By Kumar Badal, Program Manager, Awign Expert
5 years ago, I walked out of my college with a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering. I landed a cushy and secure job with a MNC in Pune, I felt like I was on the top of the world. But within the first few months itself, I realized that the 9-5 setup was not meant for me. I wasn’t learning enough, the culture wasn’t the right fit and I was not utilizing my time efficiently. I needed to work on something exciting and invigorating. That’s when I decided to work with startups for the first few years of my career, at least. In 2017, I believed that India’s startup hub was Bengaluru. So I packed my bags for ‘Silicon Valley of India’ with the dream of working with a startup. I went around interviewing at least 20 startups over 2-3 months, but something just didn’t click.
Another such startup interview was with Annanya Sarthak, Co-founder and CEO of Awign, for an internship with the organization. I met the man at our first office in HSR Layout, a compact one-room space with Sarthak on the other side of the table. After almost 20 interviews, I thought I was prepared for every type of question there could be, but my interviewer had a different plan. His first question to me was a guesstimate problem, “You have to launch a McDonald’s at Delhi’s Rajeev Chowk metro station, what according to you would be its sitting capacity?” I was quite perplexed and almost prepared myself to keep giving more interviews. I thought I blew up the interview. But later in the day, I received a call that I had secured a position at Awign as an intern. I was stoked to hear this and joined almost immediately.
March 14, 2017, was my first day at Awign as an Intern. I was working with Nihal Chaudhary on an expansion project, who was the Head of Expansion back then. During my internship period itself, I learned a lot from Nihal and the founders – they were always super friendly and approachable. I was invested in our work and I quickly realized that I wanted to continue on this journey of building Awign. Luckily, I was hired as a full-time operations executive in the next 5 months, making me the 8th employee at Awign. The first task at hand was to build a Sourcing team. We were a small team of 5 people, which meant we had to get creative with our solutions and get our hands dirty. The process of sourcing gigs in the most remote parts of India while sitting in Bangalore, visiting bus addas every morning and writing instructions for truck drivers in Punjabi, I remember how the whole team worked with synergy and remained aligned with our company’s vision. That has still not changed.
I am yet to come across a single colleague at Awign who is not a go-getter and doesn’t give their best when it comes to working towards our vision as a team.
The leaders have a huge role to play here. Since Day 1, I have witnessed them being equally involved in the execution process. They are forever approachable and accommodating to everyone at the organization. Whether it is complaints about the soup flavour at the office or requests for change in work hours, the leaders have always been all ears to us.
To me, that is one of the primary reasons that my colleagues and I have stuck around for so long and have fared well, personally and professionally. You see, it’s the environment that matters the most to an employee, according to me. To know that your company cares is all the motivation one needs.
The environment, my work scope and my colleagues, all of these factors worked well for me. Within a year, I became a manager and then a senior manager, followed by a functional head with a team of 3 managers, 5 team leads and 15 associates overlooking 3 verticals. Cut to 2021, we were launching a new business division called Awign Expert which connects enterprises with high-skill talent. I was approached by the leadership asking if I could join this vertical and lead as a Program Manager. Needless to say, I took it up. A different division, different model and an entirely new team. This came as a fresh but a strong wave to me. It has been 12+ months since I have been working on Awign Experts now. With a team of 16+ people, I can proudly say that we are creating some solid impact. Our numbers are good, our clientele even better and we have grown over 5X in the past year.
And no, it’s not just the growth. It’s my journey that I am more interested to talk about here. From learning the basic skills to building an entire team on my own, I sure have come a long way. And so have the people around me. We move together, we work as a unit here. I guess the force is strong with us. My colleagues, my friends, my mentors and my mentees, I think it would be safe to call Awign my ‘mayaka’ considering the kind of relationships I have built here. The journey of jumping, rather, growing through 3 different office spaces, with a team of 3 to 300 now, with an ever growing list of divisions and a star studded clientele, feels like my own.
Every year of being at Awign has taught me something I will never forget. These real-life skills and learnings will always be immeasurable, and I want to share my top 5 learnings from my past 5 years at Awign with everyone reading this.
- Confidence rises with the right working environment/ culture
The culture of an organization can make or break your confidence. At my previous workplace, I used to get a lot of rejection from my reporting manager whenever I tried to share some ideas. I have always been a shy person, but this affected my confidence as well. But when I joined Awign, the founders and leaders always empowered me to speak up, share my ideas and interact with as many people as possible. This helped me build confidence in the early years of working with Awign. The working environment slowly and steadily enabled me to become the person I am today.
- Never say No to Continuous Learnings
In the start itself, my seniors at Awign started giving me responsibilities. I felt like everything was moving too fast, and perhaps I wouldn’t be able to cope up. I have worked on at least 60+ projects during these years, which has taught me an abundance of learning. Whether I interact with a senior or junior colleague at work, a client and any stakeholder – I have learned something new every single day here which has enabled me to enhance myself both personally and professionally.
- Treat everyone equally
Since I started working with the founders at Awign, they have always treated me and everyone else with the same amount of respect. Designations, roles don’t matter – speak to everyone with respect. This is a learning experience that I believe is a game-changer for the trust, productivity and mental health of every employee at the workplace.
- Organize yourself
During one of the feedback calls after my first year at Awign, Sarthak explained that picking up high-priority tasks in one day, rather than attempting to complete all of them will ensure better productivity. Not every task you have needs to be done today itself, some of them can be deferred to another day according to the priority level. Since then, I have gotten into a habit of listing down my tasks and prioritising them accordingly.
- Make every minute of your personal life count
People often believe that startups have no work-life balance. False, I believe. Startups are full of learnings, they in fact teach you how to manage your time better and create a work-life balance. Earmark certain times in your day to speak with your parents, or days dedicated to friends or your hobbies. Learn how to prioritize your family, friends and personal commitments. This will help you refresh yourself, maintain your relationships and boost your overall well-being. After all, Jack must be energized to climb up the hill.
By the way, 4 years later, I asked Sarthak a question that had been lingering on my mind all this while, “Why exactly did you hire me even though I tanked the interview?”. His response was something I keep close to my heart even today. “Your patience & never-give-up attitude”, he replied. Now that I have a team of my own, I make sure that I transfer my learnings to them. After all, something as simple as being patient could land you a job which can define your whole career.
It’s been half a decade at Awign, a lot more building left to do. I’ll write another post in 2027 when I complete 10 years at my home.