It is no secret that working in a startup is a completely different ball game when compared to larger, established organisations. Whether it is the pace of work, the larger responsibilities an individual carries, the frugal teams, or the thinner line between various functions, the workplace is a lot different and that is stating the obvious.
Some thrive in situations such as these, while many don’t. Yes, it is not always about the bean bags or the informal work culture. In fact, there are quite a few challenges that come with working in a non-glamorous startup. One has to learn how to survive and emerge victorious in demanding work environments.
Moglix is one such startup, an e-commerce platform for B2B procurement of industrial supplies, launched in 2015 by Rahul Garg (ex-head of advertising exchange at Google Asia). Currently, the Company has over 350 people across several locations in India, including Noida, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Kolkata. It now plans to increase its workforce by 30 per cent across functions in FY19 and already has a team that comprises alumni of premier institutions, such as ISB, IIM, IIT and XLRI.
So what does it take to work with a company such as Moglix?
“It is the quality of being fearless,” says Saumya Khare, director of operations, HR and strategy at Moglix. Khare herself has worked with large-scale companies in the past including the Indian Railways.
“We look for people who are really passionate about transforming the sector, the ones who actually believe that the sector can be transformed using technology,” she says. Khare understands that the sector is not among the most glamourous and hence, it becomes even more important to hire people who are driven.
“With a startup such as Moglix, when we go to a client, when we offer a solution, the client is usually very sceptical. The onus is on us. We need people who are absolutely fearless. On the technology side, we are looking for people who have worked on innovative solutions, are hardworking and methodical because then the kind of solutions we are building for our clients are customised.
In terms of operations, we need people who are very strong on operational excellence. We firmly believe that a lot of operations, especially in manufacturing and B2B in India, still run on jugaad and the chalta hai attitude. It is something we are trying to change and it is very important that we hire people who believe in operational excellence to get things right the first time,” Khare adds.
People get incentivised and motivated by different things. It is the HR’s responsibility to identify what is someone’s biggest motivating factor
Taking a holistic view, she says that while it is absolutely fine for people to not be accustomed to working in a start-up culture, eventually those who have the zeal to build something from scratch thrive.
“Obviously, if people have to survive in a startup, then those who can work in an unstructured environment, who do not get scared by ambiguity, who do things on their own because the teams are frugal and everybody is hands-on are the ones who are hired. It is the first thing we look for – people who enjoy creating from scratch,” she says.
On the Moglix work culture
“A lot of people do not enjoy working in large companies because they cannot understand the impact their work is creating. They are just a cog in the wheel! There is so much hierarchy. These are the people who want to work in startups. People get incentivised and motivated by different things. It is the HR’s responsibility to identify what is someone’s biggest motivating factor. That is the most important thing,” Khare says.
At Moglix, she says the culture is driven by empowerment. The work environment is fluid and transparent, and as is synonymous with startups, the open-door policy is prevalent. Garg is easily approachable and through a programme called the CEO Connect makes it a point to interact with employees across centres.
The senior leadership too is encouraged to meet each employee at least once a quarter on a one-on-one basis. The geographies don’t matter; there is technology to assist.
“Employees in our office are not robots. They may be facing issues in their personal lives. Can I do anything to help them overcome those? Do they need support? Sometimes just listening to a person helps. So, this is why we have started this initiative where senior leaders meet each and every employee at least once a quarter, but not to discuss work. This helps them understand and know their colleagues better.
“A lot of people do not enjoy working in large companies because they cannot understand the impact their work is creating. They are just a cog in the wheel! There is so much hierarchy. These are the people who want to work in startups. People get incentivised and motivated by different things. It is the HR’s responsibility to identify what is someone’s biggest motivating factor. That is the most important thing.”
We have a very transparent working culture. If employees at any time want to grow into other roles, have ideas that can create an impact, then they are absolutely free to go ahead and implement them. Of course, we will do some due diligence, but we are supportive. If you are passionate about something and want to implement it, a startup is the place to be,” says Khare.
Moglix prides itself on being an equal-opportunity employer as well. These days, diversity and inclusion are the buzzwords at the workplace. Khare insists that while some of the key functions in the Company are led by women including finance and technology sales, it is not just about gender diversity but opening all opportunities to everybody. From the senior leaders coming from the best of B-Schools to those working in the warehouses, Moglix is a workplace that is free of biases.
“If somebody wants to move to another role, we are more than happy to give that person an opportunity. Gender or anything else never becomes a constraint. You just have to be excited to take up the challenge,” she says.
On employee engagement
Employee engagement is a term thrown around a lot in organisations. Delve deeper and you might see how serious a company is about the well-being of its employees, about keeping them engaged. Without a clear and common objective to engagement initiatives, it is all futile.
“Employees in our office are not robots. They may be facing issues in their personal lives. Can I do anything to help them overcome those? Do they need support? Sometimes just listening to a person helps. So, this is why we have started this initiative where senior leaders meet each and every employee at least once a quarter, but not to discuss work. This helps them understand and know their colleagues better.”
“It is very important to first of all understand what your employees want. If employees do not want to attend a party and HR is forcing them to, it is probably just to fulfil the HR KRA and does not serve any purpose. We continuously seek feedback from our employees to understand what they want. For most of the training programmes we have organised, we received the ideas from the employees themselves. We are very open to what employees desire. The idea is that whatever makes employees’ lives happier and easier at the workplace must be considered,” Khare says.
Moglix tries to keep the culture a tad informal and at the same time ensures enriching experiences. For instance, the Company’s last quarterly meeting with its senior leadership was actually conducted in a classroom, and aptly called the ‘Back to School’ initiative.
“We actually felt like we went back to our engineering college days as we brainstormed and created project plans. The entire day was so refreshing,” Khare recalls.
Apart from training programmes and informal meets, Moglix takes the idea of mentoring its employees very seriously, both within and outside the organisation. At least twice in a quarter, Khare says, senior industry stalwarts are invited to speak to the Moglix employees. In the past, ex-Google associate, Anil Singhal and Neelam Dhawan, MD, Hewlett Packard have addressed employees at Moglix and have met with an enthusiastic response.
Internally, the senior leadership has taken it upon itself to better understand the employees and guide them.
“The crowd that we have in Moglix—the millennials—want to do a lot of things. They have several aspirations. How do you mentor them and understand what their priorities are? What is important to them at this stage in life? That is exactly what we are trying to understand. It is very important for us leaders to identify high performers and groom them for the next level. This is a very stringent target we have taken upon ourselves,” says Khare.