Talking about their learnings and unlearnings around the softer aspects of management during this time, Singh stated that their culture became supremely and keenly important to them. It might not be the best of culture, he admitted, but it was a story of resilience. “It’s not the best culture and we are honest about it. We work six days a week, and get a lot of flak for that. But in these times, it works for us. Maybe it is required, maybe it is wrong judgment. But now we are not shying away from it. Whenever we are hiring or talking to people, there are no excuses for this. If they are okay or not okay with a six-day workweek, it is their choice,” he said, while speaking at India Internet Day by TiE Delhi-NCR, which was held on September 2.
Recently, Singh had faced a lot of backlash when he wrote a LinkedIn post detailing the “interview hacks” at his company to identify the right candidate. Among some of the aspects mentioned were conducting in-person interviews at 9 pm, doing interviews on a Sunday, making candidates spend 6-8 hours in the office and calling the candidate at 8 am to request an interview. He later deleted the post after several users on social media criticized the co-founder for encouraging toxic work practices.
Explaining more about how the company instilled culture among its employees, Singh said they grew from 300 to 1,100 people by following certain key philosophies. “Every person at Pristyn — whether their salary is Rs 2 lakh a year or Rs 2 lakh a month; everyone, be it a temporary worker or contractor — has been interviewed by a co-founder because culture has to be driven from performance.”
Recalling the journey during the pandemic and aligning that to their cultural ethos, Singh highlighted how Covid paved the way for them to build new business streams.
“Our business went down 70%. We had 300 people in the company and did not want to fire them. We had to pay salaries. We were a young company. We found a need in the market. Everybody needed sanitizers and masks. Amazon and Flipkart could not deliver at that time. So we started selling sanitizers and masks. It gave us a chance to avoid letting anybody go,” Singh said.
Learning the skills of procurement, distribution and direct-to-customers during the pandemic made the company adapt to the changing scenarios quickly. “Once Amazon, Flipkart started doing business, everybody got masks. So this business went down. So we started selling oxygen kits. Once they became available easily, we started selling sanitizer stands. To cut a long story short, this capability gave us a chance to build a new business. It is a DTC brand and we crossed Rs 100 crore in revenue in less than one year. That business came out of Covid and it had nothing to do with healthcare. I would have never thought in my dreams to start a business like that if Covid had not happened. And that’s our culture of resilience and attitude,” the co-founder said.
The co-founder of Mobikwik also shared her experience on how things shaped up before and after the pandemic for the payment service provider. Upasana Taku, the Co-founder, said that two things have become a part of their lives now. “Everything to do with governance is key. So, the company has been run by an independent board for the last one and a half years, and that has been a new learning experience for us. The second thing is that nothing happens now without planning. It means that today, in September, we have reviewed all the numbers for August and all the business heads will present what they are going to achieve in September. Money is also assigned but everything is to plan. Such features have become permanent for us and I am loving it,” she said.
Elaborating more on how life has changed in the last couple of years, Taku said a lot of sanity has come in from a business perspective. “There is a lot of sanity to the global as well as India ecosystem. And I think sanity is good. It will result in strong, tenured and long-term companies and businesses getting built, which would mean sustainable growth and employment. All kinds of resources are available for the right businesses,” Taku added.