Work, Society and Why am I an Entrepreneur?

“ಕಾಯಕವೇ ಕೈಲಾಸ” – ಶ್ರೀ ಬಸವೇಶ್ವರ

(“Doing one’s work honestly is like being in Shiva’s abode” – Shri Basaveshwara)

Every kid in Karnataka will hear/read/is thought the above single line philosophy from very early. Growing up in parts of North Karnataka this was engrained in my head even before I could understand what WORK was. Teachers, Parents and their friends, elderly visitors to the house, neighbourhood uncles/aunts – everybody quotes this to make the kids do things that they don’t want to do – particularly homework and housework. This philosophical foundation of Basaveshwara created a social revolutions in the 12th century by giving a religious connection/understanding to the hardships of one’s Work and Duty.

What I learnt in my childhood has stayed with me and assured me that I was not wasting my time when I put in those long long hours in my pre-college/college days and at work after that.  Particularly when I was running from 2nd Ave to 3rd Ave on Union Street at 10:55pm to catch the last bus to Bellevue in those cold rainy nights in Seattle after 14-15hours of work. There have been many more tough phases of life with respect to work, but I have sailed through them well.

Somewhere along the way, I put my hands on Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”. These were pre-cell phone and internet days and most of my Sunday mornings in the US were spent in Barnes & Nobel or Borders.  The Prophet is phenomenal and monumental and the simplicity and the contextual expressions were just awesome. Along with everything else in that book, I loved what he says about Work.

Refer to a few gems from his words (you can refer here for his complete writing on Work) –

“You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.”

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.”

“And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.”

“And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.”

And the best is – “Work is love made visible.”

This is so true and completely complements what I was brainwashed (in a good way of course) in the childhood that “Work is Worship”.

At the same time I heard one more context to work. And this was from Narayana Murthy of Infosys and this was before 2000’s. I don’t remember the specific context or the exact phrase, but what I remember goes something like this – adults spend most of their time in offices and with their colleagues. Its Organisation’s responsibility to make this entire experience better for the Employees so that when they go back home to their family and loved ones, they do not carry the stress and tension with them. Otherwise, they are not nice to their loved ones – they are moody, snappy or unsympathetic. This creates unhappy families and in-tern builds unhappy societies.

Murthy of 90’s was really awesome and very inspirational. I still remember the 20+ min speech he gave when 13 of us joined Infosys on 10-May-1993 and it still guides me in most of my decisions. He single handedly motivated the entire generation to work hard and make a difference to the society in building the “India” brand different from “land of snake charmers and elephant riders” along with his entire team.

He made us believe that we could change the world and build the future of India by making a difference to the Customers world wide.  He had a dream and vision, and we had energy and enthusiasm, and the combination created ripple effects and heavily influenced India narrative from that point onwards. Its a different matter that Infosys fell into the ‘predictability’ trap after 2000, and walked away from those basic qualities of risk taking which made it different in the first place.

And most recent reference to work came a couple of days back. I downloaded fresh episodes of HBR Podcasts and happened to listen to Gerath Jones’ “Simple Rules for Creating Great Places to Work”  (Episode# 494) promoting his new book Why Should Anyone Work Here?.  Listening to him talk about authenticity, trust and summarising at the end – “without good work, we can not have good society” – connected all the dots in my mind and provided the answer to the “WHY” (from Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” theory) of Employee Experts.

I have worked in large Organisations across the globe and very well understand how hard it is to be an Employee – to manage all the processes, escalations, updates, emails, status reports, people, politics, tasks, Customers, vendors, partners and few other things using as many different technology tools. Apart from Infosys in late 1990’s and Dell in early 2000’s, its been quite a challenge for me to find a Good Work Place. More often, we find the Technology and Processes significantly contribute to the not-so-good work place.

Technological limitations during early days of automation in 1980’s and the lack of innovation thereafter, are the reasons for the difficult work place environment. Traditional/legacy ERPs are focused on Departmental/Functional automation and their technical, functional and process architectures are centred around the Admin user as they were the only users of the automation efforts early on. This has driven the entire Enterprise Technology and Process architecture inward looking – focused on each process owner.

This results in a regular Employee using 10-15 different systems to get his/her work done in the Organisation creating a lot of frustration and headache for Employee as a user.  (a quick read on the beginnings and relevance of legacy technology and process architecture to current enterprise context).

This is the context in which I turned an Entrepreneur 4.5 years back and co-founded Employee Experts along with Maragathavalli Inbamuthiah. We reimagined Enterprise operations centred on an Employee and built all of Unified Talent Management, Employee Operations, Employee Service, Employee Engagement of an Enterprise on the same Singular platform.

We want to create better Experiences for Employees in all their Enterprise touch points.

No 10+ Systems. No Interfaces. No Different UIs. No Data Latencies. No Frustration. Its a single touch work tool inter-connecting Employees, Managers, HR team – all within the Organisation, with Candidates, Placement Agencies, Background Verification Agencies, Travel Agents, Customers and whoever else may be part of the Enterprise eco-system. This is our vision of Future Work Place tool.

We want to create HAPPY EMPLOYEES.

We want to enable our Customers build Good Work Places using Technology.

As an extension, we want to partner with our Customers to create Happier Families and Societies.

We have a very huge goal in front of us – to change the way Organizations function. To look at operations from end-user, Employee, perspective and not from Departments/Functions point-of-view. To shift the focus from process adherence to service quality and outcome measurements.

Its early days for us and the excitement so far among our Customers and the end-users, their Employees, is very motivating for us. They prove to us that we are on the right track in creating a Digital Workplace for the Future of Work.