Making a difference: Raj Balaji

Making a difference: Raj Balaji

Grabbing an Opportunity

Our Co-founder, Vasudevan, was my college senior. I have seen the idea of Ninjacart take shape right before me. So, when I got an opportunity to work at Ninjacart in 2018, I was the happiest and accepted it without second thoughts.

The first order of business was to relaunch the operations in Chennai. When we first started in Chennai, our procurement was only 26 tons. When I joined as City Sourcing Head, my work mostly involved sourcing produce and establishing a network of farmers and vendors for growing the business. Soon enough, we achieved the milestone of 300 tons!

Making a difference

After Chennai, we launched operations in Hyderabad. The company gave me the opportunity to work there as well. Within a few weeks, we were able to increase our tonnage multiple times. Within 8 months of joining, I was leading the supply side of the business for the entire South India.

One of the major perks of working at Ninjacart is that it offers a fast growth to your career. I also got to learn and understand a core value essential in our business that is ‘taking ownership’. Farmers have faced the problem of being cheated by middlemen for decades now. But at Ninjacart, we adopt fair practices and ensure to provide the true value of the produce to the farmer. I feel a sense of achievement, knowing that I’m making a difference in farmers’ lives.

“I used to work in sales; selling TV and washing machines, and later, edtech products. I would get bored, doing the same thing again and again. 

But in Ninjacart, you don’t get to feel weary because you’re not doing the same thing repeatedly. You get to experiment with multiple things at a time, you get a lot of ownership for whatever you’re doing. So I feel proud about being associated with a company like this, and by doing so, you get to make a difference in the world.”

A Nursery of Ideas

The company quickly identifies good people, gives them more responsibilities, ownership, and a free hand to execute the duties. 

I think I am one of the first few employees who were able to achieve 1000 tons in a day. Ninjacart identified my eagerness to learn and saw the hunger to grow and gave me more responsibilities. Of course, giving promotions and additional remuneration is fine, but when you get to manage a large team, you feel a sense of leadership and ownership, and you feel fulfilled because you’re doing something on your own. You know your efforts are making a difference.

“At Ninjacart, if you have a new idea, you get to put it forward in an open forum, which does not comprise only just your team, but all relevant people. You can obviously reach out to the founders. The founders are very approachable and will listen to you. Even if it is absurd, people will not mock or disregard you. They encourage you to experiment. So, that is how I think success is defined in Ninjacart.”

Identifying and Nurturing Talent

I’ve seen a lot of people grow with me at Ninjacart. Let me tell you the story of Dhamodaram,  a subordinate of mine. I happened to meet him in Kumnunoto CC which is in Punganur. Dhamodaram was a farmer and I really admired his zeal to learn and wanting to work in a big company.  I hired him as one of our sourcing executives. Since then, he has scaled his career from being an executive to a CC Lead, and from CC Lead to Senior CC Lead. Later, he became a Territory Manager. Currently, he is managing a team of 10-15 people and leading a cluster of CCs and managing up to 60 tons of procurement a day. 

Now, Dhamodaram would not be considered qualified enough as an employee because, at that time, the norm was to hire only undergraduates with work experience. I feel very happy thinking about the people whose lives we have touched in these years. Some of them have grown to be managers, and are leading great teams at Ninjacart.

Staying Committed to the Core Values

The leaders in the organization are committed to Ninjacart’s core values, and they display it through their actions. Respect is one of our core values. When you are setting up a new team, you have people from the executive level to the leadership level. 

To ensure a frictionless execution, you must respect each other and seek their opinions when making crucial decisions. We respect each other not only through words but through our actions as well. We make sure that every stakeholder feels respected when we are interacting with them.

“I always encourage and educate my team, even if they make a mistake. I think that by creating an open environment, you do away with fear in workers’ minds. If you create a culture based on honesty, empathy and respect, they won’t feel afraid to report their mistakes to you. This will help you prevent crises.”

 A Culture of Support and Understanding

The people in Ninjacart are very supportive and understanding. Your colleagues always back you up if any adverse situation arises. I’d like to mention my colleague and friend Giri. Sometimes there are issues with procurement, fulfilment, or margin pressure. But, Giri always finds people to work with me to solve the problem. Kudos to him!

When I lost a dear one recently, I took personal leave and was away from work for quite some time. I informed the team that I’ll not be available, and they understood my situation. They knew that I needed my personal space. People sympathize with your personal problems, and they try to help in any way possible.

Learning never stops for a leader

I have made it a point to read at least 5-10 pages every day, no matter how busy the day is. If you want to get something done, you will make time for it; it’s all about the mindset. Whether it is related to the work or not, you should try to get some reading done. It can also qualify as learning. 

It has been my experience that all the people whom I regard as a leader were voracious readers. It may not necessarily transform you as a leader, but it will make you a better human being. 

If you pick up the right genre and try to implement the learnings of that book, it will have a positive impact. From how to think, how to have a positive mindset and how to take the people along with you, you will find everything in books. I think I’m getting to learn a lot. I try to experiment or implement whatever I read or learn from those books.

“There is one piece of advice I give to every employee who is promoted to leadership level, ‘Always be humble.’ If you don’t get along with people working for you, you will struggle. So, you should always show humility when dealing with your team.”

Raj Balaji
Regional Trade Head


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