Employees: “The SELCO type”
Before Sarah Alexander became head of the Innovation Department at SELCO, she was an animal behaviorist, studying gorillas and chimpanzees at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Though she had devoted a great deal of time to animal behavior, she came to realize that apes weren’t her calling. After moving back to India, Alexander searched for something different to do and did Google searches of new developments in sustainable practices.
That’s how she stumbled upon SELCO. Captivated by SELCO’s story, she contacted Harish Hande to request an informational interview. To her surprise, he agreed. “Within thirty minutes of speaking with Harish, I was sold on the concept of SELCO,” Alexander recalled. “And so I jumped.”
Alexander’s story is echoed by others who, after becoming acquainted with Hande, decided to leave stable, well-paying jobs within their fields for the opportunity to become part of the SELCO team. The company pays below-market salaries for Bangalore and cannot boast the long-term security of public sector employment. But like Alexander, many still make the jump because they believe in SELCO’s mission and want to be part of the solution to India’s energy crisis. As of 2009, SELCO employed more than 130 people.
Mrs. Revathi, SELCO’s CFO, had spent years working at multinational companies, handling audits and other finance-related issues before joining in 2004. When she initially came across the position through a job portal, Revathi admits being intrigued by SELCO’s social mission executed through a for-profit structure.
“I thought that would be a very challenging job,” Revathi recalled. “Since I am from a financial background, I always had looked at transactions with a for-profit point of view. Because this company had a social mission, I thought they looked at finance a little differently. That's why I came to SELCO.”
To uncover the 'SELCO type,' Hande considers personality as much as qualifications during applicant interviews. He assesses whether candidates are passionate, in it for the long-term and sufficiently patient to work for an organization like SELCO, where the mission is well-defined but processes and protocols are still works-in-progress. Nonetheless, SELCO’s management team aims to recruit a balanced mix of employees, from passionate do-gooders to employees whose main concern is earning a steady paycheck to support themselves and their families. “We strive for 50 percent of our employees who are passion-based, and 50 percent who come in from 9 to 5,” Hande said. “Ideally, we don’t want to cross over. If you have more than 50 percent passionate people, then you have lots of problems in the organization, and if you have more than 50 percent who are salary-based, you end up with problems on the mission. So that’s the balance.”