Dec 10, 2007

A very personnel touch

That's the name of the article that appears in today's Economic Times newspaper and has quotes from my CEO, Padma Kiran Rao and myself too :-)

Padma Kiran Rao, 41, who founded Tvarita Consulting in 2004, sensed this opportunity after a long career working with large corporates like Deloitte, ilabs and Cognizant. According to Rao, small companies face a classic chicken-or-egg situation when it comes to HR. Since they cannot attract senior HR talent, they have to settle for less-experienced professionals who are at best able to provide administrative support. "They don't have the objectivity and stature to tell a CEO the right thing," she says. And because of weak HR practices, these companies in turn find it tough to attract talent. Ergo, small HR firms, which guide them on such people management issues, are just what the doctor ordered. What makes this new breed of HR services firms successful is that they understand the needs of small businesses—from the economics to the approach taken, the game here is very different. First, keeping costs down is key.

At Tvarita, the senior team brings in a pan industry experience in HR and Finance, and is involved with most of the key strategic HR work. Gautam Ghosh, 35, an HR professional with career spanning organisations such as ITC Hotels, Dell and Satyam, had been running his independent management consulting business and a popular blog before joining Tvarita recently as a senior consultant. Ghosh says this role is unlike any other he's done in the past: "I hadn't made policy for an organisation until now," he says. "And that's what makes it more rewarding and challenging." But the success or otherwise of an HR change initiative ultimately depends on the owner/promoter's readiness for change. And the problems start at the top, says Rao: "Their organisations have a strong influence of their personalities, which takes time to overcome."

Says Tvarita's Rao, "You can't act as consultants; you have to operationalise your recommendations—that's part of the deal. Small business owners are cynical about consultants who walk away after giving advice." She adds that a significant part of Tvarita's fees is structured as a bonus component based on successful implementation. "We have to connect to the business ROI in some sense. For these companies, every moment and every penny counts."

It's, however, the fit with small businesses that makes small HR firms a perfect partner in progress, says Ghosh, "As small organisations ourselves, we completely understand their pains and issues."

My sincere thanks to journalist Vikas Kumar who reached out to me and sought to understand what we were doing to help small and medium enterprises ramp up their HR competencies.

As the article says: If you can't afford an HR department for your small business, help is at hand. A new breed of HR firms will set up one and run it for you

The others quoted in the article are Husys (also based in Hyderabad) and Vyaktitva (based in Delhi), and I am sure there are lots of other such HR firms. It's been my pleasure to meet with the people behind both the firms and I am sure this article will help all of us get visibility for the work we are doing.