AMA Career Advice

[AMA with Hush] “The vision of the team and disruptive approaches can be a thing that attracts the best people,” says Shamik Sharma, GM Cult.Gear

Shamik Sharma, GM at Cult.Gear, talks about tech, products, start-ups and more at the AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on the Hush platform.

Shamik Sharma

[AMA with Hush] “The vision of the team and disruptive approaches can be a thing that attracts the best people,” says Shamik Sharma, GM Cult.Gear

There is no secret when it comes to empowering a workforce in India, primarily interested in core topics such as product, leadership, marketing, growth, technology, business development and relevant skills, and start-ups.

India’s economy is the world’s third fastest growing economy in 2018 and will have the world’s youngest population by 2022. Moreover, today, over 65% of India’s population is of working age. This not only means a resource of great potential but can invariably turn the nation into a behemoth for ideas and business development. It becomes clear with such a massive growth in workplace atmospheres, interests rise in areas such as business, technology, startups and more. India is currently the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, and by 2020 will be home to more than 11500 startup companies.

Hush—Make Work Awesome is a platform for employees to get answers to their career and work-related questions. It is a place where they can express their real opinions without any fear of retribution. Hush attempts to ensure that employee voices are heard at the workplace and also help make work better. It uses anonymity as a tool to facilitate candid workplace discussions. Hush also has a restricted community for each company and only verified employees can get full access to their company community.

On the Hush platform, an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session was conducted on the 19th of March, 2018. Shamik Sharma, GM of Cult.Gear, a franchise of Cure.Fit, Ex-CPO/CTO of Myntra, Angel Investor and Start-up Advisor, was invited as the guest. In this session, users could get answers to any questions that circled around tech, product, validating start-up ideas, scaling and more. Here, key questions were addressed and Mr. Sharma answered each question individually.

Cure.Fit is a two-year venture by Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori, wherein technology is used in battling health and wellness related issues. The platform includes physical fitness through Cult.fit, mental well-being through Mind.fit, and healthy eating through Eat.fit, and Care.fit, which provides personalised healthcare solutions.

What did the AMA focus on?

The AMA session was launched as an approach towards addressing some of the key interests in the growing workplace population in India, where users who are part of the workplace, could get some of their own questions answered regarding things that they otherwise would keep to themselves. Hush, has made commendable efforts in growing its community and has proven to create a base for discussion revolving around workplace issues and daily lives of employees, irrespective of any bias. With this in mind, the AMA session proved to highlight some of the main interests that these employees have had, and has successfully managed to bring out a healthy discussion birthed out of curiosity and interest.

Some questions focused on how the culture at Cure.Fit was for employees, and how it functioned as a workplace. Cure.Fit started in 2015, as a single center in Sarjapur, and has now more than 12 chains. As a company, it aims to expand its offline footprint to over 1000 centers from a number of just 80. All of this is planned over a period of three years. By 2022, Cult, the non-equipment fitness chain will probably have over 500 centers in total. Cure.Fit plans to launch its own fitness fashion wearables, and expand its bases to Southeast Asian countries as well. Mr. Sharma replied, “It’s a unique culture that promotes ownership and self-drive. Focus on small teams, taking on big charters.” Going into the details of their economics of Cure.Fit, Mr. Sharma added, “Cult.Fit is doing great. Not only in business metrics but even more importantly in customer metrics, NPS Scores, retention, and word-of-mouth.”

There is now more growth in wanting to do something different with respect to work and career. With steady growth, product companies seem to be making their own name in the industry and have now taken over with a massive number. Indian workforce now offers a conducive environment for product growth, and in place is a sophisticated customer population and a growing support system. However, when asked why there are not many global consumer products coming out of India as compared to the Bay area, Mr. Sharma urges that it is bound to happen soon.

We are still very early in the evolution cycle – the bay area has been at it for several decades. Also, The next wave of consumer products will likely be more “full-stack” than previous generations of products – so it is harder to become “global” – even for bay-area companies.”

With this in mind, when asked, “I am a start-up founder. How can a bootstrapped or angel-funded startup compete with well-funded start-ups to hire and retain talent?” Mr. Sharma replied,

Money is not the only important thing. Roles and responsibility offered by smaller startups can be wider and attract/keep talented people. Also, the vision of the team and disruptive approaches can be a thing that attracts the best people.”

There were more questions in line with the idea base of product and start-up. This only goes on to prove that a wide number of the Indian workforce firmly believe and are interested in the change in a linear and mundane workplace to a more dynamic setting. Mr. Sharma’s responses to whether it is the team or the product that’s important in a startup were what would mark an experienced and thorough understanding that an individual has over the subject matter.

“Well, it’s usually a cycle — the first thing you need to build is the founding team, then an initial prototype, then fill out the team, then build out the full product, etc.”

“What are the key things you keep in mind while you building a product and improving the product?” Was one of the questions that was raised in the AMA. Mr. Sharma chose to answer this with detail, going into specifics, “1. What key feature (not collectively, but one key thing) will provide a unique and significant value to the customer? 2. How are we going to get customers to know about the product and try it out (this is usually the hardest part)? If we can figure out 1 and 2, then usually scaling and improving the product is easier—the customers usually provide feedback on what to do next.”

Products seem to have it!

Building and improving a good product is a difficult skill. Just because people use and consumer products, it doesn’t necessarily mean building them is easy. Hence, to find a good product person takes time. To become one, effort. Some of the best people in the product industry have come to the top through trial and error, experience and their passion for the product itself. They keep themselves updated with the latest technologies, read up on products and what they can do to learn more and effectively better their best.

To see a surge in the interest for product related topics in the current Indian workforce is a sign that there are more and more number of people who are starting to want to create rather than adapt and settle. Hence more questions pop up, such as, “I have recently moved into product management from operations. What are a few books or resources would you recommend for a beginner like me?”

Mr. Sharma replies keenly,

I would follow some of the best product people on Twitter and then read up on their writings – Andrew Chen, Balfour, Ben Thompson, Benedict Evans, Naval, etc. There is Institute of Product Leadership by Pinkesh Shah (disclosure – a friend) where you can even take offline classes.”

What about the employee?

Mr. Sharma’s replies encouraged more participants to come forth with their queries. More questions related to product emerged one by one, closely followed by start-up ideas and marketing oriented queries. However, another aspect that needs to be focused on is the question of employee mental health at the workplace. One of the participants asked, “I hope you have enough information to shed some insights into mental health and fitness of people in Bangalore ..what are some of the serious issues which have you concerned?”

“India (and actually the world) is facing a big mental health crisis. Technology is making us less social people – and this loneliness (while being in a crowd) is causing an explosion of mental wellness issues. We think of mental health as just depression, but it’s a lot of other issues— inability to sleep, stress-related health issues, high blood pressure, etc. I have also learnt that India is facing a dire shortage of professionals who can help with these issues.”

And much of this is true since it has been revealed recently that over 89% of the population in our country admit being suffering from some mental health issue, as compared to a global average of over 86%. Moreover, everyone person in eight seems to have a chronic battle against stress or a related mental health issue, with the count increasing in the millennial population. This study has also gone to show that there was a significant population that insisted that workplace wellness is important. As a matter of fact, a mental health survey by NIMHANS reported that everyone one person in twenty suffers from depression, or a related mental health issue, thus making the issue of stress at the workplace all the more serious in turbulent times such as these.

Keeping this in mind, the application, Hush — Make Work Awesome, intends to cater to mental health issues of employees by giving them a platform where they can engage anonymously. It has been seen that such conditions increase the potential for employees to address concerns that they otherwise would have hesitated to do or would not have done so. This pools in a feeling of a community of sorts within a space where most often work is assumed to be exactly what it should—growing, nurturing and an area of learning.

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