“I ask people to focus on becoming good human beings before they aspire to become good professionals”, declared our guest on this episode of ‘Dialogue with Darwin’ when asked to give advice to HR folks. We are joined by Chitbhanu Nagri, Senior VP of People Operations at Razorpay in this illuminating conversation about the vital role of organizational culture.
Chitbhanu is an alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, with 19+ years of experience in Human Resources. He has experience from large multinational organizations to some of India’s most respected technology startups. He has contributed to creating a superior employee experience for companies like Accenture and Dell, handling several HR responsibilities within India and across the APAC region. Before joining Razorpay, he also held HR leadership responsibilities for organizations like Flipkart, Tavant, YourStory Media, and Moonfrog Labs.
He believes in the power of building simple and pragmatic people processes that create deep meaning for the employee and make a direct impact on the business. He is an active football player and an avid reader and enjoys subjects ranging from psychology to health and nutrition, to sustainability to international relations.
In this interview, we get a glimpse into Chitbhanu’s ideas about life at large and his insights on organizational culture, talent retention, and some learnings from his current role at Razorpay.
Listen to the full podcast here:
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Darwinbox: Razorpay is one of the fastest-growing startups in the country today, and you are at the helm of people management in this organization. How do you define, communicate, and live the company’s values?
Chitbhanu: Unlike popular belief, culture really is, the behaviors, the communication, the dialogues that happen on a day-to-day basis. I think some of the best organizations that have grown a strong culture, have grown it organically when they mean what they say, and they do what they need.
I think at Razorpay, the foundations were set early on and were amongst the first few things that Harshil Mathur and Shashank Kumar established very clearly. One of the things they stressed was what kind of an organization do we want to grow into? This translated into what the cultural tenets of the organization would be.
The second was to continuously educate and reiterate this message because the best cultural tenets can get diluted unless it is reiterated and reiterated effectively. We use various forums to educate our people on how culture comes to life in the company. For example, during induction, a substantial portion of time is spent telling people about the culture at Razorpay.
And it's not a boring presentation. These are case studies, these are actual examples, these are stories from people's lives, that we pick up and bring out a flavor of how the culture comes to life in practice. Every All Hands that we do, which happens every month at Razorpay, there is a clear section which is on updates about culture.
Finally, I very strongly believe that you reinforce things that you track well. So, for Razorpay, whether it is hiring performance reviews, rewards and recognition decisions on promoting people or otherwise, how well are they living Razorpay’s culture is a significant aspect of taking that decision.
Watch the Full Interview:
Darwinbox: We are witnessing an excessive war for talent; what is the way to engage employees in a purposeful manner and retain talent at these times?
Chitbhanu: My approach is to go back to fundamentals. I think a lot of things that we end up doing on a day-to-day basis are a reaction to the day or the flavor of the season. That is never a great idea when it comes to talent engagement and retention. My philosophy is to do a few things but do them consistently and do a really good job of those things. And it will make a positive impact on employee engagement.
Let me start with the most basic and important thing. How much focus is the organization providing, and how much focus is the organization placing on providing meaningful and high-quality work? Is the organization really introspecting and thinking about whether the work is aspirational? Do people really think that they're making an impact? They're creating value for the organization and for its end customer. So, what's the big picture that you are solving for? How well is that being understood and how well is that percolating down to every team member in the company?
Many times, people believe that they do a lot of good work, but it is not acknowledged. People need to hear often that they're doing well, that they are contributing to the company. So, are we creating mechanisms, means, and platforms to say thank you to our people? We often do not recognize the power that this platform carries, we either do not do it at all or we do it in a very thick-in-the-box thing. If we look at it as a strong lever to engage and retain people and then very mindfully do a great job of it, trust me some of these things are a lot more impactful than fun events, and offsites.
Darwinbox: What is your take on the role of HR technologies in an organization? What is HR technology’s role in ensuring hyperscale for companies like Razorpay and ensuring a better experience for employees?
Chitbhanu: I think as organizations grow in their journey; you see a constant shift from a person-dependent process to a process that is driven by systems and right practices. And if those evolve well, that brings scalability into the organization. Let's say till the time you are a hundred people organization, there can still be individuals who can drive a lot of things by their own passion. But once you've crossed that the principle of marginal returns comes in and you may apply as much brute force you want to do, you may be as passionate as you think you would – that's not going to give proportionate results. So that's when systems, processes, and technology come into place. And that sets you up for the next 1000-2000 people that you want to hire.
What is important is how clearly has the requirement been articulated? Otherwise, there are a lot of off-the-shelf products that are available. You can easily go and purchase an APS and HRMS and LMS put them all together, see that the APIs are talking to each other, and you have a system out there, but it still isn't effective, people do not adopt it.
And that is because we did not start by first asking ourselves what our requirement is. For example, a company, which is into financial services, builds a bill, builds a FinTech product. They're deep into researching what their customer really requires. The same applies to our internal products as well, we need to go deep into figuring out what do our people really require across the value chain from hire to retire. So, requirement gathering is important. The second is viewing technology as an integrated solution provider and not a piecemeal solution provider.
Finally, how much are we focusing on user experience? How much are we involving our users in the journey of defining that requirement, getting the right product, implementing it, that makes a lot of a difference, particularly in new-age companies where user interface and user experience are so important.
Chitbhanu concluded the conversation by answering some rapid questions about his favorite book, his motto in life, and his advice to other HR professionals.
Do also check out the other episodes of ‘Dialogue with Darwin’: