Startups woo CXOs with hikes, ESOPs


Chennai: As private investments in new-age businesses experience a boom and valuations balloon, it’s getting easier for young founders to lure industry veterans to their side, and startups are using almost half of funding proceeds in some cases toward ramping up senior leadership.
Headhunters say startups are wooing senior talent to set up better governance systems as they scale, and in some cases to launch new products and even help take them public. Startups are becoming the go-to option for C-suite talent in large enterprises looking for a change, with sales heads, heads of finance, marketing and chief business officers being a few in-demand roles, they said.
Given the public market’s appetite for tech startups and the way valuations are soaring, CXO talent too is keen to negotiate higher ESOP components along with attractive hikes in pay, they added. Some marquee executive moves from large brands to startups include Microsoft’s Gangadhar Kodandaram moving to AI startup as chief revenue officer, and media veterans Ratan Singh Rathore (previously INCA) and Neha Nagpal Chatterjee (previously at ByteDance) at ShareChat.
Fresh off a Rs 530 crore fundraise, beauty startup MyGlamm too bolstered its senior leadership with industry veterans from Unilever, Myntra, Godrej, L’Oreal, and OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei’s consumer tech stratup Nothing wooed former Samsung executive Manu Sharma as India head.
Other appointments include recent unicorn GupShup appointing Sudesh Vasudevan (former executive at Evercore and Deutsche Bank) to senior ranks to help chart the company’s IPO roadmap. Short video platform Lomotif added former Zee5 CEO Tarun Katial, and Ken Cheung, former APAC head at Facebook & Instagram partnerships, as senior advisors.
Alok Kumar, senior director, Manpower Group, said that for top talent, wealth creation is faster at startups and larger share of ESOPs in compensation packages has been a major draw. “The autonomy to innovate and ability to build things from scratch is also acting as a motivator,” he said, adding that the HR firm has been getting mandates from startups that have raised funds recently looking for senior hands in their sectors. Kamal Karanth, founder of staffing firm Xpheno Consulting says that since Zomato’s stellar listing, every time a startup announces a fundraise, senior talent in finance enquire about opportunities at the company with an interest to be part of their growth journey. “The salary expectations of CXOs are being exceeded by startups as they sweeten the cash component, and ESOPs too are a major attraction,” he said. Social commerce startup DealShare, for instance, said it recently hired senior leaders from Medlife, Flipkart, and Udaan at a minimum 30% pay hike for the roles. Teamlease notes around a 30% jump from pre-Covid times in mandates from startups for CXO candidates. “The C-suite talent are today mainly quizzing startups about their valuation and future fundraising plans including IPO, and some entrepreneurial candidates are also taking a pay cut,” Kaushik Banerjee, VP and business head,, said.


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