Article: An involved, hard-working cultural set-up is the need

Strategic HR

An involved, hard-working cultural set-up is the need

Ankur Warikoo, CEO, Groupon India on preparing companies for growth, managing people during scale-ups and importance of culture in scaling
An involved, hard-working cultural set-up is the need

Scaling is all about creating a playbook of success, and building an involved culture set-up is important


As a business leader yourself, how are you preparing your business for growth?

 Our industry suffers the most from dearth of talent and that is the single biggest criteria when planning growth. Whether we have the right strategy of sourcing and retaining people; or defining the next set of opportunities and challenges, and keeping them engaged. With the amount of capital flowing in into the e-commerce sector and the younger workforce opting for start-ups, hiring and retaining talent is critical. The second key point is the business model. In the chase for business, it is shocking how many times the economics of the business is ignored. However, it is not about being profitable from day one, but at the unit transactional level, a company cannot be losing money. The third is the capital. An important criterion for managing growth is managing the capital, be it in your own business or capital funding.

What are the things that go wrong when companies scale?

In my experience, culture is the first thing that comes to my mind. You may lose the culture of a start-up, which could mean that the company becomes slow to react or loses innovation as a pillar. A company may forget the cultural ethos of bootstrapping and being frugal or may lose the cultural value of being respectful to the customers or partners.

Culture that works is based on three pillars:

Respect for everyone: Culture should be very cognizant of people’s calibre and inclusive irrespective of where they come from, what they earn, or what title they have.

High level of ownership: Companies need to create a buzz around working together, which should be reflected in the leadership as well.

Having a performance driven organization: It An organization needs to be a performance driven organization. Performance should be the only metrics to judge anyone’s success. Building an involved, hard-working cultural set-up is important. It has to begin from hiring the right talent who feels for the cause and has the same cultural worldview, and then continuously reemphasizing what the company stands for with everyone.

How do you manage people when companies scale?

People are very critical for any scaling and companies need to really make an effort to retain them. As companies scale, it is very easy to start dictating what everyone should do. However, the smartest people do not want to be managed and hence it is necessary to have a high degree of autonomy in the company. Another very big cause of failure is the inability of a leader to delegate. If a leader does not delegate, it can be discouraging for other people in the team who are looking for the next set of opportunities and challenges. And finally, it is about creating and attracting the best talent. If the people believe that they are working with the best professionals in that field, it creates an inspiring atmosphere in the company.

You have worked with companies which have scaled across different levels. How has it been different?

At the end of it all, it is about creating a playbook of success. Be it at a geographical or a functional level and then replicating it through talent and capital. Think of it like a factory set up. Once you know how to make the first car, making the next 10,000 is a matter of process and not something that has to be discovered. The only difference is in managing people because handling 20-100 people is very different from managing 2,000-5,000 people. 

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Topics: Strategic HR, #AQuestionofScale

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