Climbing the Urban Ladder: First Employee to Awesome Employee, Nandini Vishwanath
Nandini joined Urban Ladder in May 2012. She had a bit of work experience with Google before heading off to the US where she got a master’s degree. Upon returning to India she joined a friend’s startup and realized she loved working in the startup ecosystem. She was not happy working from the confines of her home. A self proclaimed people’s person, Nandini craved for the expanse of an office space along with the energy and the noise of people around her.
It was fate that she saw the advertisement Rajiv had posted for a ‘Community Champion’ at Urban Ladder. The role required more than your usual customer service, and the way the advert was drafted prompted her to apply. Without much experience in the field, she wrote to them. Rajiv recalls, “The first mail Nandini wrote in response to our advertisement was very well written and we realized that Nadini was a great communicator.” Soon after a conversation with Rajiv she joined them as their first employee in Bangalore.
Nandini is the epitome of everything that Urban Ladder stands for, honesty and great customer relations. She says, “When I joined, one thing that the founders said stuck with me and that is, ‘be nice to the customer! However difficult they may be; perhaps they are having a bad day for various reasons. At Urban Ladder, we should ensure that we are not one of those reasons. We should not add to their woes.’ Till today I follow this principle.”
This is the message Nandini wants to share with the world too.
Just be nice. Whether talking to a customer or to a person in the service industry it is important to be nice.
“Working in a startup is not easy. It means a lot of work. It is like being in college where a small group of people put up a production together. Building something with a small team is the beauty of a startup,” says Nandini, adding that this is her biggest strength. It is no wonder then that Nandini has worked her way up to become a team leader. It is a hard task to move between being a flexible leader while at the same time being firm when it comes to getting work done and keeping people hungry and motivated.
Mentorship is crucial, feels Nandini. She looks up to Rajiv, Anish and other senior colleagues for inputs when dealing with challenging situations. “The instances when I think I am right and when others think I am wrong are learning opportunities for me. I am not saying I do not make mistakes. All I’m saying is, I make mistakes but I learn from them.”
“Nandini has been the guiding light in the way she has been dealing with the customer,” says Rajiv. “Today Urban Ladder has established a relationship of trust with the customers over the last two years and she has been the corner stone of the values at Urban Ladder. In our discussions, she brings in the customer angle more than the customers themselves probably would. She has pushed for the customer and that has helped us drive the values of Urban Ladder not just within the team but to all customers as well,” Rajiv says, adding, “We have learnt a lot from Nandini when it comes to customer service and customer delight. She joined as our single customer service rep and now heads the team as well as our social media response team. She inculcates a great level of energy, enthusiasm and above all a massive customer focus. She has now built a team of 6 more people all taking forward the mighty customer focus that Urban Ladder is known well for. In the future, we see Urban Ladder scaling and we see Nandini playing an important role.”
Keeping her work life balance in place, Nandini says, “I won’t say it is easy. You need to find time for family and close ones. You need to brutally prioritize and delegate. The aim is to ensure that one is there for the loved ones when they need you the most.” Her role and amount of time and emotion she invests into her job does not hamper her quality of life, she says, especially when there is ‘MeTime.’ “Me time or time for self is important too. You have to take out that time, especially women. What you do in that time is not important but you need it.” Nandini is an avid reader and despite time constraints manage to fit in 10 minutes of reading every night into her schedule. “The heavy stuff I keep for weekends,” she says. Her all-time favourite read is Harper Lee’s, ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’.
I have a very supportive husband, parents and in-laws. Thanks to them I have never been put in that emotional dilemma many face whether to head home or to sit and work at office.
Rajiv shares another aspect of Nandini’s life. “She and her husband are big foodies and this culture has spread at Urban Ladder as well.” Nandini says, “I did not know how to cook before marriage and I hardly get enough time to cook these days but my husband loves to experiment and the dishes sometimes reach office on Monday.” However, at the end of a long day Nandini craves for her soul food -- tair sadam (curd rice).
Being emotionally connected with your work and customers is key. Rajiv has multiple stories to share -- a delivery order reached a lady when she had just delivered a child. On Nandini’s instructions the delivery boy carried a best wishes card and a bunch of flowers. That was a customer earned for life. Another lady wanted a sofa for a baby shower and since it was a special event, Nanadini ensured it was delivered before the event. When another customer got married and the newlyweds were moving into their new house, the lady ordered a bed which was one of the last pieces and it broke! Nandini got her a different bed and asked her to keep it till the replacement came later. We will ideally not wish setting such expectations but she has been a fantastic ambassador for us.”
“It has been madness,” says Nandini about the Urban Ladder journey. “Madness in terms of the great work we do, in terms of the fun we have and madness in terms of the joy we feel everyday when we receive an order.”
“My interaction with customers has made me realize that building/buying a home is a special experience, and even more so setting it up. These are special moments, each decision is special. There is a story behind a sofa choice, a tale behind choosing the right bed, a good bookshelf or a great lamp.We are lucky to be entrusted with something this precious. At Urban Ladder, we have that responsibility to make our customers cherish the memory every time they look at our products. And that is what drives us forward. We have many more milestones along the way.”
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