“Regardless of where you want to build your career – work hard, invest in learning, open yourself up to different life experiences, and seek answers to your questions.”
IN CONVERSATION WITH SUROBHI DAS, CHIEF OF STAFF – ZOMATO
Give us a snapshot of your academic and professional background? What responsibilities does your designation entail?
I graduated with a degree in Architecture from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, in 2006; followed by an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad in 2009. I was hired by Bain on campus at IIM, and went on to work with them for ~2 years prior to joining Zomato.
My time at Bain set a great foundation, and has been pivotal in shaping the course of my career so far. I was exposed to a lot of inspiring people and was trained to be highly accountable and detail oriented while always looking at the big picture. I was also trained to be zero defect, which was one of the best things I could have learnt at the start of my career. It was also while I was at Bain that I started travelling for projects and was exposed to different kinds of foods and cuisines, and my passion for food really surfaced. In fact, I spent some time in the USA between 2008 and 2010 and used Yelp extensively whilst there. It was then that I knew I wanted to come back and do something in the food discovery space.
As luck would have it, both Deepinder and Pankaj also started their careers at Bain. I was introduced to Zomato (then Foodiebay) back in 2008, and was already a big fan by the time I joined Bain.. One thing led to another, and when I decided to move on from Bain, I knew Zomato was the natural choice for me. Of the past 6 years, I have spent the last 3 working closely with the founding team to help solve challenges and identify growth opportunities. Prior to that I led global and local content operations for Zomato, and enabled market launches across multiple countries. Before that, I was responsible for driving the revenue for Zomato Mumbai.
What is the most important trait that you look for in an employee irrespective of what the job description demands?
I think for me as an individual, and us as an organization – honesty is an extremely important trait. I feel a high level of discomfort in working with someone who is unable to be honest in their dealings with others. You can’t rely on a dishonest person, and that just makes it impossible for people to work with them.
The other important trait that I look for is a person’s ability to learn from their experiences. What I mean by this is that we all have a varied set of life experiences (personal or professional) and all our experiences either teach us something, or they teach us something about ourselves. I find that people with a learning mindset are better able to introspect and understand what they could have done better, or differently, in every situation and are able to do more or better moving forward.
What role, according to you, does technology play in the HR industry?
I believe the HR sector, as well as what comes within its purview has largely changed over the last decade or two. And technology has played a massive role in allowing the HR vertical drive a bigger and more meaningful impact at workplaces.
Technology is helping make global organizations more inclusive and transparent. You need not wait for a physical townhall and can now reach out to all internal stakeholders at the same time. These platforms also work as a great platform for building employer branding.
Most of our hiring is done through social channels like Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook – these channels also help us attract inbound referrals.
Platforms like Facebook for work, or Slack etc. outside of internal portals are also being used for a variety of things – from collaborative projects and building a sense of community; to rewarding and recognizing employees and sharing big and small milestones. More and more companies are hosting their Townhalls and AMAs on similar tech portals, as well as using conferencing tools to conduct training programs.
We all use tech to create knowledge sharing archives, feedback collation, learning and development, pretty much the entire gamut of things that comes under the purview of people development and management.
A piece of advice for candidates willing to pursue a career with your organization?
Regardless of where you want to build your career – work hard, invest in learning, open yourself up to different life experiences, and seek answers to your questions. Find something that is of interest to you and put your deliberate intent and effort into making something of it.
In the pursuit of excellence there is no balance, but being one dimensional doesn’t allow for you to appreciate the various facets of the same problem either. It is important to have interests and hobbies that are separate from your passion at work at times, just to allow yourself the time and space to see the same problem through a different lens.
What does a typical day at office look like?
A typical day for me comprises a mixture of pre-scheduled check ins, some brainstorming sessions, a few hours of focused ‘head down headphones plugged in’ work time, and on a good day a few one-on-one conversations.
What has been the biggest achievement in your career so far and what were your key takeaways from it?
I think I have been incredibly fortunate in my professional learning and growth trajectory, and have always thought of my achievements in the context of our achievements as an organisation.
The two key initiatives that I learned the most from would be – 1. Helping drive the international market expansion between 2012 to 2015 – at first through leading the content teams, and later through working with teams across various geographies; and 2. Driving cost prudence over the last 18 months.
Both of these roles had a diverse set of learnings and have helped shape the course for us as an organisation.
Describe working at Zomato in a single sentence.
(This is a tough one, haha) It’s invigorating – and it’s invigorating because one is constantly investing in learning more and doing more while the landscape of the ecosystem around us is also changing at a very fast pace.
One gadget you cannot live without?
My phone – but that’s also because technology has advanced enough for your phone to be your laptop, your camera, your library and your music system 🙂
If not in the current profession, you would have been?
If not this, then I would have probably switched to becoming an educator or have done something within the education tech space.
I am very passionate about food. I absolutely love trying new places and new things. Outside of food, dance is a big passion.
Ways to unwind or relax?
I really enjoy spending time with my family on weekends. Outside of spending time with family, for me the perfect way to unwind is to go catch a movie; get a great meal, or read a good book. And sometimes, watch a match (cricket, tennis, football) with my family.