In a conversation with All Things talent, Ashish Kumar Singh, CHRO, Meesho explains in detail the evolution of Meesho’s business from pure-play social commerce to e-commerce and how the company is transforming the industry and has become a key contributor to the growth of India’s e-commerce landscape.
1. Could you give an overview of the company, its initial story behind the first set of employees?
Meesho stands for “Meri Shop” (my shop in English) established by IIT Delhi alumni Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal in late 2015. Back in 2015, only branded commerce such as smartphones, white goods, electronics, and branded fashion were online, but almost all unbranded products were primarily offline. With an aim to digitise India’s unorganised retail sector, Vidit and Sanjeev originally started with a brand “Fashnear”. They successfully created an online marketplace for fashion which is comparable to what Zomato and Swiggy did with food and Grofers with groceries. The vision was to enable 100 million small businesses to succeed online and be the platform that makes them successful.
After Fashnear, the founders again went back to the drawing board and visited a shop in Bangalore to just observe how these shops operate. They came across the concept of social commerce which led to the creation of a tool that makes it easy to sell on WhatsApp and thereby the introduction of the Meesho 1.0 app.
The creation of an advanced app with more robust features would enable the growth of women entrepreneurs and empower them with an online marketplace that they could leverage to scale up their business through various social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.
What started as an idea to digitise India’s unorganised retail has translated into a $4.9 billion e-commerce company today with a mission to democratise internet commerce for everyone. The evolution of Meesho’s business from pure-play social commerce to e-commerce is a testament to how the company is transforming the industry and has become a key contributor to the growth of India’s e-commerce landscape.
2. Could you tell us a bit about the company’s growth from the perspective of talent and employees?
Meesho is growing 10 times year-on-year, our workforce has reached 1700 already and we are looking to add another 1,500 this year overall. We have doubled the strength of our tech team in 2021, owing to the phenomenal growth witnessed by the business in the year gone by. To further enhance its technology capabilities and support the growth of the business at scale, we expanded our technology team to 325 as of December 2021. We plan to further bolster the current size of the tech team by 3X this year.
3. How did the company’s talent strategy evolve from being a startup to a high-growth company?
As a meritocratic organisation, we, at Meesho, have always placed substantial importance on hiring and growing the best talent across the board. We are driven by our consistent efforts to attract and nurture a strong talent pool that would enable Meesho in its mission to build for Bharat. Meesho’s rapid growth has been a major driving force behind scaling up our hiring. In the last year alone, our business has grown more than 10X, which has resulted in the expansion of teams across the board, especially technology and product. In tandem with our growth and culture, we have always focused on hiring people who demonstrate 10X thinking, strong problem solving, and high speed of execution.
We are hiring from all tier-1 business schools, including IIMs and ISBs. Meesho has been offered the first-day hiring slots in all the B-schools, especially ISB – a testament to Meesho’s robust hiring strategies and the attractive opportunities it has in store for India’s young talent.
Driven by our disruptive vision and audacious values, we have extended our hiring practices in senior roles to a global spectrum. The significant upward growth trajectory of Meesho has propelled us to ramp up our hiring in technology, engineering, product management, and categories from Silicon Valley at large, followed by Europe. Meesho offers the opportunity to work in the most exciting roles, provides a rewards framework with highly attractive and competitive compensation, significant scope for faster career progression, and a host of world-class benefits. This has led to attracting, hiring, and retaining top-quality talent across the country as well as on a global level.
4. What were the key opportunities and challenges that were unique to its hirings – from fresh to experienced talents?
Meesho is among the companies with the lowest attrition rate in the industry. Our key differentiator in terms of opportunities has been the total rewards framework that offers not only attractive compensation but also a host of world-class benefits. For instance, Meesho aims to benchmark its salary and benefits to the 90th percentile, which is amongst the very best. However, our real talent pull is the kind of experiences, autonomy, and opportunities we provide to our employees and not just the salary. Attracting talent through salary jumps only offers them temporary gratification while sharing a passion to build for Bharat and enabling the next billion users to come online and shop on Meesho helps in retaining them. The scope for an accelerated career progression is another key highlight.
Our bar for talent is high and hence at times, we encounter the challenge to find the right person who would fit the bill – both culturally and skillfully.
5. Meesho has recently announced boundary-less work culture wherein employees can work from any location of choice. How does the firm intend to manage a distributed workforce? Will there be a need for newer roles to manage such teams?
Driven by our mantra to build a people-centric workplace, we have always ensured employees are at the core of everything we do. We have been championing many industry-first initiatives that have redefined conventional workplace norms and the ‘boundary-less workplace model’ is a step in that direction.
We studied multiple future of work models to arrive at this novel boundaryless approach. With a focus on seamless employee experience, Meesho will enable its workforce with real-time and virtual collaboration tools. Providing ample opportunities for teams to even meet and collaborate in person, the company is introducing initiatives like trips to attend quarterly summits and an annual workation in locations like Goa. To support working parents, Meesho will sponsor daycare facilities for employees with children below 6 years of age. This can also be availed during official travels to Meesho’s head office in Bangalore.
We studied multiple future of work models to arrive at this novel boundaryless approach. With a focus on seamless employee experience, Meesho will enable its workforce with real-time and virtual collaboration tools. Providing ample opportunities for teams to even meet and collaborate in person, the company is introducing initiatives like trips to attend quarterly summits and an annual workcation in locations like Goa.
Other key highlights of the model are:
While Meesho will be headquartered in Bangalore, the company will look to set up satellite offices across the country based on talent demand and density.
Meesho sponsored annual workations in places like Goa, Shimla, and Manali to foster team bonding and collaboration.
Calendarised in-person quarterly connects to brainstorm, reflect, and review goals while building team camaraderie.
New joinee community
Virtual boot camps and meet & greet sessions will help new joinees build a community culture and a strong sense of connect with their entire team.
Employees can be a part of location-based regional committees like sports, marathons, community volunteering, etc. These employee engagement activities will be augmented by centrally run employee delight events across boards.
Meesho sponsored daycare facilities for employees with children below 6 years of age at suitable locations. This service can also be availed during official travel to Meesho’s headquarters in Bangalore.
5. What kind of investment outlay was needed specific to the tech required for managing its workforce?
Tools to enable virtual collaboration and brainstorming, and newshoite onboarding have been and will continue to be the investment priority.
6. As a new-age company, is ROI on these investments in tech in HR required?
The overall focus of the work from anywhere model was to enhance employee experience, empower our entire workforce with flexibility, and stay true to our culture of fostering forward-looking policies and championing industry-first initiatives. The continued endeavours to reimagine traditional workplace dynamics and double down our efforts to create an employee-centric organisation helped in justifying the cost.
7. According to an estimate by Longhouse Consulting, the offer to joining ratio in the case of unicorns has moved from 50-60 percent pre-pandemic to as low as 20-30 percent and more now. Even after acceptance, the joining ratio is lower than 50 percent. Is Meesho looking at bridging this gap with the recent announcement? What has been the attrition rate at Meesho and how are you working on it?
In 2021, the market witnessed a high volume of attrition and offer declines. Meesho, however, was not impacted by this sector-wide phenomenon. On the contrary, we are among the companies with the lowest attrition rate in the industry. Our offer acceptance ratios remained the same as compared to the previous years and with the new boundaryless workplace model we expect it to become even better.
“The overall focus of the work from anywhere model was to enhance employee experience, empower our entire workforce with flexibility, and stay true to our culture of fostering forward-looking policies and championing industry-first initiatives. The continued endeavours to reimagine traditional workplace dynamics and double down our efforts to create an employee-centric organisation helped in justifying the cost
8. Meesho also announced that it is looking to have satellite offices in several states in India for the ease of the employees. How will you decide on which places will have such offices? Since many employees would be hailing from areas where infrastructure may not be conducive for an office, how will these offices help them?
Based on the employee demand, the company will look to set up satellite offices at locations with higher talent density. By decentralising the workplace, we are giving employees the power to choose to work from home, office, or any location of their choice. To provide a seamless employee experience, we will enable our workforce with real-time and virtual collaboration tools.
10. Will zonal HR professionals be manning them?
Work from home applies to the HR department as well. In order to provide a great employee experience, the investment will be made in technology tools instead of manning people through zonal HR professionals.
11. Meesho is looking to double the strength of its tech team this year by hiring 450+ people. What are the key skills you are looking for? Has the need for specific skills changed pre and post-pandemic? Could you share your aspirations in terms of which level will these hirings be?
The fresh hiring will have candidates mainly from backend and frontend engineering, product management, UX design, product design, data science, and UR background.
Meesho has always focused on creating and nurturing a strong talent pool that would further the company’s vision and help create disruptions in the industry. Driven by such audacious values, we have hired and grown the best talent and this has led to extending our hiring practices in senior roles to a global spectrum. The rich availability of top talent in technology and product in Silicon Valley and Europe have spurred the growth of talent acquisition from such regions.
12. What are the channels or mediums you are looking for hiring?
Candidates can reach out to us through the Meesho portal and explore all the roles as mentioned under ‘Life at Meesho’. A mix of various mediums which comprise campus hiring, job portals, and professional networking sites on the internet, company website as mentioned above, and employee referrals, we have adopted a 360-degree approach to ensure we are able to create and nurture a strong talent pool who would further the company’s vision and help create disruptions in the industry.
Additionally, we have recently launched a state-of-the-art career website, “meesho.io” which has a unique UI design to showcase our technology acumen and long-term vision and thereby attract and hire tech talent.
13. What are the top skills you look for in a candidate?
Candidates who are mission-oriented, hard-working, committed, and complement our audacious values are culturally and skillfully the right fit for us.
14. Could you give some overview about other L&D, D&I, C&B initiatives at the company?
Meesho offers a host of opportunities for comprehensive and high-quality learning and development. MyAcademy Learning Platform – access to 50,000+ courses (7000+ tech and product courses, 10,000+ book summaries and 1000+ certifications). The platform gives an opportunity to build skills, learn anytime and anywhere from internationally recognised platforms like Harvard Business Publishing, Udemy, GetAbstract, Udacity, etc. This AI-driven platform recommends relevant bite-sized learning based on the learner’s interest areas.
PEAK – Enabling our Meesho Managers – Helping managers build their capability to lead teams as we gain momentum towards the 10X growth. This learning journey is coupled with self-paced learning, peer learning, and coaching.
MentorsMeet – An opportunity for Meeshoites to get mentored by leaders across the organisation. This platform allows participants to have one on one conversations with their mentors on any topic that will help them in their career journey.
Capability enhancement programme – Meesho offers roles with high autonomy and ownership, a meritocratic culture with fast-growing careers, and the most exciting problems impacting Bharat. To aid in the personal and professional growth of Meeshoites, we encourage continuous learning and prepare Meeshoites for the next stage of growth, Meesho also has a Capability Enhancement Program (CEP). The CEP allows one to take any learning course, educational program, and personal development program or hobby sponsored by the company.
15. Why this policy?
- To encourage continuous learning
- To prepare Meeshoites for the next stage of growth
- To reward consistent good performers
- To support the financial needs of Meeshoites
Key Highlights of the Program:
Annual learning wallet provided to employees for each of the below 4 programs. Meesho reimburses the employees for the below 4 programs:
1) Full time – Educational Assistance
To support employees enrolling for higher education – degree or diploma programmes or from accredited universities, reimbursement for the program fees.
2) Part-time – Educational Assistance
To support employees enrolling for higher education – degree or diploma programmes or from accredited universities.
3) Certification Assistance
Option to select either online or offline certification courses. Employees can sign up and complete any number of courses (subject to available learning wallet).
4) Personal Development Assistance
To support Meeshoites in their personal growth and development; they can sign up and complete any number of courses including categories for personal development like hobbies, sports, language skills, etc. (subject to available learning wallet).
Compensation & Benefits
Few programs that we launched:
1) MeeSOP – ESOPs for all
Meesho has now introduced an annual MeeSOP programme to take this commitment forward and facilitate greater ownership for all its employees. Under the programme, every full-time employee, irrespective of their tenure in the company or their seniority will be able to convert a maximum of 25 percent of their annual CTC into ESOPs, subject to a minimum of Rs 50,000. ESOPs thus granted, would be greater than 100 percent of the CTC relinquished.
2) Frequent Buybacks
Very recently Meesho had announced an employee stock ownership liquidity program (Buyback) for all eligible current and former employees with vested stocks, making this the startup’s second liquidity program since 2021. Repeated and periodic buybacks ensure our employees continue to grow with us. Meesho has conducted a buyback event once every year in the past.
3) Reset & Recharge policy
Meesho had rolled out a wellness-oriented move to let employees unplug themselves through the ‘Reset and Recharge’ policy. We had announced a company-wide 10-days break for employees to unplug themselves from work from November 4 to November 14 (in 2021).
Diversity and Inclusion
- Gender Confirmation Leave
The new policy is an initiative towards driving better inclusivity within the organisation. Employees who are looking to transition their gender can get up to one month of paid leave for gender reassignment surgery and other medical procedures.
“The new policy is an initiative towards driving better inclusivity within the organisation. Employees who are looking to transition their gender can get up to one month of paid leave for gender reassignment surgery and other medical procedures.”
- Gender-Neutral Parental Leave Policy
Meesho has already announced a 30-week gender-neutral parental leave policy last year. Being cognizant of the efforts in caregiving and growing a family, the industry-leading policy has been designed with an outlook to provide fulfilling employee experiences. As an industry-first, the policy entirely focuses on the primary caregiver, irrespective of gender. With a fresh, gender agnostic perspective, any employee who is a primary caregiver is entitled to all the benefits and offerings that the new parental leave policy entails. The company rolled out equal benefits for men, women, LGBTQA+, and live-in partners while ensuring the policy covers childbirth, adoption, and surrogacy.
Highlights of the Parental Leave Policy:
- Ensures non-discrimination irrespective of gender, sexual identity, marital status, or the circumstance of parenthood (natural birth, surrogacy, or adoption).
- The parental policy also covers live-in partners.
- If the employee is a primary caregiver, they are eligible for leaves up to 1 year (30 weeks fully paid leave + 25 percent pay for the next 3 months).
- If the employee is a secondary caregiver, they can avail up to 30 days of leave (applicable up to 1 year from adoption or childbirth).
Market presence: Pan India
Employee Growth: About 200 percent each year
Employee Count: 1700
Workforce Pie: Tech+Product – 60 percent, Rest 40 percent
Business Operation: The fastest growing e-commerce company globally