Mumbai: Cryptocurrency exchanges are facing a challenge hiring experienced professionals due to shortage of people with relevant crypto skills in India, while demand for talent has soared with several well-funded crypto firms scaling up and diversifying their businesses.
Headhunters and industry executives say that the 25–30 exchanges that operate in India are witnessing demand for talent across functions such as technology, compliance, legal, risk management, marketing, and sales to manage and scale their projects at a time when the government is in the process of bringing in stricter regulations and more government oversight.
“The availability of blockchain talent in India for cryptocurrency exchanges, even though growing, is scarce, and that’s one of the reasons why we have to offer steep salary packages for techies ranging from Rs 1.5-7 lakh per month,” Praveenkumar Vijayakumar, chairman at Malaysia-based crypto trading platform Belfrics Global, said. “As and when exchange operations and enterprise adoption of blockchain increase, the demand for blockchain talents will become more competitive”
In most cases, the average salary offered to tech employees across exchanges is around Rs 2 lakh per month for those with two to four years of experience, say industry trackers.
India is one of the fastest growing cryptocurrency markets globally. The January to June growth was 641 % over 12 months, according to a report by Chainanalysis, a New York-based blockchain data platform. In the last few months, two Indian exchanges—
CoinSwitch Kuber and
CoinDCX—have achieved unicorn status.
“Currently, there are at least 40-50 CXO level openings between the top ten exchanges. Most of the big exchanges that are well-funded are scaling or pivoting, so demand for talent across levels is robust,” said Ashish Sanganeria, senior partner and national technology lead at global head-hunting firm Transearch.
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Take, for example, CoinSwitch Kuber, the leading Indian crypto exchange that has grown from 25 to more than 380 employees in the last one and a half years. “The majority of hiring has taken place in engineering and product teams, but we have also strengthened our leadership team,” said Ashish Singhal, cofounder and chief executive at CoinSwitch Kuber.
Ex-WhatsApp executive Ashish Chandra (general counsel), ex-Paytm executive Krishna Hegde (SVP New Initiatives), ex-Ola executive Sarmad Nazki (CFO), ex-Flipkart executive Jayram Krishnan (VP Product), ex-Directi executive Nishant Das (global head of talent acquisition), and ex-Infosys executive Zeeshan Ramlan (director and head of HR) have all joined Coinswitch Kuber in the past few months.
Indian crypto exchanges have also been accessing crypto talent abroad, especially in East European countries for some specialised crypto skills.
Node.js, Hyperledger, Smart Contracts, and Solidity are the top technology skills that crypto exchanges are looking for on the technology side.
The global nature of the top crypto talent has also contributed to rising salaries in India.
“Web3 companies and Work From Home have led to developers being accessed across the world. So there is competition from across the globe for crypto talent, hence salaries are shooting up. We have given mid-year raises three times to some of our brightest and some of our earliest hires,” said Edul Patel, cofounder and chief executive at crypto trading platform at Mudrex.
Some of the developers who are not on the rolls are even taking tokens as payments for projects so that if the new currency clicks, they make a windfall.
The headhunters and CEOs of the crypto exchanges say they see two trends while hiring:
People who are still sceptical about the sector given the regulatory uncertainty.
People who are clear that they want to join a crypto company as they believe it gives them a chance to make money quickly.
In India, the digital skills market is already very robust with companies, both legacy and new-age, hiring technology experts at record levels and at the highest-ever salaries.
Professionals with cryptographic and Web3 skills are being paid 10–30% more than professionals with in-demand digital skills with the same experience. “India will be a top market for cryptocurrencies globally, so I see this sector being hot for a good amount of time,” said Sanganeria of Transearch.
Exchanges claim that while they are able to attract talent by offering high salaries, they are unable to retain it. “In most cases, the employees are more focused on trading than working,” cribs a CEO of a large exchange. “And often, we have seen that retaining these employees is becoming extremely tough, as they keep getting offers from our competitors.”