Work Culture in Startups

Work Culture

One step into the startup journey and someone comes up and asks, “What’s your work culture like?”

I’ve worked in the past with a startup to a big corporate. Somehow the word Work Culture was never defined as some 10 points on the poster of the office wall to follow. It was part of the system at a subconscious level without it being told. Honestly, I keep hearing the word corporate culture so often and if asked a few different people what exactly that means you are bound to get varied answers (from corporate hierarchy to politics to coffee machines). 

DEFINING WORK CULTURE

As an entrepreneur I have had a tough time defining what it really is. Casual, flexible, fun, relaxed, serious workaholics, Play games to keep team building and happy hours/ pizza parties every week…. The undefined list goes on.

And somehow the defined ones that I have come across is where entrepreneurs love to define their work culture in some glossy coffee table magazine language that have a “I am Cool na?” written all over it’s subtext. I doubt there is any entrepreneur out there saying “We have strict rules culture where we whip ass if someone doesn’t slog their rear ends off”. If there are some out there like that… then my condolences to the teams and the employees.

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Top 5 Entrepreneur Mistakes

One of the traits of humans – We make mistakes. That’s established. But our life span is not enough to keep learning from our own mistakes. Some mistakes are common to a subset of people who fall in the same category. In the case of this blog- Entrepreneur Mistakes.

My 3 year stint as an entrepreneur with my startup Living Local has had it’s shares of mistakes. Fortunately none that was not rectifiable. I am sure a lot of you out there have made similar mistakes and a lot more who can avoid some of them and make newer ones of your own to learn from as well. After all these mistakes make us smarter and stronger. I am listing the Top 5 (not in any specific order) that I have learned from, the ones that I like to believe have given me a better understanding and on the road towards a better entrepreneur.

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Celebrating 3 Years – Throwback

celebrating-three-years
CELEBRATING THE START
LivingLocal Magazine 3 years

June 2017 (3 year Anniversary)

A small cramped up office space in an uninhabited old building. One employee just out of MBA school and in his first sales job. That’s where and with what I started as a fresh new entrepreneur on the block with my venture Living Local Magazine. This June of 2017 we are celebrating 3 Years of the Magazine. Wohoo! But looking back I have no clue how I gathered the guts to enter this unknown territory. Researched yes. Calculated yes. But still not sure if I’d be able to gather the metal do that again knowing what all it took or took-away :).

3 years into this and the brand Living Local today has also become Mumbai’s first neighborhood App. A co-founder and more employees in place, a swankier office, pan-Mumbai reach and online portal… I went back to revisit the very first issue of the Living Local magazine. The attractive Geeta Basra donned the cover. Though we eventually stopped the entertainment section and now concentrate more on Local Social initiatives we initially needed to make sure the magazine gets eyeballs and gets picked up.. right? What I was curious to look in the magazine was to see what were my thoughts as I wrote my very first Editors note. Here’s what it was. Today it may have expanded and grown but in so many ways the thought still remain…

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Ek Se Farak Padta Hai

Can one make a difference? Kya Ek Se Farak Padta Hai?

A question we often raise in our own heads when at the crossroads- to make a difference or not? Unfortunately a lot of us fall in the category of the latter and choose to go about our daily business with the belief that “Ek Se Kya Farak padta Hai”. We need a movement or a revolution for the BIG things to happen. And that needs more than just ME. So we underestimated the power of ME or I. Yes there is no ‘I’ in the word ‘TEAM’ but there is an ‘I’ in the word ‘DIFFERENCE’ and that’s what it’s all about- making a difference.

As individuals, I am the first step towards that ‘movement’ or ‘revolution’ to make a change.

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The Calling, The Opportunity and The Twist

Opportunity

“Lucky are those who have a calling in life.” I remember one of college buddies in the USA mentioned this to me 5 years after we both had graduated. He happily took the opportunity to be a Software Engineer and I had just quit my Software Engineering job at IBM to pursue my childhood dream of being part of the Movies.

The Calling

I could sense his jealousy. But not towards me. He was jealous of the fact that I got my “calling” and he did not face any such phenomenon. It’s not like I saw some white light in the middle of the night and the light spoke to me. I simply saw a path that I clearly knew I would like to get on. Most importantly, it made me happy – on the Inside. It made leaving the Outside happiness (the fat Dollar paychecks) pretty easy. At least at that time it did.

They key here is that the Journey of that particular Calling began. Ups and downs, highs and lows, I stayed on that path as it was my calling and simply put – it still made me happy on the Inside.

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The Local Chachi

Neighborhood Gossip

Back in the days (so I have been told), there would be a neighborhood local Chachi who would be the one processing all neighborhood news and sharing with the ones who cared (or didn’t). I always imagined her sitting on a jute woven charpai (a four-legged cot for gen-Y) sipping chai, surrounded by the other ladies of the local hood. She would listen to one and share it with other…of course with the added flavor of gossip to make it interesting to the ear of the others.

News is What?

What really is news? We take it for granted that we do know that it is. It is what we see on News Channels on TV, what we read on newspapers, find on social media sites. But is it?

News, we would like to believe, is Facts of events, what’s actually happening. But most newspaper, TV channels, social media feeders etc. seem to have a different version of the same news. But how can a “fact” have different versions? A lot of news fed to the people today is “opinion” of one over the other. A lot of times a biased opinion of that tends to influence people (very smartly) in a certain direction. News is not a Bollywood movie review that is an opinion on the likes and dislikes of a Friday release. It is supposed to be plain simple facts.

There are so many cosmetics around news to glamorize it that the facts pretty much get the leftover space of a fine print. In a country so driven and obsessed with everything Bollywood, we somehow may be responsible for seeking news camouflaged as a glamor. That’s how we listen, read or picture it. I guess that’s what catches attention.

Plain simple facts probably do not make news today. They need the spice, the masala, and the added pinch of opinion for folks today to swallow it with ease.
Just like in the good old days when the local Chachiji would do the same single-handedly.

Her legacy continues and so does the news. Food for thought!

(The above article is from part of my editors note on the Living Local Magazine)

5 Lessons on Entrepreneurship I learned from my Parents

Growing up you never realize the kind of impact your upbringing may have on your professional personality. The things our parents tell us, teach us, try to engrain in our day to day living, are all somewhere part of the connected dots when we grow up. Sitting in my Startup (Living Local) office the other day, something made me think on the way I do certain things. Things like- the way I work, the manner in which I interact with my employees, the way I conduct myself around new associations and meetings and so on. Those things weren’t being done wrong or right. It’s just how did I got trained with some of these Entrepreneur characteristics without knowing when and how. I started to connect the dots of my life thus far. It took me back to my childhood. A lot of our characteristics or personality traits are built during the early years of our lives. And they are so true in my case as an entrepreneur today. Here are the 5 Lessons on Entrepreneurship I learned from my Parents during my growing years at home.

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What Women Want (Women’s Day)

women's day

What Women Want

Women’s Day special

(from my Editors Desk of Living Local Mumbai magazine March 2017 issue)

I decided to write this month’s editorial note on the theme of this issue: Women’s Day. So I started by randomly asking a few female friends if they remember what they did the last couple of years on March 8th. Standard answer- No specific recollection. (Note: I didn’t mention the relevance of March 8th)

I started looking back to reference my first few memories of Women’s Day. I went back to my childhood and I don’t remember any such specific day. Neither in school or college. Maybe sometime back when social media made sure that no one missed these dates.

The question that came to my mind- are we celebrating Women’s day or celebrating Women? As per my understanding the latter does not need a day. I was raised by a woman (my mother) whom I celebrate everyday. Grew alongside my sister who had a poster in the room that read  “Anything boys can do… girls can do better”. I celebrate her and a lot of other women everyday in some way or another.

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Why vote for BMC elections this year?

We live in a very vocal society today with a plethora of channels for our voice to reach other people. We are more aware of our surroundings than we ever were. It takes a click of our camera-phone to capture what’s missing, what’s bothering or what needs attention. All in the name of better surrounding, better infrastructure and better civic amenities.

So here’s a chance this February for all us Mumbaites to do what actually counts. Vote! The BMC elections are around the corner and so is the fate of your neighborhoods. Complaining is passé. We have the control over deciding the fate of who takes charge to serve our neighborhoods for the next 5 years. We’ve had a very low turnout (less than 50%) over the past few elections. That means every other person had chosen not to vote. That’s not the sign of a well-informed society.

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New Years Resolution for the Year

new years resolution

It’s that time of the year when resolutions are flying all over your head. You pick some incomplete ones from the last year and reinvent some new ones. Chances are we have forgotten most of the ones we promised to ourselves last year or the year before. Why? Think about it. If they were so important you wouldn’t have forgotten them and probably as a result of that you would have completed most of them in the given 365 days timeline.

I have a friend who has a resolution to Lose weight… every year. That’s not a resolution. That’s a desire. Resolution would be to go workout 5 days of the week and the result would be the desired effect.

We all make resolutions. Elders may not openly talk about them. Kids proudly claim theirs on the 1st day of the year. But we all make resolutions in some form or another. Humans want change… for the better. They want the coming year to be better than the last one. We like to believe that every year begins with a clean slate. It begins with a hope of a better life – materialistic or spiritual or personal.

But is there a trick to achieve that?

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