NextBigWhat brings to you, an UnPluggd view of some of India’s high-growth product companies. The idea is to showcase company culture, hear from the founders, employees and answer ‘how does it feel to work with you’.
Started in February 2010 by Kunal Bahl, a Wharton graduate and Rohit Bansal, an alumnus of IIT Delhi, Snapdeal is India’s largest online marketplace. Snapdeal today has 20 million registered users and offers an assortment of 4 million+ products across diverse categories from over 20,000 sellers, shipping to 4,000 towns and cities in India.
Here are excerpts from an interview with Saurabh Nigam, Vice President – Human Resources at Snapdeal.
How do you define ‘Company Culture’?
Saurabh Nigam: Company Culture is something that is evolved over a period of time and is driven from top to bottom. We at Snapdeal are very ambitious people looking to achieve a lot through our efforts so we have a great organization. I would say, all of us are go-getters and we believe that nothing is impossible. Every quarter we lock a certain set of targets and we put in all our efforts to achieve them. We try our best and succeed at exceeding expectations in everything we do.
When did your company start & how did you grow big? Could you share milestones (In terms of year and no. of people)?
Saurabh Nigam: Snapdeal is a now four year old company and we have around 1600 employees. Our technology section alone houses 300 employees. As far as milestones are concerned, we were the first to start the marketplace model and to target the vast seller base across the ecommerce category.
Does the company have a stated set of cultural values & what is the grounded purpose behind it?
Saurabh Nigam: Like I mentioned, we are a group of go-getters and we thrive on challenges. We are determined to succeed in spite of all the challenges we face and so our employees need to be very adaptable, nimble and efficient team players. eCommerce space cannot function with just one set of people. Every employee needs to align with the vision of creating the best eCommerce company in the country.
Can you describe the environment in the company?
Saurabh Nigam: It’s a very open environment in the company. Ours is a very flat organization and we ensure that 1500 employees help us keep it that way. There is no kind of bureaucracy here. This structure is built on the fact that we have a lot of pride on the company. It is a very collaborative environment where we all share knowledge and try to help each other as much as we can. Everyone has a sense of urgency to get things done in a fast and right manner.
How often does the staff meet?
Saurabh Nigam: Meetings differ from team to team. We do not have cabins in our organization. Anyone can walk up to anyone and have a discussion. The whole team meets once in a month. There are also one on one meetings that happen quite frequently.
What does it take for someone to be successful here?
Saurabh Nigam: Being truthful to your job is the most important thing. There has be a zeal to learn and innovate. We promote innovations hugely. In eCommerce innovations are very critical. You have to move out of your comfort zone and try hard to exceed the expectations that are on you.
What are your expectations from your employees?
Saurabh Nigam: You need to have a good set of skills, should be adaptable to changing trends, should be nimble, must be creative enough to produce excellent pieces of work and most importantly should be ready to take on any kind of challenges head on. We face a lot of challenges in our path and so this is very critical.
How do you reward your employees?
Saurabh Nigam: Apart from regular compensations we have performance linked ESOPs, various reward programmes, spot awards, monthly awards, quarterly awards and much more for our employees.
What do you look for in a potential employee? How do you evaluate the soft-skills?
Saurabh Nigam: A potential employee has to go through multiple levels of interviews. These interviews are a combination of competency tests and behavioral interviews incorporating psychometric and behavioral analysis.
How do you treat a new employee? How do you get them onboard fast?
Saurabh Nigam: We have a very structured on boarding programme. On Day 1, every new employee passes an orientation on the history of the organization, and office culture. Our HR business partner model works with every big function in the organization. The dedicated HR business partner from every team explains about their respective functions. B y the end of the day, every new person coming on board has a clear idea on what the organization is all about, the office structure, the different functions of the organization and how they are interlinked to each other. All this is with regard to the organization knowledge perspective. We also make sure that on Day 1 the new employee is welcomed with complete infrastructural and administrative support like workstations, Business cards, Data cards, IT support etc.
Once the employee joins the respective team, there is a mentor and buddy system. A team member or any person senior by a level becomes the buddy while anyone from the senior management becomes your mentor.
Do you guys also invite families?
Saurabh Nigam: Yes, we do have events for families. We do call families to our office. We have out of campus events and meets, as well. In fact an event is being planned right now for this quarter, to happen sometime in October.
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?
Saurabh Nigam: Like I mentioned, we all have a lot of pride associated with building the company and also the fact that everyone contributes to it. Everybody here understands that they have a role to play in making the company what it is. End of the day, we celebrate every small success together and there is a lot of pride involved.
Are there special activities you do to promote teamwork? Are they voluntary?
Saurabh Nigam: Whenever we want to launch a new product, we create task forces, pilot groups, cross functioning teams that work on strategic work focus areas that query, test and evaluate the product. Based on their recommendations it is then further decided if the product should move forward.
What policies does the company have on day-to-day activities (e.g., dress code, work hours)?
Saurabh Nigam: We have very flexible working hours; there are also work-from-home policies available for our employees. As far as dress code is concerned, it is strictly business casuals. We do not force formal clothing as a dress code. It is an extremely employee friendly environment.
Do supervisors have an open door policy or the employees need prior appointment for a meeting with the seniors?
Saurabh Nigam: We are a completely open door policy. We do not have cabins in our organization. I myself sit on my workstation next to my team members and so anyone can walk up to me anytime.
Is there an HR team to help the employees? Or is it driven by founders?
Saurabh Nigam: We have a very strong full-fledged HR team interacting with our employees on a day to day basis. They take care of any queries, grievances and issues related to our employees.
How do you make your employees comfortable at work?
Saurabh Nigam: There are a lot of things we do to make our employees comfortable like flexible work hours, Work-from-home policies etc. and the responses have been extremely positive. Employees recognize the fact that these policies have been devised for their convenience and hence we have high productivity at work.
We also do events and meets, every Monday we have snacks on the house for everybody. We keep innovating and come up with results that resonate with the young population. We also have a dedicated desk here to take care of your day-to-day needs like cheque deposits, bill payment, travel and ticket booking, movie bookings etc. So we have tied up with third party vendors who have set up a desk. All that they employees have to do is to submit their requirements and the work gets done for a small fee. Such measures have made life easy for our employees and we have received many positive reviews, feedbacks and testimonials.
How do you evaluate them on certain attitude skills?
Saurabh Nigam: Attitude skills are very similar to soft skills. We have a series of interviews, aptitude tests and behavioral tests that we conduct to consider the psychometric aspects.
How do you hire senior management? What’s the process like? What do you look for?
Saurabh Nigam: Senior management is a completely different ball game. First, we have to be very specific about the requirements because there are only very limited candidates that we refer to. There is a dedicated leadership hiring team who are busy working day-in and day-out looking for people who can fit in to our organizational culture and bring in the right experience.
Once we finalise the person the next thing is to speak to them. We talk about the organization, what we do, what our future plans are and we get them interested to interview with us. Once that happens, they then have a series of interviews with our founders and leadership team. The idea is to be a hundred percent clear about the person we bring aboard. They also get together with all the teams from our organization and only when both parties are in complete agreement is the person welcomed on board.
Who has been your most amazing hire? What has worked for the person and the context?
Saurabh Nigam: It is a very difficult question to answer since there are so many of them. In my team, HR Business Partners for various functions, what I have been very conscious about is that we want to get HR Business Partners for functions that they are exposed to. For instance, while hiring a HR Business partner for supply chain, I see to it that he has worked in Supply chain and Logistics. While hiring for HR Business Partner for Customer Service, we got a business guy who has taken up leadership positions and worked in customer service before HR. So he understands the business and is now taking care of people’s aspect of business.
How do you resolve team conflict? Could you share an example?
Saurabh Nigam: Team conflicts can be resolved only by maintaining absolute transparency. We inculcate this in all our teams. Conflicts arise when there is lack of transparency. Till date, we have not had many conflicts. This is because we make sure that the teams and team members communicate face-to-face on al matters. We also ensure that none of the team members keep matters to themselves as this can counter productivity.
What tools do you use to enhance productivity?
Saurabh Nigam: We have a running ERP. We do a lot of data analysis to maintain productivity at employee level across all teams. We look at what we need to improve to enhance productivity like exposure to all aspects of the business, on-the-job training and skill enhancement and try to rectify issues like lack of motivation. We have designed KPIs which we monitor on a day-to-day basis.
What are some of the difficult decisions you have taken, as far as defining team culture is concerned?
Saurabh Nigam: Team culture is a skill management process. When somebody is not fit to adapt to new process, you can coach and mentor a candidate. Yet, there are chances that they are not mentally prepared to take on the challenges the face. Not everybody can be trained to accept challenges. In such a case it reaches a point where you have analyze if retaining the person can help him cope in terms of attitude and culture that you are trying to build in your organization.
Snapdeal is looking to hire for its New Delhi office:
-8 to 10+ years of professional programming experience
-Java web development experience on large scale, high-volume sites or web applications.
-Good knowledge of Core Java concepts.
-Experience in at least three of these skills: Spring 3.0 (core, MVC, aop), Hibernate, jQuery, JMS, Webservices, memcached, MongoDB, SOLR.
-Experience with “faster, lighter” Java tools including Refactoring IDE’s, Spring, Hibernate and other open source technologies.