Staying Relevant, Staying Connected

Entrepreneur & C.E.O., Krishna Kumar on why constant learning and upskilling matter.

We shop, sell, study, learn, create, and decode everything on the world wide web. Everything is online. From flowers to fast food, veggies to vitamins, work to workout, clothes to classrooms, electronics to education. You name it, and it is just on the tip of our finger. The last twenty months saw an exceptional growth in online learning. Schools, colleges, and universities have adapted to this norm. Education has evolved during the pandemic era. Everything is on the web. Now, major universities around the world are offering free limited online modules on various courses from an array of disciplines to choose from. All you need is a smartphone and a reliable internet connection. Any of us can learn, unlearn and relearn. It’s about time we realise, ‘knowledge is democratised’. That means we have every available opportunity to upskill and upgrade our knowledge to stay relevant and reliable too. 

We have with us today, Krishna Kumar, Entrepreneur & C.E.O. of Green Pepper Consulting. Krishna is the leading expert in hiring, technology, finance, marketing, and strategy in helping leaders grow companies in a digital economy in India. With over 15 years of experience helping companies and leaders solve complex problems.

Let’s find out from Krishna Kumar his outlook on staying relevant in this pandemic stimulated digital world.

A conversation with Chippy & Krishna Kumar, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder & C.E.O.
of GreenPepper Consulting, India.

CKChippyHi Krishna, How have you been? Pandemic was unexpected. What were the challenges your organisation faced during this unprecedented time? How have you adapted?
KKFirst of all, a global health crisis like a pandemic creates uncertainty – and it leads to panic, and confusion about thinking what is really ahead. Moving from a physical office to remote work is a giant step for all. So far we have been enjoying a different life, and over the last 18 months, millions have adopted a remote work life and are quite well adapting to it. 

Being into hiring and digital services, I’ve always been working with distributed teams and have not felt much difference, though at times I miss going to the office. Coming to terms with it was quite fast, considering the possibilities to work more time, and collaborate with people online. 

I delivered more than hundred learning sessions as webinars with industry forums, startup communities and colleges. That allowed me to prepare more content, read and learn more, and most importantly interact with a wide variety of people – from CEOs to school children. 

On the business side, we automated many processes, brought digital tools to make things easier. We also started working with new teams to bring in skills to boost our services area for our clients. As a team, we realised the power of networks in the digital economy. 
CKCKrishna, you have helped hire over 2500 employees for more than 200 employers in India. Hiring the right people from competitive markets must have been challenging. Times have changed now. The last 20 months have drastically changed the hiring sphere. Unplanned lockdown, new concept called Work From Home(WFH), more lockdowns and unending WFH scenarios, it’s a challenge. In these times the way hiring is done must have shifted. 

What do you search for in your hires? How is it different from prior to Covid? And now, what are you looking for from an individual who is applying for a job you have advertised?  
We are a focussed technology hiring company and the pandemic boosted the remote work possibilities making companies to reinvent their talent strategy. 

Engineering skills for product companies are in huge demand and we are working on that space. The candidates with strong foundations in algorithm data structures and coding are more in demand. 
Generic hiring is reduced, a lot of people lost jobs. Many people can become redundant in the digital economy, if they don’t upskill themselves.

People who aspire to build careers must focus on skilling, and building communication skills, along with the ability to work with teams. That differentiates you from a solo-player to a team player. Freelancers with niche skills now have opportunities to be part of platforms, offer their services, and get money credited through Razorpay or Stripe. The world is moving to remote independent work more and more, allowing more people to enjoy work without moving to big cities. 
CKCWhat are the challenges you face now, from the candidates when they are applying for positions. And what do you expect?
KK Primarily when candidates actively seek jobs, they apply everywhere, and try to attend interviews everywhere, making them confused about the possibilities. It also results in time wasted for employers. Many candidates do job shopping, especially when they are skilled and have a decent portfolio of work to show. 

There are so many channels including Whatsapp chatbots that help candidates to apply. Remote work also brought in the independent work mode, where people who otherwise can’t work from office also opened up the possibility to enter the workforce. That is a huge boost for freelancers, and women trying to re-enter work. 

Having said that, constant learning and upskilling makes them relevant for new kinds of jobs, in an internet economy. 
CKCAs said earlier, ‘knowledge is democratised.’ And this means no one has the right to excuse themselves and say,’I did not know, I didn’t have a chance to learn, I don’t have the means to learn. I did not have time.’ 

Online learning is possible; there are many free upskills programmes available on several platforms.  From major universities around the world to LinkedInLearning and Coursera are offering limited free courses to upgrade your skills. Due to the demand for online education, the fees for upskilling are also affordable.

How is this new form of education influencing companies’ hiring process? Does your organisation value these self-learners and do employers give any preference to these individuals who are constantly upgrading and upskilling themselves? 
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are accepted by employers in the hiring process, and given extra weightage as it shows the candidate’s self learning drive and capabilities. The lifelong learning is all about constantly learning online, upgrading with MOOCs, acquiring skills through cohort-based learning and doing practical projects. Coursera, Edx, Linkedin Learning, Udemy, Udacity, Skillshare and many more have made it easier for anyone willing to start learning instantly. 

Companies are now buying learner licenses in Coursera and Udemy to help upskill their people for the digital economy. A massive reskilling program is going on in all kinds of jobs, gradually it will help millions of people to stay relevant. 
CKCHow do you see this influencing those currently in the workforce, upskilling and learning themselves?
KKThe pandemic has given time for people to think for themselves. It has also given them time to do developmental activities, like learning, building on a hobby, or even redesigning life priorities. 

A lot of young people have entered the workforce remotely, and started considering it as a way of life. The collaboration tools make it possible. Seeing people lose jobs because of redundancy has made people take learning seriously, and online learning makes learning affordable and flexible. 
CKCHow do you deal with candidates who have shortcomings in their skills? 
KKA self-motivated candidate is always driven towards learning and that makes him employable. If we do not see those efforts, they are hardly marketable. Learning includes being part of complex projects and navigating it with digital and cognitive skills. 

Skills shortage is always a problem as the economies are expanding, and systemic changes bring a lot of disruption in many areas. 
CKCExperience will always trump everything else. Now when you hire, do you look for people who self-learn also? 
KKMost of the digital economy jobs need skills that are not taught anywhere. So it requires constant self-learning. Employers are always looking for self-learned people who are active with live projects in real problem solving. 

As Naval Ravikant says, “free education is abundant all over the Internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.” 
CKCKnowledge and experience. How has that impacted hiring and recruiting? 
KKNew problems need constant ‘cognitive and technology’ muscle building considering the dynamics. More than knowledge, employers look for what unique value the employee can bring in, what skills can be brought in, to solve and build. 
CKCWith the trend that is there today, how are companies looking at candidates,  is it the same as before, or has it changed? 
KKEmployers have different channels through which they can attract candidates. Linkedin, Hirist, Cutshort, Instahyre, Naukri, Monster, Github, Dribble and many more to source tech, product and design skills. Social media hiring, employer branding and Glassdoor, all working as channels to source interested applicants. 

The process is more automated now. The biggest channel being job referrals.

The talent marketplace is competitive and employers with money and work culture muscle wins.  
CKCWill there be a change in the way employers seek their future hires due to more self-educated/self-learned candidates? 
KKAlong with performance appraisal, companies are also doing learning appraisal, what more did employees learn during the quarter, and how do they add value to the company. If they can teach others new skills, that will add to their credibility and value. 
CKCKrishna, you are in a delicate place, where you need to take care of your company, the position you are filling in for your client and also take care of the candidate who is coming in for the role. How do you do it all? 
KKIt is a delicate act. And you are right, sometimes multiple stakeholders having diverse expectations can pull us in different directions. But the goal is to make workplaces better. So the goal keeps us driving towards making things better. Managing expectations, resetting expectations and leading them to a better direction all matters in a leadership role. 

My team is focussed and disciplined, they bring in a method to the madness. And that inspires me to work more, and build better. We are also automating many processes. That helps to reduce manual efforts, and refocus those energies to strategic and creative things. 
CKCWhat more do you like to see from future job seekers? 
KKIt would be great if they can collaborate, communicate and learn better. Any step towards improving these can make workplaces better. Job seekers must build tech and cognitive skills – ability to work remotely and productively. A constant hunger to learn new things, apply the learnings at the workplace and refine the game. 
CKCWhat changes do you expect in the Job Market? And do you have any suggestions for those seeking new positions? 
KKThe job market is going to be interesting for candidates with digital economy skills. I always say that on various platforms. The only way they can remain relevant and stay competitive is through building it. 
CKCKrishna, thank you for agreeing to be part of this dialogue. This has been an incredible conversation. Could I look forward for more!
KKIndeed, having meaningful conversations help to reflect on what we do in a detached perspective, and build thoughts to make it better. 
Follow Krishna Kumar 
For more information, latest news & updates on Green Pepper Consulting India Private limited.

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