Moonlighting: To illuminate a plague or okay? Startups shared on their opinions

The debate around moonlighting – which has recently drawn strong reactions from some of India’s top IT executives – has spilled over into the startup sector, which is clearly divided on the issue.

When it comes to employees taking on side jobs, the general sentiment is to err on the side of caution, ET found based on conversations with several startup bosses among upGrad, Eruditus, Nykaa, NoBroker, Scaler, BankBazaar, HomeLane and CashKaro.

While some said their organizations were fine with what employees do in their free time as long as there was transparency and no conflict of interest, a few said they would review it at case by case. Others spoke out against moonlighting, saying it would dilute the contribution of employees.

None of the companies ET spoke to are yet considering a formal policy on moonlighting – a trend that has intensified among white-collar workers, particularly in the IT/tech sector, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and working from home (WFH).

“Moonlighting can be a great way to improve skills that you don’t have time to practice during your full-time job,” said Swati Bhargava, co-founder of CashKaro and EarnKaro.

She said her companies had no problem with employees who moonlighted as long as it didn’t compromise their commitment to work. “But this needs to be monitored on a case-by-case basis,” Bhargava said. “Also, for older people, I don’t think it’s practical due to the nature of their role and responsibilities.”

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On the other end of the spectrum, Amit Agarwal, CEO of NoBroker, said he was personally against the concept. “Startups are about innovating, thinking, and solving customer problems around the clock,” he said. “That, plus the time needed for rejuvenation, leaves very little mental leeway for more work.”

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Overall, however, experts said startups appear to be ahead of the curve and more flexible than their IT counterparts when it comes to moonlighting.

“Startups tend to imagine the future better than big companies and can better spot trends and patterns. This is precisely why they can be successful in disrupting and outmaneuvering big companies,” said angel investor TN Hari, co-founder of the Artha School of Entrepreneurship.

“They understand that allowing employees to do whatever they want in their free time (except working for a direct competitor) is the future and they would be better off embracing the trend rather than fighting it,” he said. he declares.

Sandeep Murthy, partner at venture capital fund Lightbox Ventures, said creative and skilled people join startups to pursue a vision, make a difference and redefine an industry. “If you can’t make it motivating enough or incentivize them enough to stay engaged, you can’t expect them to sit around and wait idly in their free time,” he added.

Sriram Vaidhyanathan, HR Manager of BankBazaar, said, “We have had cases where employees wanted to participate in side gigs, pursue a passion project, etc. We take them on a case-by-case basis and follow the 3C principle – see what type of contract the employee has, if it is a conflict of interest and if they have disclosed the nature of the work. We also verify the commercial interest involved.

Moonlighting can be more difficult for larger companies because they typically have signed contracts with end customers, he said. “But in the startup ecosystem for small and medium enterprises, it’s something that can work overall,” Vaidhyanathan added.

Abhimanyu Saxena, co-founder of InterviewBit and Scaler, said employees should have the freedom to do whatever they want outside working hours, as long as there is no conflict of interest. “Flexible companies will attract more talent than rigid ones,” he said.

Moonlighting has been in the news in recent weeks after Swiggy launched a policy that allowed its employees to moonlight, subject to internal approvals. Since then, some IT majors, including Wipro, Infosys and IBM, have spoken out against the practice. However, some like Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani said his company might even come up with a policy so employees can be open about it.

Not everything is comfortable

While Nykaa CEO Falguni Nayar said she was quite a traditionalist and did not believe in side hustles unbeknownst to the company, Eruditus CEO Ashwin Damera said moonlighting is unethical unless the person makes it known to the employer and has it approved.

upGrad also does not encourage moonlighting. “Education is serious business and such (black) practices could distract our employees from their core vision…also negatively impact our learners,” said Mayank Kumar, co-founder of UpGrad.

Similarly, Srikanth Iyer, co-founder of HomeLane, said, “When employees moonlight, it dilutes their contribution, if not in the short term, then certainly in the longer term.”

Agarwal of NoBroker said, “The reason we offer generous ESOPs at NoBroker is that we view our colleagues as owners, and it requires their special attention. The risk of burnout and distraction (from moonlighting) is too great when a startup is experimenting and growing. »

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