Article: Instamojo CEO on being a transparent and present leader


Instamojo CEO on being a transparent and present leader

In conversation with People Matters, Sampad Swain, Co-founder and CEO of Instamojo, talks about the need for healthy discussions and transparency as a leader, the challenges of ‘online entrepreneurship’ and his biggest dilemma as a CEO.
Instamojo CEO on being a transparent and present leader

Sampad Swain is the Founder and CEO of Bangalore based Instamojo. 

Having launched the company in 2012 along with Akash Gehani & Aditya Sengupta, both Sampad and Instamojo have taken giant strides towards achieving their goals. Under Sampad’s tutelage, Instamojo has helped more than 500,000 Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to build, manage and grow their businesses online. In 2012, Instamojo was one of the first startups from India to join the prestigious 500 Startups Silicon Valley Accelerator Program. It has also been featured as one of the hottest startups by Economic Times in 2015. It has simplified the payment ecosystem for thousands of entrepreneurs across India, who struggle with low financial literacy and technical knowledge.

Sampad has been a genuine benefactor for the MSME sector having co-founded WanaMo in 2009 and dealsandyou in 2010. Other than these, Sampad has also worked for reputed brands like Godrej, ITC Ltd. and H-farm Ventures.

Sampad hails from the IT capital of India, Bengaluru. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Engineering from Nagpur University and an MBA from ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad. 

In conversation with People Matters, Sampad talks about the shifts in talent outlook and people strategy consequent to the ongoing disruption, the need for business leaders to engage in healthy discussions and be transparent, the challenges of ‘online entrepreneurship’ and his biggest dilemma as a CEO.

Read on for highlights from the interview.

What has been your biggest learning as a business leader in the last twelve months?

One thing which I learned during these testing times is to always be ready to explore newer things and follow an agile business model, where you need to make changes as per the situation. As the saying goes, different problems need different solutions, and it is applicable in any business. Difficult times seek difficult measures and solutions. 

As a CEO, what are some of the biggest dilemmas you face today? How are you tackling them?

In the current scenario, where the entire team is working from home, the biggest dilemma is maintaining a balance, where employees do not feel overburdened or lost.

Because each of us is going through a lot, it's critical that we look after our employees' mental health, as only a healthy team will deliver results. We have internally arranged for counselling sessions for our employees who seek help and people are allowed to take a day or two off, if they are not feeling good and need a break. 

Also, one of the most important things is to communicate and be in touch and maintain transparency in the system. 

What challenges and opportunities do you foresee in 'online entrepreneurship' amid the ongoing disruption?

We are an e-commerce platform, and everything about our business is online since the day we started. We have been trying our best to serve the Indian MSME sector, and one of the challenges in this field is a lack of knowledge. Having said that, the opportunity also lies in it. We have been successful in creating a platform that is simple to use and doesn’t require any technical knowledge to get started. 

What associated shifts do you foresee in talent outlook in terms of hiring and skilling? Have the present circumstances triggered major shifts in your people strategy? What are some of your key priorities?

One significant change we noticed throughout the pandemic is that we are now all working remotely. Most of our employees, who came from other locations and were working in Bangalore, have returned to their homes and are continuing to work from there. Not just us; practically every company will agree that this has given us access to the whole skill market.

Recently, we have hired for a couple of roles, mostly in the tech vertical, where we were able to hire people from tier 2 and tier 3 cities without having to worry about their ability or willingness to relocate. If there is someone who is excellent at their job but due to some reason is unable to move from their hometown, the constraint does not exist anymore. I feel this is a huge shift. Earlier, while hiring, people used to give preference to top candidates residing in the same city, which is not the case anymore.

The priority is now to find the best candidate for the role, regardless of the geography. 

How are you working towards striking a balance between productivity and empathy?

I would say we have been very lucky about the fact that since the time we all started working from home and the pandemic hit us, not even for once I had to worry about productivity. All our employees have given their best. As mentioned earlier, we have tried our best to keep our employees happy with whatever is needed at any given time. The most important thing in testing times is to be present. That is the kind of culture we have developed here at Instamojo: if someone needs to talk, my co-founders and I have always been present. We are always available, and our culture is fairly open. That is the only thing that helps us keep everything in check.

If you could give one piece of advice to business leaders today, who are struggling to cope and support their workforce in these times, what would that be?

I am a firm believer in open and honest communication. There isn't a problem that can't be fixed with a healthy discussion. Another thing to remember is to keep the organisation transparent.

There is no problem that cannot be handled as long as your employees are aware of what is happening within the system.

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Topics: Culture, Leadership, #ContinuousReinvention

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