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Driving Diversity - How PhonePe is building an inclusive leadership team


ANI
29 Nov 2021

New Delhi [India], November 29 (ANI/Mediawire): In March this year, PhonePe announced its DiversityInclusion initiative with the first phase focusing on gender, sexual orientation and people with disability (PWD).

Of these, both sexual orientation (LGBTQI) and PWD initiatives focused on building awareness.

For gender, the approach was more specific: to hire and develop more women at the top two levels of senior leadership (DirectorsVice Presidents). Globally, research has shown that teams with women at the helm tend to attract and retain a higher proportion of female talent, creating a positive flywheel of success. PhonePe's approach has borne fruit, with the company being able to increase representation of women in leadership from 13% to 18% within just 6 months of the launch of its DI initiative. We spoke to a few senior women leaders in the company to understand their experience and what the company is doing right.

A consistent thread that emerged is the opportunity for ownership and impact, combined with a high degree of trust and flexibility. All the women we spoke with were driven by the desire to deliver tremendous impact without feeling the need to compromise on any aspect of their life. This is exactly what PhonePe seems to have been able to provide.

Sonika Chandra, Head of Consumer PlatformPayments spoke about her experience at PhonePe, "After 19 years of working in the US, I decided to move back to India to be closer to my parents. I was also excited by the impact that startups in India were making and was keen on being part of this revolution. My only concern was the type of work culture after having heard some not so rosy stories about the startups in India. When I met the PhonePe leadership team almost two years ago, I knew this was the place for me. Hearing how the founders had kept an open and trust-based culture at the center of building a world class company gave me tremendous confidence.Even though I joined at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, I always felt like I belonged here. I was entrusted with a complex charter and while my role was evolving, I knew that I am on this rocketship and the only way to go is up!"For Chandra, the biggest factor influencing an organization's ability to grow women leaders is the sensitivity to their different lived experiences. "The pressures that women face in their home and work life are often different, and as a leader you need to be able craft solutions that best enable success for everyone in your team. If the complexities of someone's life require them to work from home for an extended time or take a break at 3 to pick up their kid, it is a small accommodation to enable success. My job is to enable people with what they need, rather than worry about the same treatment for everyone," she said.

Her feelings were echoed by Priya Narasimhan, who heads the Advertising business. "Before PhonePe, I had had a fairly conventional career path- I went to B School, got an investment banking job, and went through the usual grind. Only over time did I realise that what I truly enjoyed is building things. I have been here 5 years now, and there has been nothing conventional about my stint. When I started, I was completely new to the fintech space. We were building the firstnon-banking UPI app in the country and we were all figuring it out. There was no hierarchy, just a bunch of smart people trying to solve a big problem. We were all driven by passion, and PhonePe gave us the ownership and the space to experiment, iterate and create. I was a new mother then, and it would seem that I was biting off more than I could chew. But at no point did I feel that I had to compromise or choose between work and personal priorities. Not only can I look back proudly at the scale that both Payments and RechargeBill Payments businesses have achieved, I also have the opportunity to build and scale a completely new business in Ads. In all this, the organization has been a great enabler, trusting me to deliver, while giving me the freedom and flexibility to work out what works for me. The three key things that have enabled me to succeed at PhonePe are strong ownership, challenging problems and flexibility. I have a busy personal life with two small children but at PhonePe, I have never felt that I have to settle for less or give up on any part of my life," said Narasimhan.

"As I look to build leaders in my team for the next phase of PhonePe's growth, it is important for me to create the same sense of confidence and trust in the next level in the team. We have made it clear to people that we will not require them to choose between a thriving career at PhonePe and a fulfilling personal life. At PhonePe, our employees come first and we strive to create an environment where they can balance a thriving career at PhonePe with a fulfilling personal life. Recently, one of our strong high-performing leaders was having to figure out how to manage her husband's relocation internationally, without having to put her own career at PhonePe on the backburner. We were able to work out a mutually-convenient solution where she continues to effectively run her charter remotely." she said.

Pooja Gulrajani, Head of Engineering for Payments User Infrastructure, joined the company in March this year with two decades of engineering experience. "PhonePe has been an extremely warmwelcoming place for me. Despite working remotely and given the hyper-growth pace of building multiple things simultaneously, PhonePe made it much easier for me to understand, absorb and contribute. Very quickly, I got to a place where I was driving producttech roadmaps, scaling feature capabilities and contributing to the unprecedented scale of the company."Pooja wears several hats in her role at PhonePe, but inspiring and motivating people is a core requirement for her. "An inclusive environment with open channels of communication is fundamental to the team scaling with the org's complexity. Everyone needs to be able to bring forth their point of view, and some people need more encouragement than others. In an environment where women are such a small proportion of the population, active investment in creating a nurturing space can make all the difference. In the engineering team at PhonePe, we are ensuring that women feel empowered to speak about the challenges they face. We have also put in structured mechanisms like mentoring to ensure that they get the support they need for their growth.""The best part of being here is the opportunity to deeply impact the lives of so many people and build an org that truly believes in the power of positive disruption" says Gulrajani. "Our goal is to disrupt things not just on the business front, but also building cultures that are affirming and inclusive"Building a diverse and inclusive organisation is a complex process requiring multiple elements to come together. It involves long term investments in building a culture of openness. Organisations that have succeeded down this path often already have a clear commitment to putting their people first. PhonePe seems to be well positioned to join the league.

This story is provided by Mediawire. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/Mediawire)

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