Ola’s Group CHRO on creating a culture that breeds transformation
“For a new age and dynamic company like Ola, it's imperative to have a culture that fosters growth, encourages collaborative working and offers great flexibility to follow passion,” shared Srinivas Chunduru, Group CHRO & CEO.
“In the newer business models, innovation and upgrading customer-centric solutions are the core of business strategy and hence these organizations can thrive only when its people are driven by shared values and purpose,” he added, in a recent interaction with People Matters.
Having worked in various sectors, Srinivas has realized that ‘culture’ is an integral part of the success of a business.
Here is an excerpt from an interaction we had with him:
Ola itself has been born in the digital era. However, with the rapid pace of development we are dealing with currently, even newer firms like Ola are facing the challenges of digital transformation. What are some of the key hurdles that even these newer business models have to face today in the new digital era?
Technology has been the key to Ola’s success and hence being digital-first comes naturally to us. The new-age business ventures need to be cognizant of the evolving needs and styles of doing work. Digitization of internal processes adds efficiency to the overall scheme of things thereby increasing the comfort level of the employees.
Another important factor is to encourage collaborative working style. We are moving towards the next level of digital transformation where we are looking to leverage connected digital platforms and harness the potential of our people to bring forth the leader in them!
Can you particularly emphasize the talent challenges the new era of digital transformation brings in? How can these emerging firms prepare for such changes and battle these challenges?
Digital transformation has accelerated the demand and supply cycle like never before and hence the industries across the globe are evolving. There are innovations and upgrades at regular intervals and enhancing the customer experience is the most sort after success matrix. With all these parameters, one needs to learn and expand their skill set regularly; and solving for that is the most glaring challenge. The industry players need to be prepared to meet the requirement of constantly skilling and upskilling their workforce, and train them to understand the evolving market and customer demands. New-age consumer internet companies need to create avenues of learning for their employees and ensure that their skill set remains relevant in the evolving global market.
At Ola, how do you ensure that all your employees and leaders are always ready for the foreseen and unforeseen developments?
At Ola, we have always adopted a problem-solving approach to every challenge and change. We have a very entrepreneurial approach towards our tasks where we believe in adopting a collaborative approach, learning and adapting new skills on-the-job, and having a positive, output-oriented mindset.
We are investing significantly in the training and development of our employees. We offer a range of learning opportunities to help team members hone their skills including a comprehensive e-learning module. One of our key initiatives, ‘Uday’ is aimed at driving capability building through the creation of specialised functional academies for functions like HR, Front Line Sales, Business Analysts and more, helping them build a deeper understanding of various businesses so their output is more aligned to the business goals.
Employees of different functions are encouraged to acquire specialized training by doing special assignments/ projects, speaking at public forums, cracking a business problem, attend training programs that cover deeper functional elements etc. The idea is to make the training a fun, enriching and engaging exercise and hence we have gamified it. Every employee earns points for every assignment they conduct and these points can be redeemed for a higher learning program or short term management development program at one of the country’s leading IIMs.
Another learning initiative at Ola is a 12-month immersive program called ‘Elevate’ for campus hires from various engineering and business schools - designed to help them make a smooth transition from academics to the workforce. The program covers induction and onboarding, leadership interactions, business immersion projects, city visits, boot camps, and field experience to bring a well-rounded understanding of Ola. The objective of Elevate is to establish a foundation and a working understanding of the business so that new hires are equipped to bring about transformational impact in the work they do.
We also encourage employees to take up cross-functional roles and projects to help them evolve their thinking canvas and give them a deeper understanding of the challenges being faced at various levels of business. This is also a good way to keep them excited and invested in the business.
We also encourage our employees to take productive pauses and take time off to address their mental and physical fatigue and always keep in mind work-life harmony in their work styles. A calm and composed mind is always better equipped to address situations better and we are a firm believer of that idea!
In recent times has Ola gone through a journey of digital or cultural transformation? If yes, can you share how you led a successful cultural transformation?
The culture at Ola is going through an evolution as we are moving on to adopt a more structured culture while keeping the best qualities and practices of the startup culture.
Adopting an open, collaborative, performance-driven and entrepreneurial approach is playing a key role in Ola’s easy cultural transition from a homegrown startup to a global consumer internet company.
This is aided by various talent management practices, signature platforms and HR practices.
How do you inculcate these values like open, collaborative, performance-driven and entrepreneurial in your culture? How do you bring these to practice?
We have been launching new initiatives and policies time and again to create a culture that supports the overall well being of an employee.
Our signature program, Ola Edge offers a great mix of compensation flexibility, special initiatives, special perks and an array of regular rewards and recognition exercise that takes care of financial, physical and emotional well being of our employees. Some highlights of Ola Edge include various flexi-pay benefits such as learning assistance reimbursements, books and periodicals reimbursements, meal cards, leave travel allowances, Voluntary Provident Fund (VPF), National Pension Scheme (NPS) etc. through which employees are educated and empowered to plan their salary components.
Flexibility and comfort go a long way in keeping the employees happy and hence we have recently introduced some 'Child Care Benefits' to help our employees with child-care. Parents can make the best choice for their children through our tie-ups with crèches in the vicinity of each and every office, available on our online childcare portal. We have also become a dog-friendly organization and employees are free to bring their dogs to work as and when they feel like!
At Ola, we encourage flexibility and freedom. We have instituted what we call ‘Core Collaboration Hours,’ from 10 am to 5 pm where employees are available to work together given the collaborative nature of the work that we do. Employees can also choose to work from home when required and take time off from work periodically to rejuvenate and for leisure which brings in a sense of comfort and empowerment.
We also have an internal communication platform called Ola Central that enables employees to collaborate, connect and communicate with everyone working at Ola, across the world. We encourage discussions, quizzes, debates, blogs, etc. through the internal channel which sees active participation from everyone in the company. We also organize regular town halls wherein employees from various verticals get to connect with the leadership on a frequent basis and exchange ideas and suggestions for growth.