STARTUP vs. CORPORATE | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 06, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 06, 2018

Welcome to the working person's jungle


All confused fresh-graduates face the archetypal job search duel between startup and corporate. A corporate job may give you a generous pay, but will it give you the flexibility to get your Master's degree on the side? A start up may equip you with a diverse skill set, but will it provide a structured on-the-job training that can boost your value in the job market?

I've spoken to two professionals who've had adequate exposure in both worlds and are well brushed up with the pros and cons of each. So if you're still utterly perplexed about where to work, this article will hopefully help you make a decision.

Salary and benefits

Corporates are obsessively concerned about their brand image and as such they provide the best and the most competitive salaries to their employees. They don't delay payments. Moreover, big corporates like BAT offer free lunch, while GP gives employees health insurance up to 2.5 lakhs. When in higher positions, you may get cars with chauffeurs. These corporations are also legally bound to provide a certain number of annual leaves, sick leaves and casual leaves with pay. Some even go as far as sharing profits with all employees at the end of each year. More importantly, the knowledge that your workplace won't just go broke and stop existing the next day is good for the peace of mind.

Startups on the other hand might give you a life of uncertainty. A lot of times, payments to vendors get delayed, which means employees get paid even later. Except a few employees at the top, the average employee doesn't get paid much. Non-monetary benefits are hardly there.

Job roles

Corporates hire many people and have precisely defined job roles. So unless you're a part of a cross-team, you'll have a solitary focused job in a specific department. Even in a cross-team, your job description will be constant and over the months you will become an expert at what you do.

Start-ups usually take up one or two floors of a building and rooms it with limited number of employees. As such, job roles have blurry boundaries. You will be expected to brainstorm, create a deck and pitch to potential clients on one day, and prepare (or at least help prepare) the budget the other day. Thus startups are always looking for versatile, creative people with multitasking abilities who enjoycollaborating.

The learning procedure

At corporate, you get to learn methodically. The procedure is structured with a good set of guidelines. This trains you to become very efficient in the processes. However, the predictability of it makes it very boring sometimes.

At start-ups, you're on your own. You learn through trial and error, which isn't very nice because you're liable forall your mistakes. However, having full freedom of your actions has certain personal integrity attached to it that you might not find at corporate. In contrast to a learning curve at a corporate that's steep at first but gradually falls flat, the learning curve at a startup is constantly steep.

Hours and flexibility

Even though more and more corporates are trying to establish themselves as friendly, flexible entities, in reality most corporates are very inflexible in nature. Jobs are not 9 to 5, in fact most people end up spending 10-12 hours daily at office. Especially for getting promoted, it is vital to get noticed and the most practical way to do that is to spend endless hours at the workplace.

On the contrary, startups will allow you ample flexibility and let you choose your own hours. Everything is good as long as you're contributing and being productive. Sometimes they might even let you work from home. Thus if work-life balance is something you look for in a job, startups might be the way to go.

External stakeholders

Dealing with vendors and external stakeholders is easier when you have a big corporate name backing you. You'll find them to be nicer, more respectful, and more professional because they don't want to upset a big and powerful corporation.

On the other hand, startups aren't nearly as powerful, thus leaving you without protection at the disposal of shady businessmen. They tend to lie and cheat and miss deadlines, so you'll have to be extra harsh when dealing with them.

Personal impact

At corporate you will have next to no say about important decisions being made even if they involve you and your own team. Hierarchy is extremely strong and rigid. At a startup however, you will have dominant authority and visibility into business decisions. You will have greater insight about the modality of your company, ample scope of creative expression and a legitimate platform to voice your thoughts and have it heard. But if your long term goal is to be a CEO, you will almost never get that there, even after being number 2 for years. Instead you will have to expand your role and fit in more responsibilities. A lot of organisations like BAT and Grameenphone are relentlessly working to creating a culture of breeding future leaders and hence might be more suitable for people with similar aims.


Adiba Arif is a business student, almost always regretting her major life decisions. Write to her at to help her see the light.

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