You work at a trekking organisation? Wow so lucky! You must get to travel so much!” That’s the response I often get when I tell people where I work. But believe me, life at a startup is a LOT more than people assume it is!
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was at a friend’s place, just discussing our personal lives, when one of my phones rang. I answered and instinctively said, “Hello, Indiahikes.” The lady over the phone asked me about the weather on some treks in summer, winter, whether she’ll get to see snow and said she’ll call back later. After I hung up, my friend looked at me pitifully. “Dude, why you doing a call centre job?” she asked.
At first, I was a bit stumped by the question. Nobody had asked me something like that. So, I thought about it for a moment. I told my friend, “There are probably just a handful of people who can answer the questions the lady just asked me. Not many people can can tell you in the blink of an eye about the weather conditions ten months from now at a place 2,000 miles away.”
Her main question still remained unanswered. Why was I picking calls on a lazy Sunday afternoon? All I could say was, “Welcome to the startup life.” There have been days when I’ve answered calls at 4 am and at 11 pm. It’s not just me. All my colleagues take phones home. We could easily outsource these calls to a call centre, but like I said, not many people can answer these questions. People base some once-in-a-lifetime decisions on your answers. So you can’t let just anyone answer them.
I took a loooong time to learn how to answer these calls tactfully. It’s is not just business, right? My aim is not to convince everybody to go on a trek. It’s to give them information on treks they ask me about and often, they ask me to decide a trek for them. And their trek could easily be the best 7 days of their life! That’s not an easy decision. It required knowledge.
But phone calls are probably just 2% of the work at Indiahikes. That’s not much “call-centre” work. Everyday, when I reach office, I make a check-list of things to do that day. Pretty much everyday, I laugh at my own list, thinking, “Yeah, I’d be able to finish this much if I could add 10 more hours to my day.”
I think that is one of the biggest pros and cons of working at a start up – that there’s just so much to do! In my previous job, although it was just six hours a day, I had just one hour’s worth of work. It was so boring! There was no challenge and everything had fallen into a dull, mind-numbing routine. At Indiahikes, my mind can’t sit still. Everyday, there’s some problem to solve, my brain is always exercising. After trying so hard, when something suddenly begins to work, it’s just so gratifying! My face breaks into a grin and everything feels like sunshine and rainbows!
At the same time, there are problems that really get to you – maybe a rude email or an undying glitch on the website. Or maybe it’s a colleague who didn’t leave on a very good note. Since there are not too many people like in a corporate set up, everyone is very attached to everyone. Emotions are always running high. People are like high intensity wires. Even the smallest of issues could get blown out of proportion, leading to hasty decisions. Come to think of it, everything happens in superlatives at a start up!
But you live and learn. There are always ups and downs and you have to emerge stronger from every situation. (Clichéd sentence, I know, but it is precisely what you need to do.) You have no other choice, actually. You’re given a great deal of power and liberty to make changes in the organisation. And when you have the power to make an impact over thousands of lives, that’s a tremendous amount of responsibility. I don’t think many 25-year-old girls like me have that power.
When I had just joined Indiahikes, Arjun, my boss, used to tell me, “You need to grow your work. You need to grow your work.” For a long time, I didn’t understand what he meant. I just did my daily work and went back home at 6.30. But as time went by, the company’s philosophies grew closer to my heart and I began to think of it as my own company (No evil intent! Haha!). I learnt to improve things in my area of expertise and try to make the company, at large, grow. I still went back home on time, because I like having a personal life, but the scheme of things during my work hours completely changed. I learnt about being efficient and getting more done in lesser time. My learning curve over the past one year has overshot my previous 24 years’ learnings. No kidding! But, I feel, you need to know where to draw the line between your personal and professional lives, so that your work life doesn’t take over your personal life. It should never be an overdose. You should learn to perfect everything. There’s a lot to learn.
And thankfully, there are a lot of people to learn from. I have a second family in office, with whom I share a very good rapport. I eat, work, sleep, laugh and hang out with them. We clean office together, make tea together, eat pani puri together do the dishes together. We’re the janitors, we’re the managers. And like I said, everything happens in superlatives, so I work with a bunch of the most efficient people, who know so much about such a large range of things, it takes months just to get to know them on the surface.
But what makes me happiest working here is that I know I’m not just a brick in the wall. I am a somebody. I work hard, and it’s extremely gratifying when things go right, and that’s what I strive for.
It’s a lot of fun, but it’s more of work work work. Some people might think you slog too much, some people might think it’s a call centre job – it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But it surely is mine.
Wait, did I say tea? Ok that’s my craving talking. It’s tea time and Manish ji‘s ginger tea awaits. That’s another of my favourite things at Indiahikes. 🙂
Thank you for reading!