Tag Archives: startups

Building a People Centric Organization

Workplace Democracy

Workplace democracy is the application of democracy in all its forms (including voting systems, debates, democratic structuring, due process, adversarial process, systems of appeal, and so on) to the workplace. (via wikipedia)

One fine evening  my colleage Polo asked me something:

I also have a question. Why are you asking me about the working environment?? This office belongs to each one of us. So everyones’ comments count. And it should be an open democratic discussion.

The question was definitely good and very valid. Off-course she didn’t know that she wasn’t the only one. But, more than that question which was more of a curiosity, I was keen to find-out  the answer to a question that had triggered in my mind because of that.

How do you gauge the feedback of people in your young startup? What works best to gather the feedback of your PEOPLE in building a healthy work place? What provides a sense of comfort level to them? How do you push them from their normally boundaries of being mere EMPLOYEES to STAKEHOLDERS in a participative environment?

We are constantly advocating the People Centric Model in our work approach. While I understand that proponents claim that the new model of Organization Centric Alignment is far more effective, here is a thought why ‘People Centric’ still work strongly.

Coming back to our ‘People Centric Model’ and its implications in a team environment, this is what I visualized:

Our Feedback Model

Driving Team: The captain/s

Colleague: The team-members

You could follow one-to-one discussions between the members of driving team:

  1. One on one discussion between driving team members. A collection of experience and traits observed by them so far based on what they haved assessed and observed.
  2. Many-to-many discussions between colleagues/team: On several occassions, your colleagues have pep-talks about what could have been better or what could have been improved. These are off-the record conversations but certainly very crucial
  3. Feedback model: One to one (driving team to colleague). [Individual Democracy] The purpose of these discussions is to gauge an individual feedback. It is primarily based on what h/she has experienced as an individual.

    One to many (Driving Team to Colleagues) [Team Democracy]:
    We also conduct periodic open discussions between the entire team to gauge everyone’s feedback. These are cyclic discussions, where each and every individual states what he/she likes and dislikes.

Recapping our ‘Philosophy’. Our mantra is quite simple & straightforward and we don’t have a 40-page mission document :)

  1. Be honest to yourself, your team and to your stakeholders
  2. Respect your stakeholders and mutually build a feeling of trust and integrity for each others
  3. Never treat clients as money-vending machines, treat them as partners
  4. Take full responsibility of your work
  5. Never promise anything which you cannot deliver.
  6. In addition, never hide anything from your team
  7. Use the expertise of your network to create winning solutions
  8. Add the following words to your spam list: ‘Cheating’, ‘Un-ethical’ & ‘Hidden’.
  9. Lastly, treat work as a mashup of fun & seriousness.

Let me end this note with some powerful quotations on People-Centric Leadership by ‘Barry -Wehmiller’.

“We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.”

We commit to a sustained leadership model that creates a culture where each of us returns home with a sense of fulfillment.

Are you running a democratic people-centric start-up? Would like to hear your thoughts?

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Filed under Iffort, Itemperance, Startup

Success mantra for a thriving startup: Empower your people

My mind told me that I should share a couple of cents which might leave an

8-random-tips-for-making-your-startup-company-happy-and-successful

Image source: Alexander Kjerulf's post on 8 random tips for making your startup company happy and successful

impression on your life as a start-up owner ! These opinions have emerged from  experiential traits of observing, listening, watching, engaging and at times even reading during all these months..

Which success metrics have you defined for your start-up baby? Break-even the costs by next year? May be achieve next round of funding inside three months? Or even double the number of clients in six months?

You wish you could do it all yourself ! May be you could, if you were a superhero but even then 24 hours in a day were not going be enough. How do you achieve all that and much more? Wait a minute

Do not expect me  to talk about that one-in-million magical solution as it never existed. Yeah, I am not talking about out of the world rocket science here. All you need are ‘PEOPLE’ who can make-it-happen! People who have cool heads and are a bundle of energy. May be you could hire them from outside, if you’re a cash-rich start-up.

But in tough times of recession, you’re expected to cut your operating costs. You are expected not to hire people and even fire the ones who are working with you!

Coming down to ground reality, most start-ups cannot afford to loose people as it is difficult to find a single replacement for any guy who quits. Each person thinks multi-dimensionally and is engaged in cross-functional work.

So how do you make them happy? Throw more money at them? May be it will work in some-cases but for the rest?

To begin with, Never promise anything to them that you cannot deliver. For e.g. you make a promise to your senior guy that he is a key member of the strategy group but sideline him

Second- the key to make people a part of your growth is by involving them in the so called decision making process. Provide them the right opportunities at right time/stage. For e.g. If you are caught in a web of problems, feel free to consult them for help. No, it is not a help in-terms of bugfix but instead help at a mental level. That is where you will be able to judge their mindset and take a call about things which you never expected them to do.

Third, never fall into a fixed mindset trap as that is the easiest thing you can do at this stage. for e.g. a marketer can only pitch or a developer can only code. These are all mind-games that you tend to play with yourself. Because of your one-dimensional thoughts, you are sometimes unable to visualize the potential of people in your team.

Fourth – Trust your people. Trust them for their thought, for what they have done, continue to do and what they can do. Make people feel counted as a part of the group.  Listen to them, ask them what they feel/think. Never try to be their boss and impose your decisions on them.

Fifth - Drop your ego. It is a 360 degree cycle of feedback. The so called ego rules which apply to your employees are also valid for you :)

Remember, it takes more than a sweat to build a quality team. If you can do that success comes naturally to you and your start-up! On the flip-side it takes not more than a blink of an eye-lid to get back to the same mode of hiring replacements for the people who have left you. So what do you want do to – take one step forward or two steps backward?

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Filed under Web 2.0

Indian startups need more Community Managers

Location of the Republic of India.
Image via Wikipedia

A Google search for ‘Community Manager India’ and ‘Community Management Jobs India’ does not throw many surprises. What it means is that either Google isn’t tracking the developments about Community Managers or there isn’t too much happening in this space.

While attending these un-conferences & meet-ups, I bounce into many start-up founders who are passionately pitching their ‘brands’ to the community folks. In other words, they also double-up as community managers for their companies.

Sometimes I find it quite strange that majority of the Indian companies have been very slow to realize the potential of Community Managers. It could be possible for a variety of reasons: either the concept has been untested or Indian companies do not see much value in it. The traditional mindset always says that it is all about selling at the end-of-the day and everything else adds on to the costs. Continue reading

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Filed under Community Manager, Web 2.0

Booming Customized Gifting Portals

10 thrilling days of 2008 have passed and finally I am writing my first post of the year. Although, I hadn’t planned for this particular post but a series of developments have provoked me to write about a topic which I’ve addressed in the past before. Online Custom T-shirts services are quite popular in the West and the rest of the world with Zazzle.com, Cafepress.com, Shirtcity.com and Threadless.com among the popular ones.

Coming back to India, although the growth was little slow initially, recent trends indicate this business has started picking up well. Several companies now offer consumers a well thought-out solution for online gifting. Other than that they’re leveraging the community aspect by allowing the designers to showcase their designs and generate revenue out of it. I had talked about online-gifting portal Myntra last year which are conventionally different from photo-sharing & gifting portals like Picsquare, Itasveer and Fobaz. Since then, there are several other websites that have come up.

Some of them are:

pringoo logo Pringoo.com – Pune based Pringoo.com is a recent entry in the market of customized products. Site users can Create & Share unique designs, Buy unique collection of designs and Sell their collections at a % commission.

The range of products on offer include T-shirt, Mug, Teddybear, Coaster, Bag & Mousepad. Currently in beta, the site is intuitive and it is quite evident that special emphasis has been given towards the usability.

I signed up for the service with my gmail account and like it usually happens the account activation email landed in my spam folder. (any guesses why ? :) )

  • Pringoo is not just about buyers. Its a platform for designers to showcase their talent and earn from them. For the designers, the process is quite simple. They upload their creations for different merchandises, open an online store website which consolidates all their creations at a single marketplace and start selling.
  • As far as the percentage commission is concerned the upper limit is that of 15%. It isn’t mentioned on the home-page though !
    pringoo full
  • The detailed dashboard allows users to track their purchases & sales. With options like ‘My Sales Report’ you can analyze which of your creations are doing well.
  • There’s another very-useful for buyers. Most of the designs are available for more than one product and below each design you can find out the product for which it is available – Now that’s a very handy feature which I didn’t see in Myntra. At times it happens that you like a design and you would like to have it on your cup – this feature is certainly helpful on those occasions.
  • The taxes and the product shipping costs are included in the base price itself so there are no hidden charges :)
  • Check out more coverage on Pringoo.com here !!!

     

    footees-logo Footees.in – Is one of the funkiest sites around and as the name suggests its all about tees…. The mood of the portal is targeted towards the youth. Footees is a product from the house of Hyderabad based eYantra – a popular name in the gifting & merchandising industry.

     

    footees

    • Footees is dedicated towards T-shirt selling yeah that’s about it
    • Only one type of T-shirt is available i.e. half-sleeve
    • Footees has partnered with several institutes which has helped all those college students who want to have flaunt their batch shirts
     
     

    gnome logoGNOME T’s – Mumbai based Gnome might not be the best in usability, navigation and user-friendliness but its driven by ‘Users’. Users submit their designs which are rated by the community and everyday there’s a winning design. Like Footees.in Gnome is also in to just T-shirts. The designs at Gnome are also available at retail stores across Mumbai for all those aren’t tech-savvy. Site designers need to improve upon the look-and-feel and even think about partnering with retail stores outside Mumbai.

     
     

    webvastra webVastra.in – Sluggish design, text which is not readable, bad color combination :( nope there’s more to webVastra than just that ! Bunch of IIT guys have got together to provide customized t-shirts from the export house from Tirupur, TN. Primarily users can create their own designs or buy pre-designed T-shirts.

     

    myntraMyntra.com – I’ve covered Myntra.com previously and since that time Myntra.com has grown in stature. The quality of T-shirts, features for designers, various contests you got them all at Myntra. It does rock for sure !

     
    Portal Flat Price
    (Half-Sleeve Large t-shirt)
    Special-offers / Contests Designer Marketplace
    Pringoo 403 Yes Yes
    Footee 249 Yes Yes
    Gnome 325 Yes Yes
    webVastra 300 No No
    Myntra 450 Yes Yes
     
     

    The above table lists the average price of half-sleeve large t-shirt at various custom gifting portals. Its quite clear that Pringoo and Myntra’s prices are slightly higher. Its because of the quality t-shirt brands (Wrangler, Banana Republic) they use.

    With the emergence of these startups in the Indian online retail market its great signs ahead for the Indian consumers. The buying trends are shifting towards online purchases and with competition on the rise the prices are bound to drop :)

    Update on t-shirt brands –

    A little clarification on the t-shirt brands being used

    Pringoo.com – Banana Republic, Guess and GAP

    Myntra.com – Wrangler

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    Filed under Online Retail, Web2.0 and more