Sandipan Chattopadhyay and the culture of redundancy
Sandipan Chattopadhyay was the tech brain behind scaling Justdial from 30,000 calls a day to 4.8 million user queries over seven years. He was responsible for building Tata.com, and also built the digital platforms for Unilever, Hyundai, and IndiaInfoline, among others. An alumnus of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, and IIM Calcutta, Sandipan now is driving Xelpmoc Design and Tech, which he started three years ago with his colleagues from Justdial, Srinivas Koora and Rajesh Dembla.
Sandipan Chattopadhyay speaking at the Future of Work
Xelpmoc provides end-to-end technology solutions and support to next-gen companies. The company is the youngest startup to launch its IPO - just after three years of its inception. And according to Sandipan, this growth can be attributed to a culture of redundancy.
In a candid keynote at YourStory’s Future of Work conference, Sandipan spoke about how redundancy is a must-have to foster the growth of any company or startup. He connected redundancy to people, and said one needs to create a tendency within oneself towards innovation and growth.
Sandipan began by explaining the culture of redundancy, not in terms of servers and IT, but as a philosophy. He also elucidated how an attitude of redundancy creates the right balance to grow an organisation.
What is redundancy?
While redundancy carries a complex definition in the IT world, Sandipan defined it simply as, “the continuation of something despite and inspite of elements present or absent.”
“For instance, when someone joins Xelpmoc, the first lesson she gets is that she have only two roles in the company: to make the person you are reporting to redundant, which means he or she should have no work once the you come in, and to hire and train good enough people so that they make you redundant,” Sandipan said.
He further explained that this cycle of redundancy makes people think of growth at every level in a more important way. They also then find interesting things to do. "If everyone is made redundant in the growth phase, that leads to a chain growth reaction which is very important for the stable growth of the company,” Sandipan asserted.
Destruct from within
To apply redundancy in the company culture, one needs to destruct from within. Sandipan illustrated this philosophy by narrating an example of a work structure at Justdial. The team was divided into 'makers’ and ‘checkers'. For half the year, the makers would run the site and would make sure that things are going as per the plan, while the checkers used to play a role of breaking down everything makers were doing.
“This used to keep the tight system much more competitive and agile and we used to know most of the problems and issues in the system before anyone else could find out. For rest of the year, the makers would become checkers, and used to take all their revenge,” Sandipan chuckled. A new joinee would be made to join the ‘checkers’ team. “Imagine a young person getting into the culture of having to question the senior most guys,” he continued, stressing on how to get the culture of redundancy right with a strong team.
“The culture of redundancy is the knowledge that I am redundant, the knowledge that I don't need to worry too much if I have a sick parent or a sick partner to go back to, there is someone backing me up in that state, and that's the kind of advantage you get by trying to make yourself completely redundant.”
However, redundancy is not about taking away people’s importance. “The key aspect is that everyone should be important, and no one should be indispensable,” Sandipan said.
Be one percent of a billion
The biggest challenge of creating this culture of redundancy, according to the founder, is ego. Speaking of human tendencies, Sandipan said that people are often reluctant to share their USPs or uniqueness. “It is our inability to share our biggest assets, and that embargos us to actually become redundant and creating a culture redundancy,” he said.
"A hundred percent of a million is a fraction of one percent of a billion,” Sandipan says.
“You need to focus on making the billions work irrespective of how important you are. You are still a bigger winner in being a small part of a big sum than being everything of a small sum. ”
Sandipan noted that this culture can also create a “little bit of attrition”, but attrition is great to have, as the company gets rid of “people who are slightly more self-obsessed and are not really good team players,” he said.
Redundancy means growth
Sandipan also addressed another challenge to the culture of redundancy, which is when the company gets stagnant, “If you are not growing fast enough then there is no room to create redundancy,” he said. He added that if you are planning for growth then the cultural of redundancy is one that you must embrace.
Culture as a constitution
Often, companies have a vision of the founders, who turn this into a company culture that everyone else is asked to fit into. Sandipan applies a different approach. “The culture should be more open in structure and have its own redundancies and questioning-abilities, so that it remains fluid and contextual,” he said.
He says that this culture should be like a constitution of the company and the entire flexibility of the constitution is about how it is changeable on a persistent and need basis. “Inflexibility is a challenge in redundancy,” he added.
As he was concluding his talk, Sandipan asserted that redundancy needs to operate on a personal level. “If you want to stay relevant and have people who are productive for a long term, you have to have redundant skills yourself and you have to give the capacity for people to build redundant skills for you,” he said. They can do this by understanding skills in other functions which are ‘non-core’, an important learning for the growth of any organisation.