Six years ago, a band of brothers began a journey that none of us knew would teach us some of life’s greatest lessons. My co-founders and I had a simple mission in mind — to solve some of the hardest supply chain problems and bring safe food to a billion people. When we took on this feat, the responsibility that we bore on our shoulders was tremendous. We felt the need to fulfill our duty towards our countrymen in fixing the broken fresh produce supply chain. Nevertheless, we always loved a good challenge. So, we built Ninjacart to make a difference and add value to the lives of our retailers, farmers, and not to forget, our Ninjas who make it all happen.
Failure is a part of our success
Since then, we have grown exponentially. It’s safe to say that we’ve had more failures than wins, but that’s okay. That’s what makes us resilient and practically unstoppable. Accepting our failures and owning up to our mistakes is now an important part of our core values.
In the beginning, we believed in doing whatever it took to get things done. We worked 24/7, quite literally, without paying heed to the negative impacts of our “clan culture”. We were aggressive — with our style of work and our words. We worked relentlessly because we felt we were constantly in survival mode; such is the kind of business we built, and this was the only way we could see it work. We never slept on opportunities and we expected our Ninjas to embrace the same lifestyle.
But, we soon realized that we had failed to look at the bigger picture — to make it in the long run, we want our people to stand by us, with us. And for that, we needed to build a better culture for them.
Righting our wrongs
Now, we are on the road to making amends for years of letting the wrong culture seep down to the lowest rung of our hierarchy. The first step is to acknowledge that without our Ninjas, we would be nothing. We want to be the kind of company where people come to learn, grow, thrive, and stay for a long time. So, we put our heads together to bring about changes in the way Ninjacart operates. Today, I spend 70% of my time hiring and fixing our culture.
Our initiatives towards the cultural transformation of Ninjacart:
- Hiring effective leaders
96% of our workforce was on the ground, whose roles were skewed towards daily execution. The few managers we were hiring focused on meeting targets rather than nurturing strong teams. In the past few months alone, we have hired the best leaders in the industry to bring a fresh perspective to the way we should be operating and also guide our employees to become better professionals.
- Quality work-life balance
August onwards, we moved to a 5-day workweek. We also ensured no meetings are scheduled late at night. We are also building a Work hours Barometer to measure the average time an employee spends at work and to reinforce working only for a reasonable number of hours.
- Performance management
We implemented an OKR and KPI-based system in the last 4 months to protect the interests of employees. Today, more than 90% of the teams at Ninjacart are aligned towards their objectives, how their performance will be measured, and how an employee will succeed at the end of the quarter. Every employee is given feedback at the end of each performance cycle. We kickstarted this system recently and we expect it to become more robust in the coming months.
- Respect is non-negotiable
We wanted to rid ourselves of the aggressive culture and learn to be more empathetic to each other. We practiced what we preached; to advocate the importance of respect in our organization, we co-founders and leaders made conscious efforts to improve the way we communicate. We set an example and enforced the value of Respect loud and clear and propagated change across the company. Every employee at Ninjacart — be it a manager or an executive — now understands that we have zero tolerance towards abuse, threat, and fear.
Becoming a great place to work
It might be naive to say that this could be our sign from the universe, but it sure feels like it. After our genuine efforts in making cultural shifts at Ninjacart, we have made it to the LinkedIn Top Startups list of 2021. We have also been awarded the ‘Startup of the Year- 2021’ by Agriculture Today magazine, wherein we received the award from the Honourable Agriculture Minister, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar.
This is certainly our cue to keep moving in the right direction and add value to the startup ecosystem. Despite all of our ups and downs through the years, we have managed to create an impact.
Our employees are why we live and breathe. I have so much respect and admiration for every Ninja who has been a part of our crazy journey. I will continue to build a durable institution based on trust, empathy, passion, and innovation — a space where every Ninja will thrive and live up to its full potential.
The winds of change have arrived at Ninjacart and we are fully committed to transforming our future. We are more excited about the next 6 years than we were about the first 6 because now, we have a clear vision of who we want to be. Change begins at home, and we’re all set to make ours a warm and welcoming one for all.