Why Indian Startups need to invest in culture now!

Startup Culture Blog Workplace Indian Startups

We spend 10 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week at work. We spend more time awake working than doing anything else. Yet 70% of people don’t feel satisfied with their jobs, and I believe we have a serious epidemic on our hands.

We can still turn things around I’m sure because I personally turned things around for myself. I was working at a startup with challenging work where I was learning a lot but I never looked forward to going to the office. Then I joined Xeno & suddenly I was happy. I wanted to go to work. The reason that change happened is Xeno’s culture.

Not focussing enough on the work environment, doesn’t just affect a person happiness. It affects employee retention from a startups perspective too. Currently, in India, 50% to 80% of employees leave a startup within a span of 2 years, which is one of the highest in the industry.

Job Quit Within 2 years Last more than 4 years
Data Scientist 70% 9%
Software Engineer 58% 14%
Product Manager 65% 15%

Source: Quartz

Shockingly the attrition rate in startups is even worse than the BPO industry. Unlike BPOs, where the companies only wanted people to speak a certain language in a certain way, startups need people with specific talents. According to Zairus Master,  the CEO of Job Portal Shine.com:

“What we’re looking for in startups is sometimes unique skills. There has to be [a] high degree of entrepreneurship, [a] high degree of ownership, [a] high degree of making things happen”.

Despite losing employees & that making it harder to grow your company, startups always get caught in a dilemma, should I focus on culture now or on growing now?

 

The dilemma – Surviving/ growing vs. building culture.

9 out of every 10 startups in India shuts down within two years of formation. So business growth and sustainability usually take the front seat, and culture takes the backseat.

Besides, many founders believe funding is the solution to all their problems. The thought goes, let’s grow the business, raise money & then we’ll solve all the problems in our business. But the reality is very different. Building a startup is really really hard.

Building a company is larger than just raising money and cashing out. – Kavin Bharti Mittal, Hike

No one can succeed alone in that hard environment, so to succeed you need people with passion and unique skills working closely along with the founders to build a company that scales. Since most startups can’t afford to hire at high salaries, that usually means they end up spending so much time nurturing the right people. But because we don’t focus enough on the culture we create for those people, they leave and then we have to nurture another person all over again. Then that person leaves too and the company gets stuck in a vicious circle.

So interestingly, focussing on culture enables you to accelerate everything – sales, product, marketing & thus growth. Startups can leverage the power of culture to achieve accelerated results.

 

What does a “startup culture” really mean?

Now that we’ve established the importance of culture. What is culture really?

Is it the foosball table, wacky job titles, Is it liberal working environment without any dress code?  

Inspired by the pop culture and the recent TV series “Silicon Valley” and movies like “The Social network”  millennials mostly the fresh Engineers and MBA graduates imagine a mythical Startup life with open office area, liberal working hours, beer nights, pizza parties, hoodies for work, sleeping pods, basically a cool place to hang out.

That’s fun, but not the core of what makes a companies culture!

So what is really a startup’s culture?

Companies are made by people, run by people with the help of many strangers who happen to share the same passion and conviction for a cause. Product and services are mere yields of such association. The same people either make a highly successful company or doom it. Did you ever wonder why companies need a long list of HR policies to keep the ship running, whereas tribes and families never need any process to run?

A culture is “values” and the “way to work”.

For example, Xeno’s set of core values are:

Our way to work is:

Culture is the soul of the company, the foundation upon which either it succeeds or fails. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company will need. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. People can be independent and autonomous. They can be entrepreneurial, people with the entrepreneurial spirits are passionate about their work, they take more ownership, take initiatives all the time and delivers things faster.

The values along with strategic goals embodied by the founders directly influence how everyone works at a company. Unwritten cultural rules are what most influence the hundreds of decisions team members make on their own every single day. So, creating and nurturing a good company culture is indispensable to the success of your startup.

 

Why Culture Can Be Your Startup’s Greatest Asset?

“Peter Thiel invested $150M in our business & we asked him for his single most critical piece of advice. He said, Don’t fuck up your culture.”
– Brian Chesky, Airbnb

Peter Thiel is the founder of Paypal, the first investor at Facebook and his belief is, if you don’t have & maintain your core company culture you can’t scale your business. If you get your culture right, it’ll pretty much benefit every single part of your business.

Attract the best people – The best talents aren’t solely motivated by salary. To attract the best talent, startups must provide employees with premium work experiences. That means creating a company culture that excites, revitalize, and empowers every team member to reach their full potential.

Retain your “A” team With unicorns throwing money at these top talents, as an early stage startup, it’s hard to retain your best people. This is one of the reasons for high attrition at startups. To retain your best employees, a company culture that put them in a position where they can succeed, develop new skills and do things they wouldn’t have the opportunity to go elsewhere.

Entice your investors – With more than 10,000 startups in India, developing an outstanding work culture can serve as a key differentiator for top investors.  The likes of Google, Facebook, Spotify & Netflix are examples of how exceptional company culture produces exceptionally lucrative results.  A company with a strong culture have more retention, higher individual ownership, higher productivity, faster shipping and a happy workplace, everything that entices an investor to invest in your company.

Win customer success – It’s simple, many companies grow just by providing great customer service. However, most companies fail to provide the level of customer service that is required. Only satisfied employees can sustain high levels of productivity over time, and it takes exceptionally driven individuals to provide customers with high-quality service day in and day out. If your team members don’t love their jobs, they are not going to do their best work, and thus fail at customer success.

Stop shopping Leaders, nurture them – Most of the startup founders will agree that hiring a person at the leadership position is one of the toughest nuts to crack. Let alone price tag associated with such talents, fitment of a senior person, their effect on the existing culture, their passion and alignment towards the vision of the founders are a concern. When in the right workplace culture, new leaders are born, new young driven individuals with loyalty, passion and a notch of more energy drives your company’s middle layer

 

Apart from the benefits for a company itself, the reason I’m most passionate about culture is –

A happy workplace = A happy life

Gone are the days when you were advised to keep your professional life and personal life separate. People working in startups spend about 70% of their day’s time with their teammates. Without a strong company culture, it is impossible for people working to enjoy the time they’re working.

If you’re not happy for 70% of your waking hours, what’s the point? Isn’t being happy after all, the eternal goal? And my friend, this is the single biggest benefit of working in a company with a strong culture.

 

What should you do now?

If you’re a startup founder and have already implemented a strong culture, let us know in the comments. If you’re looking to setup a strong culture, email us at culture@xeno.in & we’re happy to help.

 

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