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5 Unicorn Founders On How They Built Stellar Teams The founders share their thoughts on attracting the right talent, team building and employee retention

By S Shanthi

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The Indian Parliament has recently informed that the number of recognized startups in India has increased from 726 in FY 2016-17 to 65,861 as on March 14th, 2021. There are multiple factors that have led to this. This includes the availability of capital, tech infrastructure, internet penetration, among others.

However, even though it may not be difficult to launch a business today, the success of a startup depends on many key aspects such as finding the right product fit, a perfect business model, finding the right mentors, hard work, vision, among other things. One such key aspect is hiring and retaining the right talent.

Here we have five unicorn founders, who had shared their thoughts on team building in exclusive interviews with Entrepreneur India in the recent past.

Amit Jain, CEO and co-founder, CarDekho

"We built a team of like-minded people who too had an entrepreneurial spark and aced every hurdle and most of the employees who joined us at the beginning of our journey are still a part of CarDekho and it's a great feeling," said Jain.

The company is based out of Jaipur, a city known more for its family-owned traditional businesses and less for startups. However, it is competing with more evolved startups and tech hubs like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune and the NCR.

Thus it was challenging to attract talent and scale-up, but the startup has succeeded nevertheless. The current team size is 6,000 employees pan-India. "From the outset, we were determined that the company had to be culturally correct and employee-friendly. Five-day work week, work from home, recreational zone, gaming arena and having a chief people officer were some initiatives unheard of at the time in Tier-II cities like Jaipur. In keeping with the company's innovative culture, we created a mobile app for employees that provides all the information they need about the company's initiatives and approach. In no time, CarDekho became one of the most desired places to work for the city's youth and soon among the best places to work in India," he said.

The company has undertaken various initiatives and schemes including periods leave for female employees, paternity leave, and leaves for newly married couples, a mandatory yearly leave, unlimited Covid leaves, Covid caregiver leaves, free vaccination, and Covid allowance.

Sandeep Aggarwal, founder, Droom

Droom is a team of 300 people and operates in a Silicon Valley-style, technology, and high growth startup way. Aggarwal says that its culture is completely built on merit. "We don't discriminate based on gender, age, or faith. So, if you are doing your job bigger, better, and faster than others, you are our hero. We have a completely nonhierarchical open-door policy. Nobody operates out of the office; everyone has a workstation, and everyone is approachable," he said. The company regularly conducts many morale-boosting activities for the team such as Zumba and Pilates classes, counseling sessions, happy hours on Friday, among others.

The company has a set of 12 core competencies and values for everyone, which include passion, energy, customer centricity, frugality, learning from the mistake, long-term approach, measurement, strategy thinking, high work ethics, result-oriented, taking ownership, and data-driven. "I have never interviewed anyone in my life for a skill. I have only focused on all 12 competencies. Either the candidates have it, or during the interview stage, we see that they can inculcate them quickly," he said.

Ashwin Damera, co-founder and CEO, Eruditus

In the last two years, as many of its employees persevered in the face of unimaginable difficulties and loss, Eruditus continued to keep their well-being as its priority. "And we are proud of how our global community has come together to lift each other up. At Eruditus, we have a team size of +1500 people globally spread across 14 different countries, ranging from China, to Mexico, to USA and other global markets. We truly are a global team which has been critical in creating a global business," said Damera.

"We are constantly creating different ways to connect virtually. I'm proud of the team that we are building, the culture of collaboration and innovation. We have a very dynamic work culture," he said.

Aaditya Sharda, founder, Infra.Market

The organization currently has 500-plus employees and claims to have people from varied skillsets and diverse backgrounds. "We are building an organization which is agile, drives a sense of ownership, inspires unconventional thinking, leading to accelerated individual and organization growth," said Sharda.

Talking about the impact of the pandemic on the business, Sharda added, "The pandemic came with its own initial challenges, but we used this time to innovate and enter new businesses like retail and more private labels. We also built a strong team hiring aggressively including the best of industry leaders with vast experience".

Amrit Acharya, co-founder, Zetwerk

Zetwerk is just a little more than three years old and spent half the time in lockdown, but, at the same time, it grew 4-5X and has grown to 500 people. "However, we had never met all of these people. Around 50 per cent of the company is new. When we first went into lockdown, a lot of people left the company after a month, or two and we could not understand why as it is a tough market and there are not a lot of jobs available. Still, people were finding it difficult to adapt," said Acharya.

That's when the founders realized that they had to put hard work into creating a positive culture. "Today, I talk to close to 100 people every month. It is very difficult for me to do as it takes 100 hours of my time. But, we had to integrate them into the culture. People end up doing what we are telling them but they are not clear why we are doing it because it does not feel very logical. There is no shortcut to solving that except by speaking to them as often as possible. This is something I learned the hard way," he said.

S Shanthi

Former Senior Assistant Editor

Shanthi specializes in writing sector-specific trends, interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. 



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