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Andrew Murray, Lazada Group HR Head

What attracts talent to a start-up (and makes them stay)?



Asia’s most renowned regional HR Excellence Awards is back in October in Singapore and Malaysia to sieve out HR’s finest gems. Are you a diamond in the rough? View the categories and find out more.

For years, a war has been brewing between banks and tech firms to attract the best talent. Andrew Murray, executive vice-president of human resources at Lazada Group, recounts how leveraging on the company’s corporate culture and attractive perks has paid off in the long run.

Before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, jobs in the financial sector were highly sought after by top performing graduates. Drawn by promises of hefty pay checks, it became a ritual for high flying graduates worldwide to join the ranks of large investment banks and financial institutions.

The prestige of a career in banking, however, has been dwindling. Following the global financial crisis, which led to large job losses and the tarnished reputation of some major banks, there is now a trend towards ambitious graduates pursuing jobs that provide them with a greater sense of meaning and a better work-life balance.

Technology has subsequently become a more attractive industry to work in. Record numbers of university graduates and business school graduates are now choosing jobs in the technology industry, ahead of a career in finance.

There is now a strong entrepreneurial culture in Asia and cities such as Singapore have a fast growing start-up scene. Singapore is a location that offers a favourable tax regime, stable political conditions, a growing pool of venture capital investors and a talented workforce, making it a very attractive location for both entrepreneurs and tech start-ups.

Moving away from convention

Lazada is one of the companies that has benefited from Singapore’s favourable business environment. However, its management team represents only a small percentage of an increasing number of finance professionals and other high flying individuals who are leaving their corporate careers behind for the technology industry.

There is now a strong entrepreneurial culture in Asia and cities such as Singapore have a fast growing start-up scene.

One such example is Sing Kwan Ng, a Malaysian national who Lazada hired from one of the top management consulting firms in Malaysia, two years after he graduated. He was fed up with consultancy life and looking for a new challenge.

He initially ran Lamido, an online marketplace owned by Lazada Group, in Malaysia. He immediately took on a huge amount of responsibility, including setting up the team and then building up the whole business in that market. He has now moved into a substantial regional role, based in Bangkok.

To attract more such individuals to join the technology sector, Lazada strives to maintain a relatively relaxed and informal culture in the tech sector and offers perks such as flexible working hours, which appeal to young graduates and professionals.

Indeed, this exciting and fast moving industry has attracted both professionals and graduates from a variety of different disciplines. From fashion to logistics, human resources, business development, marketing and communications, data analytics and programming, the e-commerce industry has a role for everyone from all professional backgrounds.

The talented pool of employees remains the bedrock of Lazada’s success and the company has been effective in attracting and retaining the best talent in the region.

What makes talent stay

Professionals that have moved to Lazada from leading consultancy firms and banks have cited the autonomy over their schedules, greater responsibility, and the opportunity to see results first-hand and the chance to shape the culture, instead of stepping into a predetermined culture with existing practices and customs, as key factors that persuaded them to leave their corporate jobs for a start-up.

Apart from that, young professionals at Lazada enjoy a rapid upward career trajectory that comes with greater ownership and responsibility, which can be rare in other more hierarchical industries. Lazada’s employees are often given highly challenging and pioneering roles which provide them with the opportunity to help break new ground.

Lazada employees are also given the opportunity to pursue cross-functional roles. Young professionals value the opportunity for personal growth, multi-discipline learning and job diversity as they are exposed to a number of different parts of the business.

With Asia Pacific’s e-commerce sector projected to grow dramatically, and the attraction of Singapore as a strong regional hub for IT and technology professionals, hiring in the technology industry is likely to continue apace.

Young professionals value the opportunity for personal growth, multi-discipline learning and job diversity as they are exposed to a number of different parts of the business.

Lazada will continue to grow its talent pool this year, with a particular focus on mobile-related disciplines as mobile e-commerce continues its rapid growth in the region. Additionally, recent high-profile data breaches and hacking incidents continue to fuel the need for data security professionals and business intelligence analysts that can help mitigate IT risks.

Technology is set to remain one of the major industries of choice for both young graduates and corporate professionals looking to capitalise off the huge opportunities this fast growing, dynamic industry sector offers.

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