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Abhishek Solanki

He is an former strategy consultant turned entrepreneur and co-founder of Gurgaon based startup Culturro, which helps companies build the right workplace experience to drive towards their desired strategic objectives. Prior to co-founding Culturro, Abhishek has worked with boutique strategy consulting firms in USA and India catering to Fortune 500 clients globally. He was also the co-founder of Boston based social music collaboration startup. Abhishek holds a Masters degree in Engineering Management and Technological Entrepreneurship from Northeastern University, Boston and is a certified startup coach.

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Jittery Culture = Jittery Investors: What Indian Startups Can Learn From the UBER Saga

Don’t underestimate the power of an organization’s culture

The universal definition of culture is ‘How things get done in an organization’. This simple yet powerful term has the ability to give sleepless nights to even the most prominent and influential leaders in any organization. The recent UBER saga is a testament of the above statements. The ‘Toxic Culture’ at the most valuable startup in the world is the core reason for the series of events at UBER, leading to layoffs, culture investigation and most recently the stepping down of Travis Kalanick as the CEO.

Most often we think, ‘Toxic Culture’ does more damage within an organization. But in reality its impact is far more outside an organization. The direct impact of  ‘Toxic Culture’ is on investor sentiment, valuation and worst of it all ability to attract talent in the future. So no matter how well funded you are or how good your business model is, your organizations rise and fall is completely hinged on the culture of your company.

There is a lot to learn for all entrepreneurs (budding or seasoned) from the string of events at UBER. Here are 5 things Indian Startups can learn from UBER’s Culture woes,

  • Default Culture – In simple terms, Culture is an extension of the founding team’s personalities. So any startup big or small has a default culture from day one. Without conscious efforts, your startups culture will exist the way it is.  Focus on the culture of your startup right from the start, ignorance or delay in acting on this crucial aspect can possibly hamper your unicorn dreams
  • Foundation of Culture – Culture stems from the values that are set in an organization. Many startups skip the ordeal of defining a value system of their company or define values, which do not support their ideology. A value system helps employees take right decisions in the right circumstances, so it is important to define values that are balanced, positive and inclusive to build a strong foundation for your startup
  • What you preach is what gets done – Most startups in growth phase, have unsaid rules and practices that are set in from the initial days. These unsaid rules and bad practices most often end up becoming norms and lead to ‘Toxic Culture’.  Startups can avoid this by defining guiding principles of engagement for their employees and make sure only the right things get done the right way in the organization
  • Onus of Culture always lies with the leadership team – Creating, abiding, and sustaining a good culture is the responsibility of leadership team beyond the founders. A startup can only build and sustain a good culture only if this sense of responsibility can percolate downwards to all leadership levels. One of the ways to achieve this to include culture building as a KRA for the leadership team at all levels and link it with their compensation
  • HR plays a major role in building & sustaining culture – Many startups undermine the role of HR in the company. While HR is always seen as a transactional function, startups often forget that they are the one closest to the employees. HR can play a huge role in building and sustaining an culture of a startup only if the founders lay importance on this function and treat it as a strategic function

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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