“As middle management, we know for a fact that there's really nothing much in our control.” - Ishaan*, former manager at a prominent e-learning startup.
In the 4th episode of Cost to Company, we’ll speak to four middle managers who’ll tell us, no holds barred, about what it feels like to be stretched from both ends in an organisation, during an unforgiving year that has inflicted mass layoffs due to the slowdown.
They’ll talk to us about their struggles, their strife, their confusion. And hopefully, some solutions too.
How did we get here? Why is the role of a middle manager particularly difficult during a downturn? Do we even need them in the first place?
Listen to the episode as we try to navigate these difficult questions with interesting answers.
*Name changed on request to protect identity
If you like our podcast, or have thoughts, feelings or story ideas, write to us at email@example.com. Or share, retweet, and follow @thekenweb
Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
Earlier this month, Cost to Company received a striking message from a Ken subscriber called Uzma Rushdi. She wrote, “Mumbai is suffering from a lack of new talent inflow. Unless there are dramatic changes it will be Calcutta in 20 years :(” Around the same time another thing happened. A group of 35 startups in Mumbai created something called TEAM (Technology Entrepreneurs Association of Mumbai), with the the pointed goal to reinvigorate Brand Mumbai. But what happened to Brand Mumbai that it needs reinvigorating? This then became our hypothesis for this episode of Cost to Company. Is Mumbai dying? Is it going to become Calcutta in the next twenty years? Is it going to be a city that the most talented professionals leave for better opportunities? And is the TEAM one effort to stop that from happening? I’m Sneha, your host, and this week we are going to interview four, true lovers of Bombay, founders, CEOs, one product manager, and Uzma, and ask them where is their city of dreams, where is their maximum city, headed now?
6 February 2023 • 29m and 37s
In 2023, amidst the thick of the layoff season, you'd think that 'employee ghosting' (a phenomenon where prospective employees don't end up joining an organisation without any providing any communication) is a thing of the past. But that's quite not true. Although in a reduced state as compared to 2021, ghosting still exists. Companies and their HR professionals are coming up with some ingenious way to jump the 'invisible gap' that exists between offer acceptance and joining date, where most of this ghosting occurs. In this episode of Cost to Company, I speak to Mohammed Sufiyan Sait (Director - People Success, Toplyne; Co-founder, The Talent Deck), Sanam Rawal (Founding Partner, MetaMorph), and Sairam Krishnan (Founding Team, Atomicwork; Ex-Accel, Ex-Freshworks) to find out how. Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
30 January 2023 • 30m and 46s
A good executive coach with many years of experience, working in an Indian metro city, typically costs between 20 thousand rupees to a lakh a session. There are multiple reasons for this. First, training to be a certified coach is expensive. Second, executive coaches work with such a niche, small, group of clients, so they get to and need to charge to the world. But this, the steep price tag, informs so much about executive coaching. The price tag shapes who gets to go to an executive coach. It informs the kinds of problems executive coaching tends to solve. That price tag is also why we understand so little about executive coaching. If you’d like to participate in Cost to Company, please fill in the typeform here.
23 January 2023 • 30m and 38s
The winds of appraisal season seem all too familiar. HRs deciding the budget for the cycle. Employees frantically trying to put their best tasks forward on a scrappy Google document at the last minute. Managers bracing themselves to negotiate pay hikes with their reportees. And HR. But this year, things are looking slightly different. With the current economic situation, some companies have ‘indefinitely postponed’ appraisals. Some aren’t increasing base pay and thinking of unique ways to reward and retain their best talent, while some are using appraisals as a precursor to future layoffs. But, as you’ll find out through the course of this episode, it’s not all dark and gloomy. In this episode I speak to Vibin Baburajan (Ex-Freshworks), Bhavya Arora (Talent and Culture Partner @ Outplay) and Kanika Singal (Ex-McKinsey; Ex-Levi Strauss & Co.) to understand how appraisals this year might be different than usual. And what the appraisal season is trying to tell you. Tap here if you want to become a part of the show. Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
16 January 2023 • 24m and 15s
This episode is about a group of Indians, who worked in food delivery and ecommerce startups in India. Now they work in food delivery and ecommerce businesses around the world. Starting with Jakarta and Singapore, but now also Seoul, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Buenos Aires, and Riyadh. We’re going to interview three such people, and ask them how and why they moved. What they found there. And what is that aspirational thing they’ve been chasing. And spoiler alert: it's not for the money. And to be clear, we are talking about this because it is happening, not randomly, or sporadically, but systematically. And it is going to happen a whole lot more, in other industries and in other forms, that we haven’t yet seen. To participate in the Cost to Company podcast, fill the form here.
9 January 2023 • 28m and 1s
For the past 19 episodes, we at CTC have spoken about hiring in many shapes and forms. But what do the numbers tell us? And more importantly, what do the numbers hide? To kick things off this year, we spoke to Ruchee Anand, Senior Director of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn, who shared some data-driven insights around hiring in 2023. Why are some women leaders going the self-hiring way? What is 'The Great Mismatch'? Talent pools are getting bigger, but is that really a good thing? Listen in to find out. Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
2 January 2023 • 26m and 39s
Tasked with keeping us together and happy, the advocates for employees in most organizations are usually in the HR department. The people we complain to when management systems break, when there's a sexual harassment complaint, when we aren't receiving the recognition and reward we deserve, they're usually in HR. But the universe of HR is experiencing a moment of transition. Inventive SAAS products are being built to solve HR functions. HR tech is reducing human intervention, or removing it altogether. This is changing the nature of HR itself. Which, in turn, has the additional consequence of changing how we work. If you have episode ideas or interesting new changes in the workplace, or hacks people are using to navigate it, fill in the typeform here, and feature in an episode with us!
19 December 2022 • 28m and 43s
Unlike its dubious cousin 'the layoffs', there's not much brouhaha around the hiring freeze. And with good reason. Most hiring freezes are unofficial. They're never really revealed to the world. But that's not to say that the freeze hasn't gripped Indian companies. What if the hiring freeze is an opportunity for the employees? Is it a faster way to grow within the ranks since the jobs outside have dried up? Or is it just a race to the bottom? Are employers taking notice too? Read Vanita's story by tapping here: https://the-ken.com/the-employee-employer-paradox-layoffs-everywhere-but-hiring-still-a-problem/ Fill in the Typeform to become a part of the show: https://theken.typeform.com/costtocompany Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
12 December 2022 • 25m and 4s
A group of men set out to build a Brave New World. A world with new ideals. A world where the old structures of power are destroyed, and newer ones, more fair, more transparent, rise from the ashes. A brighter world, a better world. They dream of community and belonging. Eventually they live long enough to watch the new world become so much like the old. They watch their heroes fall from grace. They see the weaknesses in the system, they see their brothers exploit them. They watch innocent people suffer. They watch the powerful cause that suffering. That world is crypto, and this is an episode where we talk to three believers who have left the industry. And we ask them, what do they still believe in? If you have episode ideas, a trend in businesses that nobody else has heard of, or something new and inventive happening in your workplace, write to us on this form here. If you have any other thoughts and feelings, write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 December 2022 • 26m and 31s
Breaks always seem tempting. But in a job market that is as brittle as it is in late 2022, does a career break even make sense? Even if the times were better, what happens after you take a career break? Does your career ‘rise from the ashes’ once you’re back? Or does the pause affect your growth in the long run? In this episode, I speak to Vatsal Sanghvi (Consultant, Omidyar Network India*; former Category Manager, Flipkart) and Issac John (former Head of Marketing, Discovery India; former Marketing Head, Puma India) on how they bounced back from their sabbaticals. Two people with starkly different experiences, but oddly similar outlooks. *Omidyar Network India is an investor in The Ken. Tell us what you'd like to hear in the next episode of CTC? Please fill this form, it won't take more than a minute. If we like your idea, you may get invited to the show! Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria.
28 November 2022 • 27m and 34s
The CEO of Better.com fired hundreds on a Zoom call. The CEO of HyperSocial posted a selfie of himself crying while he did it. Byju Raveendran wrote to his employees saying that he would be laying off 5 percent of them but that he was losing 5 percent of Byju, meaning himself. This was so poorly received that it became a moment in pop culture of its own. Unacademy laid off 125 people in April. In July they committed to no further layoffs. And then they laid off 350 more in November. And then Amazon laid off 10,000 employees last week. The communication was faceless, private, and clinical. It has been called inhumane. Which brings us to the question, is there a good way to lay off employees? Does such a thing even exist? In this episode of Cost to Company, Shreevar and Sneha interview Karthik Srinivasan, behemoth of corporate communications in India, to ask, are there best practices for communicating a layoff? And if so, what are they? Tell us what you'd like to hear in the next episode of CTC! Please fill this form, it won't take more than a minute. If we like your idea, you may get invited to the show too!
21 November 2022 • 36m and 27s
In a world where your to-do list doesn't seem to ever end, should you create task lists or block 'chunks' of time? More importantly, what does your manager at work want? We speak to Arpitha Desai (Legal & Public Policy professional, ex-Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas), Tara Khandelwal (Founder at Bound, ex-Penguin Random House) and Sachin Jaiswal (Director of Product Management at Swiggy) to find out. Tell us what you'd like to hear in the next episode of CTC! Please fill this form, it won't take more than a minute. If we like your idea, you may get invited to the show too! Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
14 November 2022 • 33m and 29s
The Metoo movement normalised calling out bad behaviour, but it concerned itself much more with naming and shaming individual harassers. Not the workplaces that emboldened them. Not the cultures that created conditions for it to happen. But sexual harassment isn’t an interpersonal issue. It’s workplace issue. It’s the organisations that must be held responsible for behaviour tolerated by its employees. 25 years after the first Vishakha Guidelines were passed, we discuss the ways in which the laws remain insufficient to create safe workplaces. We probe to uncover where the gaps remain. And then we find solutions. If you have thoughts, feelings or episode ideas, or want to participate in the podcast, please fill in this typeform.
7 November 2022 • 36m and 48s
The roots of the founder’s office may lie in bureaucracy, but the allure of it has managed to seep into the world of business. Almost suddenly, the smartest and brightest minds from some of the country’s top B-schools are embracing a whole new kind of an obscure yet attractive career track. ‘Thoroughbred Generalists’ (as one of our guests describes himself), are quickly picking up roles at the Founder’s Office. What do people at the founder’s office even do? What are the problems that they solve? What are the problems that they go through? And fundamentally, what really goes on at the founder’s office? We speak to Ramya S, former Chief of Staff at Ola and Founder’s Office at Myntra; Adwate Kumar, former Founder’s Office at CoinDCX and Klub; Jayesh Bhatia, Founder’s Office at Ditto Insurance, and Avichal Pugalia, Chief of Staff at Foxtale, to go to the depths of this little-known function of the org. As it turns out, it’s a little bit of everything. And a whole lot of nothing. Tell us what you'd like to hear in the next episode of CTC! Please fill this form, it won't take more than a couple of minutes. Hosted, Written, & Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
31 October 2022 • 34m and 28s
CEOs, executives and business leaders have discovered therapy as a weapon to build better products. There are now therapists who are specialised in working with founders and business leaders. There are now therapists stepping into roles that would have been otherwise led by HR. This is therapy not just as a health care benefit. This is therapy to build better businesses. This is therapy as a strategy tool to get more out of their employees. To hit goals faster, better, and with less collateral damage. In this episode of Cost to Company, we talk to Piyush Shah, co-founder of the InMobi Group, about how therapy helped him and other business leaders “unlock” their ambitions, and build better teams. We also talk to Veena Sethuraman, VP, Learning & Organisational Development at InMobi on how this journey transpired. And we talk to Aakriti Joanna, founder and CEO of Kaha Mind, and Esha Pahuja Verma of Trijog, about how demand for these services have skyrocketed in the last two years. If you have thoughts, opinions and episode ideas, become a part of the podcast by writing in to us in the form here. If you’d like to pass on the gift of knowledge this Diwali, check out The Ken’s diwali gifting options here.
18 October 2022 • 30m and 47s
Titles are a funny thing. In organisations, they’re supposed to denote the work that you do and your position in the hierarchy. But more realistically, they’re a currency. A currency used to trade respect. And when ‘inflation’ strikes, this ‘currency’ is bound to show some side-effects. In the Indian context, startups aren’t the only ones indulging in title inflation. It’s the larger corporations too. So if everybody’s the culprit, who’s the victim? In this episode of Cost to Company, we speak to Nikita, ex-manager at a major mobility startup, Harold D’Souza, Director at WalkWater Talent and Diksha*, an HR professional working at a Big 4 consulting firm, who tell us how ‘title inflation’ may seem trivial at first, but can have lingering effects on your career growth. *Name changed to protect identity. Tell us the things happening at your workplace: new patterns you've observed, changes that nobody's talking about, or even ideas and hacks that revolutionise how we work. The form is linked here: https://theken.typeform.com/costtocompany?typeform Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
10 October 2022 • 33m and 58s
Myntra announced unlimited wellness leave. So did Meesho. So did Gojek. Netflix brought its global unlimited leave policy to India. Makemytrip announced uncapped leaves. As did Inmobi. A number of smaller startups like Nova Benefits, Pega Systems, Zuddl, have all announced unlimited leaves. Even The Ken has an unlimited leave policy. And you would think that in the middle of the Great Resignation, startups that are giving unlimited leave would see the number of leaves taken go up. You would think that in an economy of people starved of rest, employees would take all the opportunities they’re given to take a break. But that’s not what’s happening. Anecdotally and empirically, evidence is telling us, again and again, that unlimited leaves are leading to fewer leaves taken. Which brings us to the question, why? What’s broken? This week we’re going to talk about the Prisoner’s Dilemma of Unlimited Leaves. Tell us the things happening at your workplace: new patterns you've observed, changes that no-one's talking about, ideas and hacks that revolutionise how we work. The form is linked here: https://theken.typeform.com/costtocompany
3 October 2022 • 35m and 3s
Tell us your story ideas around careers & workplaces and become a part of the show: https://theken.typeform.com/costtocompany Goodbyes are never easy. But they were never this important either. In a market where great talent is scarce, companies are paying top-dollar to ‘offboard’ their employees in the best way possible: ensuring that their exit is as smooth and uplifting as their entry. We speak to Kartik Mandaville, CEO of Springworks and the Arun Vigneswaran, Head of People Practice at xTo10x. While their methods might be starkly different, they’re essentially chasing the same goal: retaining their current employees and maintaining strong ties with the ones who’ve left the ship. In this episode, we'll find out how offboarding is much more than just writing a farewell mail and returning your MacBook Air that you had gotten all too used to. If your culture is scaled, your employee experience metrics are measurable and your offboarding process is seamless, you’ll not just have ex-employees. But brand ambassadors. Are other companies finally starting to take notice? Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
26 September 2022 • 35m and 28s
Every product manager has their own voice, their own style. In the beginning, it’s all about gut instinct, intuition and understanding why humans do the things they do. From that point on, the paths digress. Some communicate as little as they need, some bring all stakeholders on the table with fullest transparency, some bring them on the table for the What and Why but not the How. Some play good cops and bad cops, some dispense information very sparingly, some play with the information they have to dispense. Like Sardar Patel, and like Narendra Modi, every product manager has a voice, a method of rallying people, of building a narrative, and of finding what makes them tick. Just like every politician.
19 September 2022 • 39m and 29s
“It’s a chicken and egg problem, honestly.” - Abhishek, a management consultant who recently shifted to Bengaluru. As the pandemic slowly begins to recede, many offices are opening up. Employees are (voluntarily and involuntarily) shifting back to cities which house their office spaces. But they’re not coming back to work just yet...because their colleagues aren’t either. There is intent, but little incentive. When work can happen from anywhere, what does Gen Z actually want from the physical office space? Collaboration? Peace of mind? Increased productivity? Beer? The answers might surprise you. Hosted, Written, and Produced by Shreevar Chhotaria
12 September 2022 • 22m and 53s
Bruce Lee says this utterly enjoyable thing. “Showing off, is the fools idea of glory”. But there’s also the core human need to be seen, understood, recognised and thought worthy by those around us. And when it comes to work, there's material benefit, money, promotions and growth, that can be gotten with just the right amount of showing off. So what is the right amount of showing off at work? What is worthy of recognition and what isn’t? And what are some of the best ways to have our achievements, seen, understood, recognised and rewarded? This is an episode about the brag document.
5 September 2022 • 28m and 41s
Cost to Company is a brand new podcast by The Ken. We tell you how your workplace is changing before you hear it on slack. Hosted by Sneha Vakharia and Shreevar Chotaria, each week Cost to Company brings to you a fresh narrative, told from multiple perspectives, around significant but underreported aspects of our work lives. Hit the follow button to listen to it first!
26 August 2022 • 1m and 8s
Google docs has satisfied customers. Evernote has happy users. Jira has grateful managers. But Notion has Notion Nation. It has evangelists, Notion certified Ambassadors, Notion certified badges and Notion certified Champions. It has a subreddit with 220 thousand subscribers, groups in 32 different counties, on Telegram, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and Discord. The India chapter of notion has its own logo. Which is the N of Notion with the Ashoka Chakra behind it. We welcome you to the Cult of Notion. You can find Ibrahim’s Notion document about the Cult of Notion here. You can check out Notion India’s Telegram page here. You can see minutes of India’s first Notion meetup in Hyderabad here. You can see Neerja’s Notion page here and Shashwat’s Notion page here. If you like our podcast, or have thoughts, feelings or story ideas, write to us at email@example.com. Or share, retweet, and follow @thekenweb.
22 August 2022 • 25m and 13s
It was the day of Wasim’s engagement. He was wearing his favourite kurta for the big occasion. It was the first time, in many days, that he was genuinely happy. Just then, he gets a call from Byju’s HR team: “We regret to inform you that your employment with Byju’s has been terminated.” If 2021 saw the high of the VC influx, Bored Ape NFT projects, and salary hikes; 2022 is going through a slowdown, a crypto winter, and thousands of job losses. Who bears the brunt of a global meltdown? Who will survive this winter that’s been around for far too long now? Why do layoffs even happen in the first place? Which companies have to let their valuations slip and let their employees go? And within these companies, who gets laid off first? In episode 2 of Cost to Company, we explore these questions as we speak to founders, HR mavericks, career counsellors, and most importantly: people who’ve been laid off. The answers aren’t easy, but the perspectives are worth listening to. If you like our podcast, or have thoughts, feelings or story ideas, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or share, retweet, and follow @thekenweb.
15 August 2022 • 20m and 50s
On Feb 11th of this year Subhash Chaudhury, CTO and founder of Dukaan, posted the salaries of nine new hires. That tweet went viral. The very next day, the CTO of Chingari, also posted salaries of six new hires. This tweet also went viral. Salaries are the one part of our jobs shrouded in secrecy. We know, without anyone specifically ever telling us, that they are not to be ordinarily shared with our colleagues. We don’t want to be impolite. And businesses like paying as little as they need to. And here you have two businessmen, breaking that cardinal rule. In this, our pilot episode of Cost to Company, we will explore why these tweets were posted, and what happens when you break this cardinal rule of business. We will see what this experiment - the publishing of a salary - does to a business. Does it make salaries more fair and equitable? And is the relationship between employee and employer — bound by goodwill and a confidential fiduciary contract — changed for good? If you like our podcast, or have thoughts, feelings or story ideas, write to us at email@example.com. Or share, retweet, and follow @thekenweb.
8 August 2022 • 39m and 53s