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Soft Landing Anyone?

Soft landing. Two words used most often by friends and acquaintances when I revealed my India plans. “You want a soft landing”, the wise men said. Moving to India would be hard overall so taking up a less stressful job would go a long way towards softening the landing. Great! But what kind of jobs would be soft landing?

First, let’s classify the consumer web job market into three distinct types:

  • A) Large Internet companies
  • B) Post Series A startups
  • C) Pre Series A startups
Off the bat, I ruled out Type C companies. After an intense all-consuming year at Graspr, it would be downright stupid to sustain that kind of pace in the midst of moving to India, right? When I first started writing this post, I was pretty sure the answer was yes. Three weeks later, I’m not so sure – time will tell.
What about Type A companies? There were only a handful of them and I planned to talk to them all. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a sizable number of Type B companies in Bangalore and Gurgaon, some even in Bombay. Intuitively, Type A firms would be better soft landing targets than Type B companies, right? To a large extent, yes! especially from a stability perspective. In terms of pace and intensity, there may not be a big difference. The Bangalore work ethic and culture (both in small and large companies) resembles the Bay Area companies to a great extent. The ideal soft landing would be if you were already working in a large technology company in America and were moving to an appropriately senior role in that company’s India operation in Bangalore, Delhi, or Hyderabad. Hmm…why didn’t I move to India during my Yahoo days? I blew my chance, didn’t I? 🙂
Jokes apart, the soft landing message can be expressed as not raising the ante. In other words, do not complicate or intensify your job any more than it already is. If you are working for a large software firm with a deterministic pace, seek a role at a similar size firm (if not the same firm you are already working for). If you are working for a medium size company that is establishing an India presence, seriously consider taking up a key role in building out the India organization. If you are at an early stage startup and are seeking a similar role and company in India, chances are good that you’ll find it in Bangalore, Gurgaon or Pune but.. seriously consider putting your startup aspirations on pause.. not for long (maybe just a few years). Of course time will tell whether I’ll follow my own advice.
Soft landings aren’t just for the breadwinners in the family – It extends to kids as well. One of my friend’s friend gave me a crash course on Bangalore schools and talked about the differences between the State Board schools, CBSE, ICSE and International schools (topics for future posts once we reach Bangalore). When he moved to Bangalore, he enrolled his younger daughter into an international school for the first two years before eventually moving her to a CBSE board school. The international school curriculum and teaching style was similar to the American schools and made for a soft landing before the traditional Indian school’s academic rigor kicked in.

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