Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi from Variance.AI on “Brand Building and Talent Acquisition” by Srikanth Tirumala and Subbaraju Pericherla on 21st May 2020 at TiE Women

Srikanth Tirumala

Good versus great! We want to build not just good, but a great company. We want to buy great products. As customers, we want to be happy, not just satisfied with a product we purchase. Happiness is an emotion. The core of a brand shall establish a sense of emotion.

What are the qualities that truly represent a good brand?

Dependability? Consistency? Authentic? Brand is established on trust, the quintessential element of your business. How do we bring the element of trust into branding? Trust comes ahead of branding. Trust is the first quality.

Noone wants to work with mediocre products. Give your product the highest of the quality. Quality is the second.

Reliability is the third quality. Imagine the reliability we get from Netflix or Airtel. Data plans are so reliable that we don’t think about it while watching a Netflix movie. Reliability is the third.

Humans are associated with values such as integrity, fairness and more. Every time I start a new company, I write values on a white paper. We don’t know the true definition of what a particular value means to us emotionally. We need to have that clarity. Values is the fourth quality.

In my last product, we had de-register button in our product. We make it big and visible enough so customers can de-register. We trust in the quality of our product so well that we offer this to our customers.

If you give 1% of your profits to the society, such things are emotionally connected with your customers or partners. Social responsibility is the fifth one.

Emotion is a very interesting aspect that we frequently forget. We want to make people feel great. Feeling is not measurable. This element of feeling is something you must bring into your brand establishment. Making customers feel proud is another requirement. Customer of the product must have that sense of belonging about your product. Greatness, feeling and happiness are three key emotional ingredients that make your brand what it is.

Great companies are built by making your customers feel great about your product, making your customers feel for it and making your customers happy.

What makes your brand sustain?

For me, me and my company are one and the same. Sometimes we forget and disassociate ourselves from our own company. This completely ruins the brand you established till now. My values and my company’s values have to be fully aligned. If your business is just economic or math entity, I don’t want to call your company successful. Not distinguishing ourselves from our company is what made us our success. We might have got small or large success, later than sooner, but that alignment is what made that success happen. My brand becomes our brand. My team calls it as not my brand but our brand.

My key team members took 40% pay cut voluntarily because of the brand we are.

Logos may not be always the best but the brand or company might be great. Nike says “Just do it”, Apple says “Think different”. These branding messages are so powerful. You fall in love with this philosophy conveyed by these powerful lines and then you fall in love with these companies. Google says “Information First” and Facebook says “Conversations First”. Indian brands like Tata, IndiGo and Swiggy are good at branding.

Brand is an articulation of what you are thinking about your company and your product. Mission is a personal thing. It is emotional for me. I bridge the gap between haves and have nots. We used our platform during COVID to bridge the gap between haves and have nots.

Branding is nothing but letting the world know about your product. Share your mission and vision with the people. Lot of use sell. Don’t do. Share your vision and mission. When these are part of your brand selling, financial discussions about the product pricing are never part of discussions. Apple never had loyalty points. Vision and mission are not preachy.

Let the world know about your product. Make a beautiful story. Empower and educate your prospects. Web page, social media message, blog, media article and every piece of information out there must be in alignment with your brand messaging.

Subbaraju Pericherla

Now a days, job market is driven by the candidates. We are not recruiting the candidate. The candidate is recruiting us. 86% of the employers say they hired a wrong person. Collaborative hiring and talent sourcing are the key to hiring a right candidate. Don’t compromise just because you only have got few candidates or the candidate pool is very bad. Spread the word. Increase your talent sourcing.

Social recruiting is the new trend. Millennials usually find their jobs using social media. Reputation and branding of the company are key influencers of candidate’s decision making.

Whether you hire the candidate or not, we shall provide positive experience ot the candidate. Word of mouth has lots of influence, esp. in the startup world. Are we ready to leverage the technology for hiring the candidates? Hiring managers who adopt technology have an edge. Speed at which we hire the right candidate is the key. RIght team at the right place is important else your own business dynamics are keep changing.

Hiring managers want more for less. This is not reality but the expectations are growing. As long as quality is not compromised, we must automate some of the hiring processes. Screening is a bigger challenge when the need is urgent. As founders, we must be on top of the hiring trends and address the challenges so we minimize the cost of hiring the wrong candidates.

Companies continue to have the same old challenges. hiring the right talent has always been a challenge. Referrals are the best way to hire the right candidate at any level of the company. Early stage startups depend on strong referrals, rightfully so. Don’t get bound by the salary limit. Evaluate the candidate based on his attitude, experience and keenness to join a startup.

Talent Acquisition decides the success of your teams. Research shows that the growth of your company is determined 20% by the skill and 80% by the attitude. Job switching premium in India is 24%. Companies are hungry to fill many positions but they are not able to find the right candidates. There is a huge gap in talent needed versus talent available. We might need to spend a lot of time to ensure what it means for us to hire a specific candidate. Attitude followed by the skill must be the selection criteria.

Some of my own experiences

Mass survey of indian villagers

I have co-founded a company called RealShoppe, a telemarketing company. We wanted to do on-the-ground survey with the villagers. We publicised and called for right interns who can execute this ask. We couldn’t get the right candidate. We flipped the model. Typically, candidate walks in with an expectation and if I didn’t meet the expectation, it would be a wrong hire. We went to a business school and addressed around 120 candidates. 22 out of 120 walked forward. We released them the offers and sent them to 500+ villages. They travelled across and we created an ecosystem. We worked with the police stations through the tele-calling people to protect our teams of interns. They spent time for 70 days in villages. Every one of these interns extended their time for the assignment in the village and got the job done. Had we not approached the MBA students and openly addressed our motivation, we would never have achieved the survey of this scale.

Self-help groups to postal employees

We did nother exercise to hire 100 self-help groups out of 1000 we reached out. It didn’t work. We tapped into the postal employees. We took the government on our side. We got the confidence of the postal authorities. We had kept the trust creation and trust maintenance with the government authorities. We have provided livelihood to thousands at the last mile of India. We had 3,500 postal employees worked for us at the peak.

Social enterprise businesses, indeed all the businesses, first need to identify the pool of aspirants who are aligned with the bigger objective. That is what we did at RealShoppe. Alignment of candidates with our bigger objective is the key.

Perceptions are the key. Perceptions can be deceptive. Candidate might perceive you differently and you may percieve her differently.

When the vision is one year, cultivate flowers. When the vision is 10 years, cultivate trees. When the vision is eternal, cultivate people. All the best.

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