IT'S VITAL for a start-up to be agile and try new things. But operating in a legacy sector such as manufacturing also means striking a fine balance between the old and the new. “We try not to benchmark ourselves against any traditional organisation,” says Ginu Nair, vice president, HR, Zetwerk.

With manufacturing likely to add nearly $1 trillion to India’s GDP over the next decade, as per a recent report by Matrix Partners India and McKinsey, business-to-business (B2B) manufacturing marketplace unicorn Zetwerk is already in a sweet spot. It’s no surprise then that unlike traditional manufacturing companies which focus on engineering talent, Zetwerk draws people from diverse backgrounds to bring in fresh perspectives. “Today we have been able to hire the best of folks from traditional set-ups, people from the start-up ecosystem who never had a manufacturing or industrial background, and B2C people on the product engineering side,“ says Nair.

The company, which employs around 2,200, saw its revenues grow to ₹4,961 crore in FY22, compared with the previous fiscal. But even with a growing headcount, the average age of employees has been 31 years, and post Covid, Zetwerk has begun on-campus recruitment rather than virtual. There are also experienced hires, who help bring in domain knowledge.

One reason why Zetwerk has been drawing interest from the experienced talent pool of traditional manufacturing companies is its high growth potential. In legacy firms, moving up the leadership chain has its own set of challenges. “When people hear from peers how the organisation has been built and roles have evolved, it’s a great talent draw,” says Nair.

The start-up runs initiatives such as the ‘Founder Club’ to nurture potential leaders. Select employees are mentored by a co-founder. There’s also the ‘Zetwerk Accelerated Programme’ where an external leadership coach trains employees.

The company stresses on transparent communication with employees. “The process of transparency begins from pre-onboarding engagement to ‘Parichay’ — a connect programme with leaders after the initial 30 days, monthly townhalls with the top management, as well as quarterly engagements with CEO Amrit Archaya,” says Nair.

Interestingly, nearly 26% of the company’s workforce consists of gig talent, especially in specialised roles. While the high dependence may seem risky as the company reaches scale, Nair says Zetwerk’s policy for gig workers makes the arrangement work. Depending on the work and how well it is done, gig workers get an opportunity to be absorbed as full-time employees.

Out of its total workforce, women constitute 12%, and Zetwerk plans to take it to 15% over the next three years. It also plans to make the LGBTQ community and the differently-abled make up for 0.5% of its workforce in the next three years. The company, which has a retention rate of 73%, is continuing with the hybrid model of work post Covid.

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