Anchanto is a successful and rapidly growing e-commerce logistics company based in Singapore. They provide solutions for e-commerce challenges of all shapes and sizes. Most recently, the company raised S$16.6 million in their Series C round, and has been on an unstoppable growth trajectory – growing both their teams and their customer base.
We talk to their CEO Vibhav Dabhade on how Anchanto's team members across multiple countries came together and supported each other during the COVID-19 pandemic, after the sudden switch to working from home. Of course, we also talk to him about swag and corporate merchandise, and why he thinks it's an important element for both internal and external marketing.
Thanks for your time Vaibhav. We'd like to start by asking how a growing startup like Anchanto kept the company culture going while the majority of the staff were working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic?
With teams present in 7 countries, internal online communication has been an integral part of our working habits at Anchanto for quite some time now.
However, we’ve always had a strong work-from-office culture in every location. With teams growing steadily, it always felt natural to be all together at the office. I believe it is what allowed us to create a great culture and cohesion.
But the crisis surely has shaken our assumptions and pushed us to innovate and change in some ways. I believe there are 2 main parts that can explain how we managed to keep a very strong culture despite the crisis and work from home.
First, what we built before the crisis, then, the way we answered this sudden change.
If we wanted Anchanto to succeed in a competitive and fast-moving market, we needed to build a disruptive company. We needed to be able to think and operate differently from the other well-established tech giants. Also, with high ambition and growth, you need to surround yourself with the right people, trust them, give them independence, and ensure they’re agile. Some of our colleagues have been in the company since day one. They have grown into their role, and gained more responsibilities and opportunities. I do believe this mindset, and the management values we built prior to 2020 enabled a smooth transition to work from home. Everybody knew what they had to do, could keep the same level of involvement and work quality, even from a distance.
Then, I think we succeeded in keeping our culture intact (and even enriching it), thanks to some operational elements. First, to ensure a smooth communication and keep everybody connected to the company, we equipped ourselves with new tools like messaging apps and other HR software. We also implemented regular townhalls where we’ve been using an anonymous questioning tool (Pigeonhole) – where team members can ask questions openly which helped us start honest conversations. In parallel, we sensitised the managers to make time to talk with their teams, enquire about how they are coping with the situation. Mental health is obviously one of the utmost priorities for us. Ensuring everybody’s in the right place can only benefit the rest of the company.
Very quickly we also gave our teams an allowance to equip themselves with the right tools to work from home. Nobody was prepared to spend so much time outside the office and most of our teammates couldn’t work without the right environment. The last action we took was to extend the healthcare plans to all family members. The first concern for everyone is to ensure their families are safe and protected. We always tried to convey family values at Anchanto and it only felt natural to take this initiative.
I would also add that when the reality of the COVID hit, we quickly organised a townhall, and made a commitment to the team that nobody would lose her or his job because of COVID, and we repeated this throughout the year. I’m proud and happy to have held onto this commitment and even better, we kept hiring!
That’s great to hear! Props to you and the team. As we talk about company culture, in your opinion, how important is branded company merchandise in building company culture and brand awareness?
I think first we need to define what “company culture” is. The culture of a company is not something you pull out of thin air. It is the expression of what your teams live by. The moment you join a company, you become its ambassador and thus represent its culture.
Of course, as a leader, you will be the one setting the path. The way you will behave and the values you choose to hold dear are going to shape the culture of your company, as they will be absorbed and relayed by your teammates.
If these values are really aligned among your teammates, each employee will be proud of showing it and wearing your colours through many forms (clothes, stationery and so on).
I think branded merchandise is extremely important to reinforce this feeling; the sentiment that we are part of a community, that we all work for and with each other. Your first objective should not be the promotional aspect, but a mark of appreciation and team spirit.
Well said! What is the one most important thing you consider when creating merchandise for your brand?
The name Anchanto comes from our objective to create an enchanting experience for our users. In an environment where all the software used by our customers have poor UX, UI and design – we put in a lot of effort to offer products built with the end user's behaviours in mind. We want to show that enterprise software can be extremely powerful, yet simple and nice to use.
So, when choosing and creating merchandise, I try to have the same mindset, and always wonder: if this wasn't my company, would I use this equipment, would I like to wear this piece of branded clothing?
Also, in the same way you build a product by listening to your users, you build your company culture and merchandise by listening to what they like. So, I think it is very important to include team members when finalising a selection or a design of brand merchandise, to make sure they’re onboard and they love it.
What is your favourite piece of swag that Anchanto has created to date?
We are currently designing a whole new range of branded products as we are increasing our hiring efforts. We are creating a welcome pack for all new joiners and I’m pretty excited about the designs we are finalising.
Looking at our past pieces, I think the polo shirt we designed for the launch of the new version of SelluSeller (our OMS) is my favourite. This launch was an important milestone for us, the result of a long and intense effort that involved the whole company. Everybody got their shirts and wore it proudly.