Finding opportunity in loss

A lay-off can be a blessing in disguise if you use the opportunity to do something new or different. Here are some options that are bound to raise your professional stock.

Kamya Jaiswal | Print Edition: April 2, 2009

So you’ve lost your job. If you are nodding in acquiescence, you are probably taking pills to get over insomnia and stress, panicking over how to pay the next EMI, wringing your hands at the mass of bills piled high and checking your inbox every minute for good news. It doesn’t help that everyone treats you as if ‘handle with care’ is emblazoned all over you.

Nishun Sharma, 33
Nishun Sharma, 33
Last profile
Manager, support, in an IT company
Lost job
In October 2008
Rebound strategy
Started an education consultancy
"I looked for a job for some time, but realised that I could be in this situation again after 10-15 years. Then the idea to start a business hit me and I roped in one of my friends to launch this venture."

What you need to do is snap out of it. Despite the gloom, there are opportunities for those who refuse to mope over one closed door. All you have to do is grab them.

Easier said than done, you may counter. What are the possibilities for those laid off unceremoniously? Quite a few, actually. Even finding a job is not difficult if you need the money desperately. According to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook, about 25% of the companies are still hiring.

But that’s not the point. This is probably the best time to try something new. Or to give in to those locked-up desires that the monotony of a job had nearly buried. We have listed out a few options that are being successfully tried out by people who have been retrenched. The list is only inspirational. You can do something entirely different— as long as you do it.

Bring out the entrepreneur

Nothing showcases your entrepreneurial ability better than a start-up. If the slowdown is holding you back, take inspiration from what Saurabh Srivastava, chairman of the Indian Venture Capitalist Association, has to say: “Starting a venture is not easy during recession, but there is an upside. There are fewer start-ups, so competition for money, clients and people is limited. You can rope in talent at a lower cost and negotiate cheaper deals with advertisers and infrastructure providers.”

Nishun Sharma proves this. In October 2008, he lost his job as a manager in an IT company. “I was unwilling to compromise on my salary or designation. So the job hunt was tedious,” he says. Sharma roped in a friend and launched a consultancy firm that helps students aspiring to study abroad and people who plan to settle overseas. “I reached the break-even point within the first two months and am looking to expand my business,” says Sharma, whose initial investment was Rs 50,000.

In fact, entrepreneurship is a time-tested back-up during a crisis. Take Paramjeet Chauhan, 32, who was asked to quit a few weeks ago. In fact, he has suffered this fate twice. In 2003, he got his first pink slip. Chauhan hunted for a job, then decided to set up a business that dealt with land acquisition for telecom firms. Later, he let his younger brother manage the business and took a job with an SEZ. After he was fired the second time, he joined the firm that he had launched.

If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, Mohit Goyal and Alok Mittal, co-founders of the Indian Angel Network, suggest that the time is ripe to start businesses that reduce the cost of products and services, address local markets, or are linked to areas such as legal outsourcing, security, mobile value-added services, education and healthcare.

Gear up for a choppy ride
Slowdown is a good time for startups, but brings a unique set of problems. Here are some tips to overcome the hiccups:
Watch your capital like a hawk: External funding is hard to come by. So, streamline cash flows and get the maximum out of every rupee.
Hunt for talent: The best brains can be hired at a significantly low price when bigger companies fire people.

Be open to change, from the nature of your clients to the kind of projects you want to handle to get work during the slowdown.
Have a micro focus: Find out about the impact of the slowdown on the industry that you are working in. Check how bigger companies are faring and how they are innovating to keep afloat.

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