Kunwar Vivek Singh has been an eternal student of new programming languages and tech concepts, through his 20-year-long career. “Every time a new thing comes up, I read up about it, make a ‘Hello World’ proof of concept, and when I know I can do that, I move on,” said the 43-year-old. He has worked in IT services companies and co-founded three startups where he built the tech and ran the business. He thought he had the winning combination when he went on the job hunt—a mix of startup vigour, tech chops and skills to run a business. But that wasn’t how large companies saw his resume.

Some IT services companies he interviewed with said he was too much of a generalist, instead preferring people with very specific skill sets. But what large companies were doubtful about, startups were not. Especially for a skill as niche as blockchain.

Blockchain is one of those concepts Singh had studied and filed away for later use. In a Telegram group for blockchain enthusiasts, Singh heard about a Singapore-based startup called Crowd Genie that was looking to create a peer-to-peer lending platform using cloud and blockchain. In contrast to large companies, the startup gave Singh a chance that no other company did. Right off the bat, Akshay Mehra, the co-founder, asked him to create a Know-Your-Customer (KYC) solution using blockchain. “The idea of this was to see if he understood blockchain concepts and also to see if he could roll up his sleeves and develop a system architecture,” said the 42-year-old Mehra. This was important because people at Singh’s stage often don’t want to create the software themselves.

The result? Singh was made CTO.

Our previous article on the subject highlighted the dearth of career opportunities for those in their forties. And many The Ken spoke to—more than a dozen—after months of trying, finally landed jobs in startups, like Singh. But while there are only thousands of startups, there are hundreds of thousands of professionals who risk being displaced as large tech companies respond to new business realities.

The IT services sector created a burgeoning middle-class in the 90s, and it may now be held responsible for creating a new class—an “invisible class,” as sociologist Shiv Visvanathan calls it. “These professionals [in their forties] are both skilled and highly vulnerable. But because of a middle-class embarrassment around it, no wants to talk about it, and a citizenship of silence has been created around it.” As a result, he said, there is a class of society who suddenly become invisible as people are driven to obsoletion by companies. Visvanathan believes that companies, despite being profit-focused, must have a social audit. “If companies have no sense of loyalty towards someone who has spent over 10 years, then companies shouldn’t call their employees as human resources, but admit that they are commodities,” he said.

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

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