Decoding Akosha’s Culture Code : “We found Our CTO After Conducting 109 Interviews”

We found one of our best hires – our CTO – after conducting 109 interviews!

As part of #BigAugust campaign, NextBigWhat brings to you, an UnPluggd view of high-growth product companies.

Started in 2010, Akosha is an online consumer complaint forum. The New Delhi based startup raised seed funding from The Morpheus accelerator in 2010 and Series A of $5.2m from Sequoia Capital in July 2014. As of now, 7.9 lakh complaints have been filed in the platform & 61% have been resolved. Also, 350+ brands are working with Akosha with the likes of Aircel, Groupon, Voltas, Snapdeal, etc. All these have resulted in saving of more than INR 84m on Akosha platform.

Akosha Fact akosha

  • Started in 2010.
  • 7.9 Lakh complaints have been filed, out of which 61% has been resolved.
  • 350+ brands work with Akosha (including Aircel, Groupon, Voltas, Snapdeal, etc).
  • Raised Series A of $5.2mn funding led by Sequoia Capital.
  • 130+ team size.
  • Based in New Delhi [Address : E-40/7, Second Floor, Okhla Phase 2, New Delhi – 110020]

Akosha Culture Code

Akosha is hiring for several roles at its Delhi office – right from Product Manager to Sr. Key Account Manager to UI/UX designer to Senior Brand Manager. But before we share the opening details, let’s talk about Akosha’s culture code. Hear it out from Ankur Singla, founder and CEO of Akosha.

How do you define Akosha’s ‘Culture Code’?
Ankur Singla : If you round up people from our company in an empty room without any supervision, what they do and what they say is what defines the company’s culture.

We are working our asses off because we are motivated enough to, not caring much for the status quo, constantly thinking past the assumptions that constrain us, caring deeply about our customers, putting the company above individuals and having fun while we’re at it are some of the things you’ll notice.

AKOSHA You can work any way you want to
AKOSHA You can work any way you want to

Walk us through the Akosha Journey!
Ankur Singla : We started Akosha in October 2010 with an intention of building India’s largest customer service platform. Starting with 10 customer service issues a day, we hit 100 daily issues in 2012, 600 in 2013 and today we get more than 2500 issues daily. From a single person in a 2 BHK in Kalkaji, Delhi we have grown to 130 people with a nice office in Okhla, Delhi.

Does the company have a stated set of cultural values & what is the grounded purpose behind it?
Ankur Singla : We believe that true happiness and satisfaction only comes from extremely fulfilling work – marginal utility on extra salary is really low. We, thus, believe in hiring great people, giving them challenging work and the space to learn themselves and take ownership.

We have enough faith in our people to believe that if they are thrown in the deep end of the pool, they’ll figure things out and will learn a lot that will help them grow.

The technology team at Akosha
The technology team at Akosha

What does it take to work at Akosha?
Ankur Singla : We are extremely focussed on getting things done, whatever it takes; analytical; a little bit crazy, and fun too. Collaborating on work while having a quick bite or playing table tennis makes the entire process much more interesting.

We have an annual table tennis tournament, fun quizzes, gaming sessions and lots of parties (we have a Party Planning Committee just like the one in ‘The Office’).

How often does the staff meet?
Ankur Singla : The different teams at Akosha have their own ways of collaboration and meeting styles – in operations and tech everyone huddles in the morning. Some teams have weekly review meetings. We have monthly review meetings for all the senior folks. As a company, we have a monthly all-hands-meet called the Open House where we discuss the company’s performance and get feedback from everyone – down to our office admin staff. It helps everyone stay on the same page and collectively think about how they can improve Akosha.

Stairway to Heaven..Err.. Akosha !
Stairway to Heaven..Err.. Akosha !

What does it take for someone to be successful here?
Ankur Singla : Getting things done.

We like extremely action oriented people and like to move from point A to point B in the least amount of time. We love the same qualities in our employees. That, combined with ability to think things through, have empathy and an organised thought process. We are crazy about people who never give up.

Akoshans just love to pose!!
Akoshans just love to pose!!

What are your expectations from your employees?
Ankur Singla : We believe in giving people a free hand in doing their work. A few mistakes are made here and there but we are comfortable with that as they learn from those mistakes and make Akosha a better place overall.

As long as people stay true to their hearts and their dreams while contributing to the company, we are happy. If you are unhappy, come and talk. If you think something is wrong, go ahead and fix it.

How do you reward your employees?
Ankur Singla : With an extremely competitive pay scale and incentives for great performance. Equity is also on the table for those who are up for it, matching the reward with the effort. We have office parties and team outings from time to time as well.

Most of all, we reward our employees with the freedom to work in the way they feel like and contribute actively in decisions regarding Akosha. We don’t offer free lunch, we don’t offers cabs, neither fancy infrastructure. We offer learning, challenges, and some fun.

What do you look for in a potential employee? How do you evaluate the soft-skills?
Ankur Singla : Most of all, we look for a drive to do something meangful in life with a spark that says “I won’t give up”. We look for intelligence, quantitive aptitude and the ability to handle all kinds of situations in a logical manner.

We are fine with them not knowing what they exactly want to do in the beginning as long as they are genuinely passionate about Akosha and are a fit with our culture. That’s why we have created this position called ‘Startup Junkie’, which basically lets people work in different functions till they are able to figure out what they like best.

We have a gruelling hiring process that tests people’s limits on multiple parameters, including analytical ability, emotional intelligence, quick thinking and the capacity to work hard.

How do you get new employees on-boarded fast?
Ankur Singla : We have created a startup training course for our new employees which helps them get up to speed to how things work in an early growth stage startup. Apart from that, we also have a process wherein they get to work on multiple things in the company to understand all the aspects better. We don’t believe in a classroom style training process. Rather, we help them jump into the fray and work along with helpful co-workers and learn on the job.

What’s the best part about working in this environment that I won’t be able to see from just a walk around the office?
Ankur Singla : The amount of determination in people’s minds to make Akosha a long-term success story.

Are there special activities you do to promote teamwork? Are they voluntary?
Ankur Singla : We have club activities on one of the Saturdays of the month. We have three clubs: Sports, Startup and NGO, wherein people play football, talk about startups and do some kind of social work respectively. All of the participation is voluntary.

What policies does the company have on day-to-day activities (e.g., dress code, work hours)?
Ankur Singla : We are pretty relaxed on those kind of things. People can pretty much wear anything that they like. We do work 6 days a week, with second Saturday’s off.

Do supervisors have an open door policy or the employees need prior appointment for a meeting with the seniors?
Ankur Singla : That’s one of the best things about Akosha.

You can just walk up to anyone and pour out your heart’s contents. We actually encourage all our employees to give us feedback so that we can improve things. We have specially created an anonymous feedback mechanism for this internally (called Akosha Voice).

Akosha - The Reception Area
Akosha – The Reception Area

Is there an HR team to help the employees? Or is it driven by founders?
Ankur Singla : Yes, we have a 3-people HR team in place. The founders and key employees work closely with the HR team in both finding great talent, and ensuring employee happiness.

How do you evaluate them on certain attitude skills?
Ankur Singla :  Our selection process is pretty gruelling and going through that kind of an ego-crunching grind weeds out many people who would not have fit into Akosha. Answer to a simple question like – “Life main karna kya chahte ho?” is a pretty good way to figure out what the person is about.

How do you hire senior management? What’s the process like? What do you look for?
Ankur Singla : Mostly, we get help from external hiring consultants. In terms of the process, we have a telephonic round and multiple face-to-face interviews along with a couple of tests and a weeklong trial at times.

We specially look for the ability to fit in Akosha’s culture and some perspective about how Akosha can be helpful for their careers.

What has been the biggest learning that you’d want to share with fellow entrepreneurs?
Ankur Singla : Keep at it. We found one of our best hires – our CTO – after conducting 109 interviews!

How do you resolve team conflict?
Ankur Singla : Mostly through talking and ensuring that we discuss things 1-on-1 whenever there is any friction. We also try and take people out (we recently took our senior team for a retreat which helped in open communication and bonding and all conflicts were forgotten or resolved). More or less, all of this boils down to communication.

What tools do you use to enhance productivity?
Ankur Singla : Google Apps, Todoist, Trello, Github

What are some of the difficult decisions you have taken, as far as defining team culture is concerned?
Ankur Singla : We made a few wrong hires and we waited too long to let them go. In one case, we had hired a person in operations who was negatively impacting the 15 people reporting to him. We had to ask him to leave despite the fact that it would have impacted growth and other metrics at that time.

Over time, we have come to believe in the adage – “When there is any doubt, there is no doubt” – so if we are even a little bit unsure about a candidate, we say no.

Currently, Akosha is hiring for following roles for New Delhi office.

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