Friday 11 Sep 2020
⏰ MELBOURNE TIME
5.00 – 7.00 pm
⏰ LOCAL START TIME
Ms Sunitha Lal
Chief Human Resources Officer, Ather Energy, India
As CHRO and head of People Operations and Strategy at Ather Energy, Sunitha Lal leads all the HR functions and is passionately exploring and curating the organizational culture. She has implemented innovative strategies and fostered a value-led culture across leadership roles. She facilitates the establishment of people processes and systems at Ather while exploring and nurturing the talent.
Ather presents a unique ecosystem given the intersection of product, people, and process evolution and reflects diversity in generations and ideas. Ather Energy is a young company that is growing rapidly in the nascent electric mobility industry. New products and experiences have also meant a new way to work and grow. Sunitha has been charged with the responsibility of offering her knowledge and expertise to define and establish the values of the organization, while also directing Ather’s biggest asset, its talent.
Sunitha has over 25 years of experience across all HR verticals. She is a strong coach and has a significant background in organizational & leadership development. Before joining Ather, Sunitha served as the Chief Human Resources Officer at Matrimony.com. She has also been Senior Vice President – Talent Management & Head of HRBP in Mphasis and before that was Vice President and Head of HR at AIG. She is passionate about writing, Carnatic music, and is an avid practitioner of Iyengar Yoga.
Weaving culture – One strand at a time
Ather Energy is a startup that has built India’s first smart and intelligent electric scooter, the Ather 450. We realized early on that to create great products, we need a culture that fosters it. So about 2.5 years ago, against the backdrop of launching the vehicle, designing an ownership experience, setting up a supplier ecosystem, and navigating regulations – we held what we call “Culture Conversations (CC 1.0)” about what Ather represents to its members.
We approached this bottom-up, talking to team members across age, tenure, experience, gender through different arrangements – 1x1s, dyads, triads, groups. This brought out data on how information flowed, decisions were made, ideas nurtured, and importantly, what worked and what didn’t. We began categorizing this data into:
- Our essence to hold
- Stardust to seek
- Baggage to drop
A synthesis of all this information led to ‘Think As A Species’ (TAAS) – Ather’s culture collective, our secret sauce.
Further, we gave TAAS a visual identity, created artifacts, published stories on the intranet and social media, made it part of hiring, performance management, rewards, recognition, and capability building programs, believing these little things will eventually come together to strengthen our cultural fabric.
In June 2019, we launched CC 2.0 to understand how our leaders and team members experienced TAAS. Sentiment and thematic analyses of this data gave us insights into the state of the system and an ongoing action plan.
This year, as we prepare to scale operations and increase manufacturing footprint – balancing innovation with scale, we have taken up integrating key processes in the organization with TAAS as one of our uber goals.
While we have tried a lot of things, one thing that hasn’t changed is our approach towards culture: like a weaver weaving the exquisite Kanchipuram silk sari – strand-by-strand, with care and deliberation.
Introduction by Ms Kristina Karlsson
Small group discussion; impressions of the paper and developing questions for the presenter
Discussion forum with the presenter; moderated for the speaker to elaborate their ideas
Small group activity or discussion ‘What does this paper tell us about working into the future?’
Discussion forum with the presenter; themes from the discussions