Harshil Mathur is the chief executive officer of payment gateway startup Razorpay.
The 21-day lockdown triggered by the spread of the coronavirus has entered into the last 10 days and entrepreneurs, the original hustlers, have had to make a plenty of changes to their daily routine to adapt to working from home (WFH). Their daily schedules have been disrupted and their long drawn out usual meetings have been replaced by video calls. Not to mention the stress of a looming economic slowdown and pressure from investors.
Moneycontrol looks at how a scrum of business leaders is dealing with these fast changing times. In today’s edition of Virtual Leaders Pratik Bhakta spoke to interviews Harshil Mathur, the chief executive officer of payment gateway startup Razorpay.
You can read other editions of Virtual Leaders here.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: What does your average day look like now given your normal routine must have been disrupted by the 21days lockdown?
A: One of the core benefits of working from home is saving commute time and not being stuck in traffic for long hours - you’ll agree with me if you stay in Bangalore. While this freed-up time allows me to start my work a little later than usual, it unintentionally runs much longer than the regular working hours. Mostly work-life boundaries between weekdays and weekends are blurred due to self-isolation and knowing that there’s no rush or urgency to finish work in order to get home in time.
Q: How do you manage your office teams now? How are you keeping your staff motivated? Could you share some unique experiences that you have had during these 10 days of the lockdown while dealing with your teams/colleagues or investors.
A: Managing work and teams has not been a challenge for us yet, being a new age company, it's easier for us to work from home and ensure business continuity as well. Most of our interactions are virtually conducted via Zoom, Google Hangouts, phone calls and emails.
I think the only motivation that can help employees in this current scenario (beyond the usual engagement activities that everyone does) is to connect with employees and communicate openly. Everyone is gripped by the truth that we’re all going through a global pandemic. Everyone knows that a slowdown in parts of the global economy and increased uncertainty can also impact our company and their jobs as well.
We assured our employees even though there’s a possible economic crisis that can hit India, we are well capitalised and don’t foresee ourselves lacking funds to operate at scale in the next 12-14 months.
During an economic crisis, the path to layoff seems like the most effective and shorter one. With many leading Indian startups announcing layoffs, we wanted to assure our employees that there won’t be any job cuts or layoffs but hiring will instead continue as planned and so will appraisals. This announcement was made at our first virtual All Hands and I was overwhelmed to see the kind of response, even direct texts and emails we received from employees knowing that their jobs and families were secure in times like these.
And just to show our support to our colleagues to help them work better from their remote locations, we extended a small remote working allowance towards their salaries every month. This allowance can be used for needs which can make working from home easier and comfortable.
Q: Have you found some means to e-socialise with your teams outside work, given all of your colleagues might be remote?
A: Yeah, among other activities we have launched some effective ideas with Curefit to help employees stay active, regulate motions and manage stress in these difficult times. This has worked well, we connect virtually post office hours everyday, de-stress ourselves and stay motivated together. In addition to this the team has been doing poker nights, slack quizzes, game nights along with netflix parties to ensure that none of us feel lonely.
Q: Now that you are working from home, how much time are you spending with family/kids? Any specific activity that you undertake regularly with your family members, which you thoroughly enjoy?
A: My parents are based out of Jaipur and the lockdown has indeed helped me to spend time with them more often nowadays.
Q: Have you always had a separate workstation at home or did you set that up because of the lockdown? Can you share with us how have you set it up?
A: Actually Razorpay’s first office was the penthouse where I live now and this lockdown takes me back to old days where it all began. Most of the founding team members used to work at the penthouse till we set up our new office in Koramangala.
While I had my own work space, the lockdown has got me to set up a home workstation which helps me avoid muscle strain, headaches and sore eyes. My workstation faces the window for better ventilation, with an ergonomic chair which helps me maintain a proper posture during long meetings. While I spend most of my day at my desk, I keep an essential oil diffuser to create a happy and vibrant atmosphere while working.
Q: Was there a hobby that you had given up because of work pressure but you have been able to resume now over the last two weeks?
A: I’ve always wanted to try my hands on cooking but never found enough time. The lockdown has been an opportunity for me to try out new recipes that I wouldn't have normally cooked. It has also helped relieve stress and stay active.
Q: Did you manage to catch up with any old friend or a relative in this time period, someone who has not been in touch with you for a long time?
A: While I didn't have enough time to visit my childhood friends earlier, I’ve been using this time catching up with school, college friends and relatives a lot more through zoom. Sometimes in these times of anxiousness connecting with my younger self has helped me reframe these difficult times and spread positivity.
This lockdown might actually lead to the start of a massive cultural change towards how we connect with our near and loved ones.
Q: What is that one major piece of management learning that you have gained during this forced lockdown and planning to carry on even after we all come back to normalcy?
A: It might not be the ideal management lesson but something that I truly live by - always and always focus on the most important asset you have – employees, their safety first and then worry about business profit and loss.