Last year when I Say Organic turned 5, I spent quite some time thinking what the milestone meant for the company. I’d turned 30 not too long before and it kind of felt similar. In many ways feeling I’m no different than I was at 25, but in also knowing that I’m more comfortable with and accepting of how things are. And so far I feel happier in my 30’s than I did in my 20’s, and likewise, the company in the time after year 5 has been more characteristic of “calm problem solving”, which is quite a shift from our earlier style of working which was target driven but often accompanied by anxieties and fears.
Of course, as the founder and leader of the organization, how I’m feeling like at a certain point gets projected on the company and influences the culture. So there’s a co-evolution of sorts, where my personal journey and that of the company and the people in it, constantly feed into and influence each other quite profoundly.
Running a company and trying to make it sustainable and true to its purpose at the same time has been one of my best learning experiences. It has helped me understand what I’m good at, and where my real interests lie, and what I want to learn, like nothing else before. I started the company with the purpose of taking a step towards building the kind of future I, and many across the planet, aspire towards – where humans continue technological advancement but in complete harmony with nature, and one where sustainable production and consumption is mainstream and the default way the world functions, and not a niche only reserved for a few. While that purpose remains the same, the last 6 years have taught me how I need to be, in order to most effectively contribute towards it.
There was an inherent disconnect between how I was conditioned to define professional success and the reality of the industry I chose to be in. My notion of success has flipped 180 degrees, and if it didn’t I couldn’t have persevered for so long. Coming from a business family and also studying “entrepreneurship”, I associated rate of growth in revenue and team as indicators of success, which they of course are. But the rates I aspired to, what the media talks about and highlights as success stories, were way beyond what we were achieving and that came with feelings of frustration, confusion, hopelessness, and doubt – towards the company and self. While I was aware that this industry is different, in how much patience it requires given how new it is in India, it took me the first 5 years to fully accept it. Until I hadn’t accepted it, while intellectually I knew the reality of the nascent industry, that didn’t reflect in my aspirations for the company – I also wanted 10x growth every year and would wonder what is it that we need to do to achieve it. Setting unrealistic goals, without having faith in those goals, and ultimately being hard on myself and on others.
Accepting the reality of the situation changed how we operate. While we’d still love that type of growth, that’s not how we define our targets now. Now we accept what the market is, we look at our purpose and think, what is it we can do today, in the present circumstances, that seems like the best thing to do towards our purpose of an organic-by-default world. Instead of defining a “growth metric” as the primary goal and then determine our actions, we determine our actions and then see what is the best growth we can aspire for. What is it that we must do towards our purpose and what is the best growth we can hope for from that? I have felt that the elements of anxieties, strong desires for outcomes etc. have started loosening their grip overall in how we operate. I take that as an indicator that we are moving towards functioning with more sync and confidence in our purpose, than chasing numbers.
For instance, earlier this year the team decided that we must try to increase our volume so that we’re able to buy everything that our partner farmers grow and be a one stop solution for them. Currently, we buy what we need from our farmers for a premium, but they have to go to the wholesale mandi’s for whatever is left. This is a goal in sync with our purpose. The more profitable farmers will be, the higher the rate of growth of organic production will become. This goal translated into action as, we must try to establish a B2B, institutional, and potentially an export business to pick up volumes and also decide new value added products that increase demand for the produce we need to buy more of. In our earlier mode of operation, I would set a target for our delivery business, coming from aspirations defined by how I had been conditioned to define success – numerically. And not having faith in that target would mean that I, and the rest of the team, would be operating with a lot of pressure.
I’m quite positive that with these realizations, not only will our style of working keep becoming calmer and solution oriented, but we will continue taking more and more initiatives that are in sync with our purpose, and be open to reflecting and learning from our hits and misses.