“Zomato made me dig deeper and find the best in myself.” |...

“Zomato made me dig deeper and find the best in myself.” | by Kanika Vasudeva, Product Designer at Zomato.

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Location: NIFT Campus Placement Drive
Date: 11th January, 2011

Nervous and sweaty, a hall full of students sat for their 2011 placements. Clueless about our future and expecting to make it big, we hear Deepinder and Pankaj talk about this new startup — Zomato (a company as unusual as its name). I remembered those funny illustrations on the two-fold brochures that explained what Zomato was, and I understood a little, so I kept my attention as they tried their best to explain the foodies’ Mecca.

We dropped our CVs off at the counter, and then heard an announcement on the speaker “Zomato-shortlisted candidates report to room #312. Srishti (NIFT Mumbai), Kanika (NIFT Delhi)…” As I entered the room, I had a thousand questions running through my head. I was asked to take a seat, and the two-way interview started.

Me: What will my role and profile be?

Deepi: We are a blank canvas so the sky is the limit. You are the design team and you have to build it from scratch, and you’ll get whatever you need to do that. In terms of profile, designate yourself anything, but you gotta do everything that comes your way.

Me: Where is the office? What is the reporting time?

Deepi: We’re a team of about 15 people. We work from a small office and for as long as it takes to get the work done — irrespective of day or night.

And that was how my destiny was sealed as the Brand Manager of Zomato!

Location: MG Road metro station
Date: 1st June, 2011

I took an 8 am metro to Gurgaon, feeling all jittery and excited for my first ever job, as I thought to myself, “welcome to the adulthood, baby”. Shirt tucked in, pants creaseless, shoes tied and hair well combed, I entered the Zomato office in full corporate gear, ready for Day 1. The first thing I noticed was a bed on one side and cushions scattered around the room, along with regular desks and chairs. People were sitting with their laptops around the room, all dressed in casuals, and in a very relaxed environment.

I felt like I’d turned up overdressed to a beach party. I had a quick intro with everyone and got a feel of the place, and quickly realised this wasn’t like a normal 9-to-5 job with a boss in one of the corner offices. In fact, the CEO of the company (Deepi) sat adjacent to me at the same table. We were a team of about 20 people, on a single floor of an office (known to us as K2/4, which was the address), working their asses off to make Zomato something big, and something we can’t imagine our lives without today.

Our ‘team’ was more like a group of one-man armies, with almost everyone covering two or more profiles. But we did lots of fun stuff too, like recording funny videos (hoping they would go viral), and having crazy theme parties, with none other than our Deepi dressed up as the king of the jungle.

Within a few months, we had a routine in place. It began with a metro ride, and people sharing their location updates on BBM. Unlike our current metro shuttles and the luxury of cabs, we used to share rickshaw rides, grabbing breakfast on our way from McDonald’s or Bisque, which was a lot of fun! Even though we were a startup, time has been something we’ve always valued at Zomato, and we were always aware of how little of it we had. Just to add some fun to staying disciplined, we had punishments for being late — such as the last person to arrive buying lunch for the whole team — which we changed over time. At offsites, no matter how wasted you were the night before, you had to arrive on time for the morning sessions, or you were thrown into the pool (in the cold weather of January). Some may remember the embarrassment of being sent home for the day for turning up late repeatedly, or having to pay a fine. All of this taught me that while we may not have a conventional work style, we valued discipline, which has helped us work together as a team.

Location: Chhatarpur, New Delhi
Date: February, 2012

While trying to establish ourselves in India, we were also growing like crazy in numbers. From one floor at K2/4 to two floors, we soon couldn’t fit everyone in, so we started working out of a larger space in Chhatarpur.

I worked on some of the most interesting projects during this time. One of my biggest achievements was the launch of the first printed Zomato Restaurant Guide. Not knowing how to use the software for it, I learned online. Sleepless nights, staying in the office for days, struggling to keep up the pace. Just a day before the launch, everything was haywire — from messed up colours on the press kits, to embarrassing typos on sheets. It was a nightmare I wanted to wake up from. Even after spending endless hours working on this, I wasn’t sure how the next 24 hours would go. It was a make-or-break situation. But those very 24 hours taught me how nothing was impossible at Zomato. We, as a team, stayed up all night, worked together, and had everything in place by 8 am. We reached the venue at 9, tanked up on endless cups of coffee and all set to go. That was the day I experienced for the first time the sweat and tears it takes to be a Zoman. And how I, a nobody, had become a small but still essential part of Zomato to help us reach the pinnacle of success.

While carving our niche in India, we also launched our first international market — Dubai. I wasn’t a part of that project, but being a Zoman, I still take a lot of pride in saying “yes, we made it!”. Starting from 4 cities in India to 23 countries globally now, we have come a long way; even Alexander probably didn’t expect to conquer the world in such a short span of time.


Ever felt so cold that you thought you could freeze if you remained still for some time? December was quite an ordeal for those who remember. If it were possible, we would all have bundled up in blankets with personal heaters and gone off to sleep. But that isn’t how we run things at Zomato. Everyone is so passionate about what they do, and with unmatched levels of commitment. One such example of this was when we pulled off ticketing for New Year’s Eve events. It did mean forgoing our own NYE but the sheer exhilaration we felt achieving what we did was so much more meaningful.

Location: Sector 44, Gurgaon
Date:
July, 2014

After more than a couple of years in the Marketing team at Zomato, I finally thought to myself — is this it? Is this the most I can contribute here? Has my learning curve come to an end? And then, as it does to people so often, Zomato proved me wrong. I had forgotten that this company thinks with a different perspective. Any other person in my place would have just thought of quitting and moving to newer pastures. The culture of Zomato is so unique, and that is why it is difficult to replicate. Even people who leave it can’t help reminiscing their time here. At Zomato, you get to share your dreams and desires unlike anywhere else. It takes into account your passion and willingness to work in a certain field. And there I was, once again, talking to Deepi about the direction my career was moving in.

Deepi: What is the one thing that will make you stay at Zomato?

Me: Tech, and the product design team. I want to try my hands at UI/UX. Do you think I can succeed at that?

Deepi: I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. That is for you to discover. All I can assure is that we’ll throw you in the deep end of the pool as a fresher, and see if you want to explore your potential in this field. You may have to work harder, teach yourself, or maybe work at a speed of 10x. Try it out, and let’s review in a month.

And that’s how I started my second innings at Zomato, in the product team.

Location: Home
Date: 31st May, 2016

As I recall my journey from a fresh NIFT graduate to being branded a Zoman these five years, Zomato made me dig deep and find the best in me.

I remember people asking me — “What made you stay at Zomato this long? Did you never give a thought to joining elsewhere? Or doing something of your own?” I wouldn’t say doubts never crept up. I’d be lying if I did.

Zomato for me is my home away from home. I spend most of my waking hours at work, and I have no complaints at all. I’ve seen it grow brick by brick, and it’s something I’m really attached to. Of course, there have been times when I have had a difference of opinion with some of my colleagues, some of whom have moved on. Had I been in their shoes, I may have felt the same way they did. But fortunately or unfortunately, my experiences at Zomato have given me a very different perspective on things. I have learned that life will keep throwing rocks at you, but you can either get hurt by them or use them as paperweights.

I have worked with so many different sets of people over the past five years. Some are still here, and some have left to explore new horizons. Those who’ve stayed will agree with me that life at Zomato has always been a roller coaster ride. But we’re strapped in, and we’re having the ride of our lives.


Want to see more of what Kanika does? Check out her work on Dribbble!

This article was first published on Medium.

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