Learnings from CTOs of India’s leading B2C startups on Remote customer & Team engagement

The AWS Startup CTO Virtual Roundtable saw 22 CTOs from India’s startup ecosystem share how they are aiding employee and customer engagement

In the current scenario, businesses have had to completely reimagine the way they work and engage with their customers. With concerns for life and livelihoods at the top of everyone’s minds, organisations have had to find the right balance to address their employees’ concerns – both in terms of personal safety and with providing the right tools to adapt to new working conditions to ensure business continuity. They have also had to innovate to find new ways to keep their customers engaged.

To understand how different organisations are tackling this crisis, Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosted an exclusive roundtable discussion with 22 Chief Technical Officers (CTOs), representing both B2B and B2C organisations, who shared the different challenges they were facing in terms of employee and customer engagement. The participants offered personal insights into the key challenges, solutions, use cases, and best practices on leveraging technology to ensure seamless employee and customer engagement.

The B2C session was moderated by Madhusudhan Shekar, Head - Solution Architect: Digital Native Business, AWS.

The event began with a fireside chat with Mukund Jha, CTO, Dunzo and Sanjeev Barnwal CTO & Founder, Meesho who spoke to Madhusudhan about how their organisations ramped up to cope with the lockdown.

Fireside chat with Mukund Jha, CTO, Dunzo and Sanjeev Barnwal CTO & Founder, Meesho

“When the news about the lockdown broke, we had already been preparing for a week. There were challenges and the first two weeks of the lockdown are like a blank. There were multiple war-rooms that were running 24 x7 to get us to a capability level where we could operate during the lockdown,” says Mukund.

Given the operational nature of Dunzo’s business, the team had to do multiple things overnight, including pivoting their partner and merchant onboarding business, which was primarily a physical process.

“We had to build tools to pivot to this remote way of working for our teams. Moreover, there was so much uncertainty; every day, you would just come across a new thing that you had to react to. The first few weeks, we were just thrown in the middle of the fire. We just had to react and collaborate. We had no choice,” he adds.

Explaining how social e-commerce platform Meesho had to work to enable their resellers, Sanjeev said, “We were expecting a lockdown and the entire team had worked from home to see what fails, and what doesn't. So, in that sense, we were prepared. But, once we entered into lockdown, we started seeing a lot of problems with some of our three million resellers, many of whom are dependent on this income to sustain their homes.”

With many suppliers shutting down, the disruption in the supply chain severely affected them. “A lot of resellers reached out to us saying, ‘What should I do? Can you help us out? So, we onboarded essential categories like masks and sanitizers, which would still enable our resellers to make money,” he adds. Meesho has also introduced entertainment and educational content online to support their resellers, many of whom are homemakers, and their children who were also homebound.

However, the lockdown brought some unexpected positive results as well. Mukund says that employee productivity also saw a massive uptick in the early stages. This led the hyperlocal logistics company to consider transitioning to making work-from-home a more permanent arrangement with certain caveats. This included ensuring that employees maintained work-life balance and that the ‘social’ aspect of working from the office was recreated via weekly online catch-ups and team interactions.

Following the fireside chat, there were two panel discussions with B2C and B2B CTOs who shared their key learnings when it came to employee and customer engagement. In the first part of this series we feature the B2C discussion.

Here are some of the key takeaways from that session:

Prepare ahead

The majority of the participating CTOs said that they had decided to do a dry run before the actual lockdown so that they would have the necessary logistics and infrastructure in place. This included ensuring that the VPN capacity could support the exponential increase in the remote workforce, and that everyone had access to the technology required to function. While there are still glitches, preparing in advance has helped smooth the process to some extent. Many are also using the slowdown in business to address debt, to restructure their teams and plan for the near term.

Realign and build relevant teams

With business requirements changing, team structure and functionality has come into focus. New teams will have to be set up so that existing team structures are not disrupted. Teams will also have to deep dive into a business problem and build domain expertise to deliver value and cohesively work as a unit to attack a problem. When building bigger teams is not possible if resources are limited, letting go of problem areas, prioritising, repurposing and reshuffling teams in line with the company’s changing goals becomes important to ensure business continuity.

Appreciate, motivate and create leadership journeys

Motivating the team is very important in uncertain times. If an employee gets validation and appreciation, it translates to business impact. It is also important to create leadership journeys for senior team members, setting clear expectations for the next role. This goes beyond job skills and includes building better team-level leadership, ownership, and product understanding. Employees with a clear career path in mind tend to be more motivated.

Engage customers even if you are not selling

During uncertain times like this, customers are highly concerned about safety and hygiene. Customer outreach programmes via social media and other channels to educate them about best practices for maintaining hygiene, allaying their concerns and keeping them engaged will ensure that they will reach out to you when the crisis abates.

Understand customer demand

Prior to the pandemic, businesses were building for growth. But with things coming to an unplanned halt, many have had to reach out to customers to understand how demand has changed. Many businesses are now focusing on feature building and onboarding new categories that will meet their customers’ needs.

To read the learnings in the B2B panel, click here

Responding to the current scenario, many organisations re-evaluate priorities and activities so that their customers are engaged for the short and long-term. Focus has also shifted towards initiatives to support professional and personal development and mental health.


Updates from around the world