start implementing my process.
Again, I believe in transparency within the organisation. A lot of my colleagues know pretty much everything we do. They know our purchasing path, they know our selling path, they know the challenges we face internally. When your employee or your colleague or your teammate knows that, then they get a better picture on how to carry on the business independently. We have about 15 team members and I don’t interfere in anyone’s business.
A lot of young entrepreneurs will have to figure out how to bank on young talent. If you get people from the industry who have 7, 10, 12 years of experience in the industry, they’re going to think like the industry thinks.
Vedansh: Never hire from the industry, never ever hire from the industry. It never works and if someone’s leaving a job from the industry, and he’s joining you, you can be rest assured he’s going to leave you and join the next person who is going to give him a 10% raise on his paycheck. I never hire anyone from the industry.
One question I really like asking people before I get them on board is if they actually like the paper industry and if they would actually be interested in selling paper. I think a recent recruit was from the plastics industry, and he said that plastic are not sustainable, he did not like it and that’s why he wanted to switch industries.
One plus point you can give an employee when they shift industries is that you’re giving them a chance to learn again, and you’re stimulating their brain and their ability to learn. When you hire from the industry, they’re pretty mundane because they’ve been doing that same thing day in, day out. They get into the routine and they meet the same people, they’re getting the same clients, they’re doing the same nine to five and the energy is very low. But when you hire someone from outside, you will see a boost in energy. You’ll also see the morale in the company overall will be quite high.
But don’t they need to learn about the customers and the suppliers from scatch and thus take so much longer to train them?
Vedansh : It does take much longer. But they’re going to be making so many mistakes, and every mistake that they make either tells you that your SOP wasn’t in place or that you have something new to learn.
Where are you finding this talent? What kind of background do you potentially look at?
Vedansh: We generally work through HR recruiters. I’ve tried LinkedIn, I’ve tried monster.com, I’ve tried Indeed, but we normally give the job to an HR recruiter. Till now everyone I’ve hired is after interviewing literally about 50 to 60 people. I interview 50 to 60 people in the first round, and then you keep going downward, you keep bifurcating them, and then you get the right person at the end of the day.
Is there a method you have for your interviewing and your screening?
Vedansh: I first do a phone interview. At that time, I just want to understand why they want to leave their job. The first question that I generally ask is, “Why are you leaving your job?” If a person says he wants to grow, then my next question is, “Why can’t you grow within the company? Why are you looking to grow externally?” If I’m satisfied with that, then I ask them for a second interview, where I ask them some technical questions from my industry. If they are able to answer that, then it goes to a third interview. If I’m happy when I meet them in person, then I get them in.
But a lot of it is my feeling on how they would behave with another team member. So suppose a team member is not being good with a customer? Suppose he’s being very rude, and he’s being very antagonistic and you know that your colleague is not doing a good job — what would you do? If the interviewee just tells me that he’s going to report the colleague to me, then I wouldn’t actually bother interviewing him further. Because that’s not building a healthy organization — that’s just going to be ratting someone out. A better way would be that he actually talks to them, understands why he’s being rude towards that particular customer and sees if he can add value and make things better. So I just give them small interpersonal questions here and there to understand their mindset.
After I interview them, I actually have them speak to different colleagues in different departments within my company. I ask them if they can come in when I’m not in office, so they don’t feel that I’m monitoring them, and meet different people in the office. This gives everyone an idea of the working culture and everything beforehand. Only after that do I actually try and get them in.
This process is something you must have developed with practice. You must have hired some wrong people.
Vedansh: Yeah, I’ve hired people who are much older than me. I couldn’t manage them because of the age gap and because of the Indian culture, I couldn’t ever impose my views on them. Then I’ve hired people where I haven’t checked their backgrounds completely because of which I had some legal issues.
I felt this is the best way forward. Each and every post takes about three months to fulfill. No HR recruiter likes working with us because we keep asking for so many profiles that they get sick of it.
Is there a pattern on what kind of people really work out in your organization. Have you been able to figure that out?
Vedansh: Its mostly people who help one another who actually tend to work out. Everyone doesn’t like to help another person out, no matter how good or bad it sounds. Sometimes I don’t like helping people out. But most of the times, people who actually help one another, tend to stick around in organization more.
For example in our organisation, say the main accountant is sick, even a salesperson can at least make the invoice. She’s willing to help the accountant so that he doesn’t face the brunt of the work when he comes back. That’s the reason why I interview so many people.