“People Needs” For Start Ups


“People” the key and the most critical aspect of every organization and yet ironically, the ignored aspect as well. In a startup scenario, amidst all the important tasks of fundraising, expansion, networking and reaching break-even, often specific initiatives pertaining to People and Culture are missed. In my interactions with the entrepreneurs, I realized that it is not a conscious decision of ignoring the core People aspects, rather, it is something that gets lost amidst hundreds of other critical things. In few cases, it just slips through the crack wherein in few, leaders are really not sure of what exactly to be done.

So, here I thought of sharing with you all, the small yet extremely important aspects needed for a start up aligned to People and Culture.

Let us segregate in five categories :

I)   Compliance and Statutory

II)  Processes & Policies

III) Engagement

Compliance and Statutory : This is an extremely important aspect, not only for the employees but for the organization at large. As soon as a company is incorporated, the Company Law mandates certain compliance requirements. Abiding by these is the responsibility of every leadership team and we owe this to our employees. The mandatory statutory requirements are :

i) PF & PT – Every employer should register for PF and PT (as applicable) and ensure timely submission of remittances and returns. Please note that non compliance in this is a punishable offence and can draw huge penalty

ii) ESI – ESI is the medical security of an employee. It is mandatory to file the returns and remittances on time in accordance to the ESI Act

iii) Leave  – Allocating leaves to employees is not a matter of choice. All employees are legally entitled to Earned Leaves as per the Labour Law and it is of paramount importance to accrue as well as maintain the leave tracker for all employees. Earned leaves explicitly should be reconciled on a monthly basis. Please note that Earned Leave is a liability for the organization as it needs to be encashed on basic salary at the time of separation. Lack of monthly reconciliation might incur a huge monetary loss for the company

iv) Employee Database – Since every start up commences journey with a handful of employees, maintaining employee database gets completely missed. Employee database is not an internal requirement for an organization rather a statutory mandate. Every organization is required to maintain an exhaustive employee database as a part of statutory requirements. The essential aspects in this regards are :

a) Excel format of all employee details such as Emp No., Emp Name, Educational Details, Experience Details, Emergency Contact Number, Blood Group, PF Account Number, Insurance Number (If any) and other key information

b) Hard files for each employee which has to be retained for a period of 10 years

c) Monthly headcount reconciliation ( New joinees and Exits)

Processes & Policies : It is of paramount importance to understand that processes and policies are meant for assisting us to perform our best and not for restricting our freedom. The ‘family’ culture in startups is meant to enhance team bonding and not to loose control. Processes and Policies would help an organization to streamline work, inculcate discipline and ensure productivity. Formulating and implementing policies does not mean stringent guidelines. Policies can always be customized considering the workforce and diversity of the team.

Engagement : Creating an engaged workforce is the pathway to success. While we talk about engagement, I would like to explicitly mention that engagement is not just fun activities and celebrating ethnic day at office. Engagement has to be done at a holistic level and not just through fun@work. Fun@work is an important element of engagement but not THE ONLY aspect of engagement. An employee can be engaged through various ways :

a) Career Growth

b) Empowerment

c) Creating a positive work culture

d) Recognition

e) Fun@Work

Please feel free to connect with me at piyali@zizique.co.in for any help around this.


The Art Of Unlearning



‘Unlearning’s is defined as ‘moving away from something rather than moving towards something’. The interesting element being that this moving away is indeed the most critical element of moving towards success. In all my interactions with the leaders of the companies as well as the team members, one of the greatest challenges they face in integrating People is absence or unwillingness to unlearn. Studies and research have revealed that the major hindrance to learning is unlearning hence the learn to unlearn is the mantra for complete lucid integration in a new environment.

The greatest myth about unlearning is that people often mistake unlearning for forgetting. Well! Unlearning is not forgetting, it’s about accepting and adapting new ways or models to do a specific work. With the rapid growth of technology and advent of science, evolves a whole new plethora of new edge solutions, models and theories. At this juncture, if one needs to keep pace with the growing dynamics, one has to unlearn the older ones and embrace the recent trends or models with utmost passion and belief.

On similar lines, let me share a case with you all.

About the organization :

An E-Commerce start up company with approximately 250 employees across locations (PAN India). The company had a very dynamic business plan, defines strategic focus areas and well established departmental deliverable. Two years in the business and the company has reached break-even. Now was the time to aspire high and accelerate. On this ground, the management decided to change the approach and business model. Inspite of a well structured and established plan, there was lack of acceleration which was delaying the implementation of the new model in the industry.

Problem Statement :

As outlined by the management, the problem statement was – Lack of speed and agility for organizational change inspite of having an exhaustive business plan and strategic direction.

Approach Towards Resolution :

Our approach towards resolution of the problem statement involved the below steps :

  1. Holistic analysis
  2. Root cause analysis
  3. Proposed Solution
  4. Integration

Holistic Analysis : The holistic analysis involved a broader coverage of all aspects of People, Culture and Processes. All key aspects of the organization were segregated into smaller segments and each segment was reviewed in depth. Pros and cons of every small element was discussed and concluded in collaboration with the leadership team. No major issue was seen from a broader perspective. Based on the focused group discussions, a small issue which was highlighted was that of – “People’s attitude towards change”

Root Cause Analysis : Taking this as a reference point and focus area, we proceeded with the root cause analysis on “People’s attitude towards change”. Various focused group discussions were conducted over a span of couple of days. The reconciliation of all discussion points brought out few interesting aspects :

a) All employees were keen on the change, hence the issue with not being ‘for’ the change was ruled out

b) The concern area highlighted by team members was not the change in itself rather how the change was done

This left two important questions for us :

a) Was the approach towards change really an issue?

b) Was it an acceptance issue?

After much retrospection and review, we concluded that the approach was fine. The issue was accepting the way it was done and the sole reason of that being unlearning. All the team members came from varied backgrounds and they were just not ready to leave behind the learning from the previous experiences and strive towards something new and different. The preconceived notions were the reason of laxity and lack of agility.

Proposed Solution : The solution to this was indeed very simple. There was no need of some intense model being deployed to come out of the situation. The need of the hour was a practical and lucid workshop on “The Art of Unlearning”. Herewith we designed and conducted a workshop with all real time scenarios and discussed the concept of unlearning. We brought out key aspects from earlier experiences of the participants which were holding them back from performing and crafted a comparative graph with the approach being followed by the current organization. The comparison drew a very clear picture of why few things which the team members did in the past is not suitable in the current scenario whereby establishing the need of following the current change model.

Integration : In order to ensure a complete integration for the change, a formal connect forum was introduced which enabled team members to connect on a weekly basis, discuss the pros and cons whereby working towards the common goal.

The underlying at this context remains as – Unlearning is not forgetting. It is about being flexible, open-minded and adapting the right solution for the respective problem. Unlearning does not mean that all the past experiences are futile and cannot be implemented. It’s all about respecting and accepting the fact that every organization is different and a combination of great learning as well as adoption of new ideas would make to success.

It is good to know, what to do, however it is the key to know, what not to do!

Learn to Unlearn.jpg




Your Personal Brand


Don’t you want to show the world who you are? Don’t you want to make a remarkable mark in life and in the things you do? Don’t you want yourself to be a role model for somebody?

Then why not, establish your known self-brand and create an impactful value?

Personal branding is a very important facet in everyone’s life. The key to success is standing out of the crowd and this can be achieved by defining oneself by creating USPs (Unique Selling Points). An individual’s USPs is established by his/her attitude, personality, communication style, the work he/she does, qualification, and many more parameters. Erstwhile, the whole concept of self-management used to revolve around self-development only; however, the modern scenario demands an extra mileage of self-branding. We all know that ‘First impression is the last impression’ and living by this maxim, every individual should aspire to create the first impression as the best and enduring impression. Let us look at those few basic things which we can do to establish our Self-Brand.

Emanate out of the shell

It has been rightly said that life begins when the force is from within and not external. Hence, the first step to create our value is to have a determining force for the same from within and not induced by someone or somewhere. While we speak about this, let us take a step back and see as to what are the obstacles we face in day to day life in this regards. Most of us love wearing the cloak of being down to earth and `refrain from talking about ourselves. We should come out of our couch and be confident to articulate to people our story – the story of our learning, experience and development. Outlining the story is the key to create an impactful interaction. We should tell our story to the right audience as we connect personally with them. Judging the audience and framing the communication accordingly is the key to its effectiveness. We should not hesitate to express our triumphs, laurels and accomplishments at any point of time.

Networking and being connected

Networking is an incipient socio-economic concept in today’s professional world. We should be networked and connected with people across industry & domain and not just within our own company. Networking requires a lot of personal commitment. The biggest mistake which most of us make is getting connected to people through various social websites and not maintaining the networking relationship. The charm of networking fails if not preserved. One can get networked with like-minded people and share knowledge, experience and wisdom. Within the organization we work, it is very important for us to be connected across teams and geographic regions. Very often, we get so enthralled in our day to day work, that we miss on these imperative parameters. In the midst of the busy schedule, the best tactic to maintain an active network is to block time specifically for connects and catch ups. Catch ups would not be effective if we don’t go prepared for it. There needs to be an agenda, formal/informal.

Communicate, Communicate and Communicate

The mantra for self-branding is nothing but the 3C – communicate, communicate and communicate. As stated earlier, we should not step back to communicate about our interests and endeavours. Communicating timely and effectively is the key and helps one create the much desired visibility. We need to make people feel our presence and existence. We cannot reach the zenith of success if his/her existence dies.

Constant Self-Development

The whole story of personal-branding remains incomplete without continuous and consistent self-development. A long term goal is something which would drive an individual towards an appropriate development. In fact, all the above points of communicate, networking and connecting should be aligned to the long term goal. As we trudge ahead towards our progress, it is again very important for us to communicate the same to our network.

As we summarize, the key takeaways from the above are:

  1. Articulating our story of success and accomplishments
  2. Building the professional network and being connected constantly
  3. Sole Mantra – Communicate, Communicate and Communicate
  4. Defining a long term goal and aligning all activities towards the same
  5. Consistent self-development plan

Newbies – Campus To Corporate

StartUp 1

You learn the key concepts of your domain in campus and then comes the critical aspect of bridging the gap between campus to corporate. First job is exciting and accompanied with immense aspirations along with a complete plethora of hurdles. Your success depends on how elegantly and strongly you cross each hurdle towards shaping yourselves to a professional.

In this post, let me tell you about those basic aspects which you need to be cautious about during your first 90 days as a newbie in an organization – few things which you would need to forget and few which you need to imbibe.

Remember all eyes are on you with huge expectations and the first 90 days defines the perception about you in that circle of reference


  1. Bunking : Bunking in college is a fun and mass bunk is an achievement :). Things are different in corporate. Bunking like college is seen as an utmost case of indiscipline and would impact your career growth drastically. “Mass Bunk”, out of question. This achievement in college would be looked upon as a negative influence in corporate and hence is an absolute NO.
  2. Being Late : Late entry to class is at max accompanied by a mass clapping or silly punishments such as singing or dancing. In an organization, being late would display the banner of irresponsibility on you.
  3. Calling Names : I am sure all of you had come up with creative names for your batch mates, juniors, seniors and even professors. I have also done it 🙂 But when you are a professional, calling names might get you into deep trouble. It can be considered as a form of harassment and you can even lose your job. So, dig this to grave and forget your creativity of giving names to fellows
  4. Laxity : Seriousness and being accountable at work would drive you a long way in the career ladder. You should not display any laxity or irresponsible behavior at any point of time.

Remember your first focus should be to UNLEARN things which would not be appreciated in a professional set up.


  1. Integrate Yourself : Integrating yourself to the organization is solely your responsibility. Your HR Partner/SPOC can facilitate or provide forums for the same, but leveraging the mediums is your responsibility. Spend the first 2 months, understanding about the organization, your role and how you can build a strong career. Identify your coach and mentor whereby seeking suggestions and recommendations.
  2. Take Ownership : Do not shy away from taking new projects and once you take it, put in all efforts to give your best at it. You should not restrict yourself to just doing your part of job rather you should work with the project leader and demonstrate keen interest to the overall success of the project.
  3. Visibility : Throughout these 90 days and even after, you need to plan and put in conscious efforts for establishing your personal brand. Make yourselves visible to your peers, seniors and leadership of the company. There is no harm in scheduling catch ups with cross functional departments and leadership team. Out of 20 people you know in the organization, 17 might tell you that these things are of no use, but trust me, Connect and Catch Ups do make huge differences.
  4. Go-To Person : By the end of 90 days, you should groom yourself as a Go-To person for your peers as well as your direct reporting line. Your peers should feel that they can approach you whenever there is an issue and your manager should be of the opinion that he/she can trust you as a responsible employee.

Remember your focus here should be to LEARN new things and integrate yourself.

Your mantra for the first 90 days :

Unlearn, Learn and Implement!