Often termed as the ‘Unconventional HR Thinker’ and fondly referred to as the ‘Guru of Human Capital’, Hari T.N. is a dynamic leader. In his own words, he mentions wearing different hats: Author, Angel Investor, Advisor to VCs, Mentor at Start-up Accelerators, Sounding board to Founders and Startups, Columnist etc. Hari’s life journey is in itself an inspiration for many.
A graduate of IIT Madras and IIM Calcutta, he started his career at Tata Steel as an engineer. Since then, Hari has come a long way – he’s been through four mergers and acquisitions, authored six titles, mentored countless entrepreneurs and supported various startups that today have become flourishing businesses. The first decade and a half of Hari’s career were at Tata Steel – first as an engineer and then as an HR executive. The switch to HR for Hari was not a planned move – he had worked in various functions from procurement to corporate planning to design, as well as at construction sites. Moreover it was very unlikely that he would have continued in the HR had he stayed at Tata Steel. However, within this function, Hari had already been exposed to skillsets that would completely transform his career. One of the key highlights was back in the post-liberalisation year 2002 when he worked together with the McKinsey group on a gigantic restructuring at Tata Steel – creating strategic business units and finding outplacement services for sacked employees. This exercise not only helped the company come out of a major situation of crisis, but also established Hari as an HR wizard.
After the successful stint at Tata Steel, began the era of Hari’s love for startups. He joined Daksh and enjoyed the flavour of working in a high-growth company. When IBM acquired Daksh, this inadvertently acquired the skill of managing a workforce during merger and acquisition. This is also where Hari discovered the thumb rule that during the time of merger and acquisition, to avoid chaos owing to change in the reporting relationship from one organization to another, it is important to insulate the reporting relationships except for the top management for at least 12 months.
After Daksh, Hari landed up at Virtusa where he got the opportunity to work with an organization at global scale. From Virtusa, Hari moved to Amba Research and then to TaxiforSure – a company that was later acquired by Ola. Currently, Hari is the Head of HR at the popular Indian startup – Big Basket. He is also an advisor and a mentor to several startups. Hari’s career has seen him as a part of the management team at multiple start-ups and scale-ups and he is credited with helping shape four successful exits in different industries including an IPO on NASDAQ.
An engineer with an analytical approach, Hari always had a non-traditional stance to the HR role. He always took the unconventional side of being actively involved in shaping the company’s strategy which has over the years earned him the tag of “Unconventional HR Thinker”. Hari is well-recognized for his successful stints with goal-driven start-ups, which is probably because of his firm belief that in start-ups, jargons don’t count because one has to execute, perform and make things happen in real time. As he puts it, “Here HR needs to be agile”.
Besides his various roles today, Hari is also a Strategic Advisor at Fundamentum – a growth fund established by veterans from the Indian startup ecosystem. He likes to support budding and seasoned entrepreneurs, by being their sounding board. Author to bestsellers like Saying No to Jugaad, Cutting the Gordian Knot and Cut the Crap and Jargon, he can be often found in the columns of some popular online dailies sharing his opinions and insights on some extremely relevant issues in the startup and the business world.
A seasoned leader of high curiosity, Hari enjoys connecting the dots and finding patterns and solutions, whether in business, history or science. In fact, Hari’s latest book – From Pony to Unicorn – that he co-authored with Sanjeev Aggarwal, Co-founder and Managing Director at Helion Ventures is already creating a lot of buzz among entrepreneurs, leaders and investors. Peppered with anecdotes from his personal life, the book is already being considered as a treasure trove of practical wisdom for scaling up businesses. Hari’s HR career has been eventful and exciting, and he continues to inspire students, entrepreneurs as well as seasoned leaders with his practical approach towards solving problems.