Decoding Hiring with Pankaj Bansal, CEO, PeopleStrong


In a world being swamped by technology, people remain the heart of any business that wants to thrive and not just survive. 

People management has evolved over the years and has come to a point where attendance, payroll, and all things HR can be managed at the tap of a button.

What remains a pressing problem is the seamless integration of man and machine when it comes to global companies managing thousands of employees over multiple locations. How do we do that? 

We’re asking all the pressing HR questions from the man of the people (literally!)- Pankaj Bansal, Co-Founder and CEO of PeopleStrong, a provider of Human Resource Intelligence combined with Next-Gen Technology to over 250 users across a variety of domains.

How do you think, everyone as a person, needs to be a work in progress to become a better version of themselves?

In general, we, as people operate in three stages. We’re either static, succeeding, or struggling. If we’re static, that’s not good. We need to be pushing ourselves to move forward and change. If we’re succeeding, we should be humble and focus on the next steps of growth rather than trying to live off that success. And if we’re struggling- we have to make sure we change the way we operate. We have to identify what is it that we’re doing that’s not working out. 

So, I think, in all the three situations- we have no options but to keep evolving, no matter what stage we are in life, we have to be a work in progress. 

How do you think the idea of “working for someone” is changing over the years?

I think there was an “employee-employer model” of work that came in after the industrial revolution and it has prevailed to date. There have been exceptions and entrepreneurs but in the last 5 decades, there have been a lot of entrepreneurial success stories. 

Although the model remains the same, there is a shift in what the current world promises “work” to look like. The difference now is that the relationship going further is not going to be employee-employer but it’s going to be based on output, a service provider and a consumer.

There will be no typical corporations having 10,000 employees, but an organisation with x number of customers, x revenue and x number of services with people on a partner basis having an output that matches these numbers. 

Soon, everyone will be responsible for themselves and their output. This model is going to be extremely democratic. It won’t look at gender, race, or religion, but a person’s capability.


Taking from what you just said, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are just setting out to build a new team? 

First and foremost, entrepreneurs should not shy away from funding. It gives you wings to fly. If you don’t want to take it too early, take it later because you cannot scale up just on cash flow. 

Secondly, if you delay the systems and processes for too long- you’re compromising the destiny or success of your organisation. Of course, you can say you are agile and don’t want to bind yourself in the bureaucracy- but you can be agile and have systems coexist to maximise productivity, because that, at the end of the day, is what matters.  

These are the two things I see a lot of entrepreneurs intentionally or unintentionally falter on time and again. 

Lastly, constantly invest in boards, advisors and mentors. The return on investment you get on their experience is priceless! Not only do they bring governance, but also help you get a market reach and the critical rational view that they bring to the table is of immense value. 

What were a few challenges you faced when you were setting up PeopleStrong? And how did you overcome those? 

The biggest challenge we faced was that the market was not ready. We were ahead of our time and at that time, there was no HR Technology that people or companies wanted to buy.

Secondly, the capital was not as freely available as it is today.

The first challenge we addressed by talking to our advisory and board. They helped and guided us as to how we should go about opening up. At a lot of places, they went out and did this job for us.

We might not have succeeded 100%, but we did drive our idea out into the market.

We overcame the second challenge by leveraging our angel capital and home office to prepare ourselves until VCs found our idea exciting. 

These challenges were of immense value and the mentorship we got guided us through some of the toughest decisions. 

What’s the best advice someone gave you?

Someone once told me “Don’t drink your bathing water”. We sometimes start believing the story we tell to outsiders. Deep down, we know that’s not the truth. Sometimes we need to stop trusting the pitch we are giving to others

Not that we should lie to people. In fact, have a conviction when you speak to others. But have the capacity to reanalyse, review, and relook what you have done and believed when needed. 

It made me more rational, more realistic, more authentic and more honest with myself.

There has been a lot of conversation about organisational culture. Why do you think it needs to be at the core of every company considering now, there is a lot more conversation about it than it was a few years ago.

Organisational culture has a lot of elements and threats to it. There are three major buckets.

One is the culture of hiring the right people. What systems have you deployed? What psychometrics do you use? How do you do your team analysis?

At PeopleStrong, we do an analysis every six months. It has helped us immensely. Now, we are 1300+ people and it has happened because of our focus on hiring right.

The second element is what we call “devolution of power”. It means constantly allowing others to be more empowered so that they can operate well. It is giving 50% of your work to your next level. That allows organisations to grow faster and build better capability.

It is a very structured process, but if implemented right, it can contribute to the growth and strengthening of the organisational culture.

The third thing is consequence management. It includes performance management systems and analysing people basis their output in a democratic yet non-standardised manner.

All of this encompasses the broader concept of delayering the organisation. As brands grow, the organisation forms layers. Businesses need to adapt and embrace technologies that help delayer the organisation and help increase employee efficiency. 

Considering you have worked with a lot of people who are finding co-founders or having a hard time with their co-founders. What advice would you give to a startup or entrepreneur when they’re looking for a co-founder?

There are cases where people have succeeded without a co-founder but I am not in favour of that. When it comes to investors- it is always comforting to have a co-founder. 

An organisation is like a child and getting into business is like a marriage. 

I have seen husband-wife co-founding, which is not always a great idea. But of course, in 90% of the cases, co-founders are friends. It is very natural as long as there is clarity of roles. If both are into sales or both want to have visibility- that might not work. Their skills and abilities have to complement one another.

UIncept is India's premier startup incubator and accelerator-based out of Gurugram, India. In our pursuit to create startups that become the disruptors for tomorrow, we provide mentorship, investment and growth opportunities to the young entrepreneurs who work with us at our campus. Learn more about us and our programs here

Himanshu Bhalla