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This is How Unicorn Founders Keep Employee Morale Up During Turbulent Times The founders believe that during times of crisis a strong communication is key

By S Shanthi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Entrepreneurs often say that a team can make or break a company. That's the reason they spend a lot of time building the right team culture. However, what happens when things are not going right? Be it tough times that we face as a community such as the pandemic or recession or problems that a company faces such as a funding round not coming through or a tussle between leaders.

This is what some of India's leading entrepreneurs have to say.

Amit Agarwal, CEO and co-founder

"At NoBroker, we follow the culture of meritocracy wherein all three founders follow a no-cabin culture so that they are accessible to the employees. We firmly believe in keeping the communication channels open wherein teams can share their issues be it personal or professional. Being a startup, we need to be agile and flexible. We work closely with the team and understand challenges and with our collective experience, bring solutions to the table. We firmly believe in celebrating small successes and in rewarding our employees. Gestures such as verbal appreciation go a long way in keeping the employees motivated. Celebrating small milestones is also a proven way to instill in them a sense of belonging and ownership of the venture. This not only instils confidence but also builds their accountability and responsibility towards the project they are working on. For instance, during the pandemic, when everyone was remotely working, we proactively were checking on the employees and their families' well-being by getting in touch regularly and trying to offer help whenever needed. "

Priyanka Gill, co-founder, The Good Glamm Group

Times might be tough - it is the leadership's role to ensure that, where possible, it does not have an adverse impact on the team morale. We communicate often and back it up with listening and feedback sessions to ensure that the team is feeling secure. Being open about the company goals, plans and resources helps orient the team. Sharing information in a timely fashion reduces uncertainty and reinforces a feeling of safety and connectedness. And, the best solutions often percolate up. If the team is secure and invested in the company's success, they come up with creative ways to face challenges positively. Lastly, when the team is powering through - it's imperative for leaders to be there with them and lead by example. Being empathetic, present and authentically engaged with the team, especially, if there is a challenge is key."

Ankur Sharma, co-founder, Rebel Foods

"Workplace culture is made up of the shared and explicit values, mission and vision of a business. We believe that during times of crisis, strong communication can help one improve morale in the face of adversity. There have been instances where our instincts have told us not to inform staff of all the business challenges. However, with transparency in our minds, we fill them in so they are aware and can work harder so that the company can weather the storm! Working as a team has always helped us get through the tough times. For us, working together ensured that we continue to support our employees in every way possible with focussed programs such as COVID Kavach, no questions asked leaves, salary advances, medical support, etc. We knew that layoffs were not an option for us and hence we stood together with our teams across network kitchens without laying off a single employee. We believe it is equally important for the leadership to be strong and solid all of the time. In our experience, frequent town halls, AMA sessions allowed us to follow consistent and clear communication and build comfort and trust with our employees. If we as leaders are not consistent with managers and staff during normal times, they will not receive the trust and hard work of their team when needed most, especially during a crisis. Hence, this is a continuous process."

Anish Achuthan, co-founder and CEO, Open

"It's very easy to talk generally about culture as it is not what you preach. For us, even before the pandemic, culture was more like our thesis or the basic DNA. When you are working in Open, all the things are taken care of like a family. And when the pandemic happened, unfortunately, we lost a few of our employees. The family members of those employees are today working in this organization. We don't put such things on social media, but this is very important to us. And these are things which is not a company policy alone. All the Openers come together during tough times. And, every manager has the right to take any decisions that can help the employees in their team. From the beginning, we all have had a connection that helps us sail together through all the tough situations. When the bond is created from day one, I think it is easier during tough times as everybody understands."

Amrit Acharya, co-founder and CEO, Zetwerk

"We currently have over 1000 Zetsetters. The company encourages a culture of ownership coupled with flexibility that fosters independent thought and high performance while ensuring that every member of the team feels responsible and accountable for driving the company's vision. We recognize that our responsibility as employers goes beyond professional growth and includes mental and physical well-being. In keeping with our focus on holistic wellness, we have initiated a series of initiatives aimed at facilitating care for our employees and their families through ZetwerkCare. In addition to building cohesion, we believe resilience in difficult times is built through concerted calibrated effort. So we have always fostered an atmosphere of transparency and open communication, where every member of the Zetwerk family regardless of their designation are empowered to communicate directly with senior leadership."

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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