We’ve a culture of openness, transparency: Quest Alliance’s Aakash Sethi
Mumbai: Quest Alliance CEO and founder Aakash Sethi says young people today are looking to do meaningful work, and not just looking for the biggest pay packet. Edited excerpts of an interview:
You are in a sector where you officially don’t make a profit, but you have highly educated youth on your payrolls. Why do you think they came to you?
Increasingly, young people are looking to do meaningful work. They aren’t just looking for the biggest pay packet but to find purpose and meaning, asking themselves what is the difference they are making to the world. We have people who were ready to take a pay cut and join us. I myself took a 50% pay cut when I moved from an international NGO to begin Quest.
Do they stay on for a long period?
More than half of the current strength has been here for more than four years. I think if you want to keep young people engaged, the average age here is 31, you’ve got to do things in a manner they can relate to, in their style and their personality. Young people like to work for young people but also do that while having fun. Often in India we think of office as a space where people should get serious. We have fun here, and a really strong relationship among ourselves. Everyone knows that someone is watching your back, and you can go out try and fail, you don’t have to always deliver in your first attempt. When you are given the freedom to fail, I think that is a big freedom.
How do you go about it in terms of process?
In terms of practice, we have a culture of openness and transparency. Everyone knows my salary. We eat our food together and every first Friday do a small get-together. We have a learning day every month where we learn a new skill. It could mean learning data analytics to theatre skills, or just going to the park one day to paint together. And then we have a ‘reach for the stars’ programme, where you set your personal goals against a budget. All put together, we spend nearly Rs35,000-45,000 for an employee on this, and easily 50% of the staffers use this. Some of it they choose where to spend, some of it we choose. But I guess the most important factor for them is that they get to go to the field, become a trainer doing something more than just the ordinary. It isn’t just the money, that’s of course important, but it is also the personal connect each one has with the vision and mission of the organization.