HR: Culture Cultivation in a Start-up

Under start up 101 Protima Sharma (Founder director of PeopleWiz) offered a lecture on Culture cultivation: crux of start-up business model. The lecture was directed towards how a start up or an budding entrepreneur should implement strong strategies and policies in their respective organisation.
Protima showed a video to begin the talk, the video was about Hotel Taj and how they handled the crisis during the terrorist attack that took place on 26th November 2008. Taj employees instead of abandoning their posts and evacuating to safety stayed back offered the guests protection and safe passages off the hotel during the attack. The escaped/rescued guests returned to their posts in the safe areas in and around hotel and participated and helped in the rescue operations and handling the communications in any way they can. The video set the tone for the talk as the viewers were blown away by the commitment and dedication highlighted in the video.

Following are the key points that were pointed out by Protima in her talk highlighting the key concepts that should be at the heart of the organisational structure.
– The organisation should always have the right attitude, integrity and devotion. If these qualities are kept at the core then the organisation tends to be strong.
– All the new recruits should undergo extensive in house training to have a clear cut understanding of the organisation.
– Every worker should be given an immediate (under 48 hr) reward by the immediate supervisors post appreciation of his work by a customer.
– There is no good or bad culture in a organisation, there is only strong and weak culture. Weak culture can set an organisation back because of the cascading effect it might have on the other processes.
– The best organisations empower their employees, making them independent and autonomous. The employees will make mistakes but if the mistakes are within the limits then letting them sort it out themselves (with the organisational head knowing) helps them have more confidence in the structure of the institution and improves their productivity. Micro-managing can be more destructive than constructive in the long term.
– Always be aware of the strength and weaknesses of yourself and your organisation. This helps in strategising for opportunities and threats that you mind endure.
– Always be sure what you and your organisation want to be remembered for, what legacy you want to create.

Protima highlighted examples like Apple is famous for their design, Dell for their supply chain, Body-shop for environmental protection and Volvo for safety. In addition she added that airbnb has a wow factor which is their values and that is what separates them from the rest.

In summary, Protima said a good culture in an organisation is based on 5 key things.
i. Vision : purpose of the company
ii. Values : guidelines for moving towards this better purpose
iii. Practices : correct practices drive the values
iv. People : core people sharing the same drive
v. Narrative : need to have a unique story to tell

As additional comments, Protima suggested some books that helped her figure out certain crux and crannies of the culture cultivation.

These books are:
i. Responsive Management
ii. Crucial Conversations
iii. Maverick
iv. Reinventing organisation

v. team of teams
vi. The quiet

Meeting with Dr. Dilip Ranade

After visiting the K. K. Nag industries and seeing their application in using the DRDO technology the team was curious to discuss with an expert in the field. The discussion was to be focussed on how sound the technology really is and how substantiated the claims of the technology providers are.

We talked to Dr. Dilip Ranade, an ex-director and scientist at Agharkar Research Institute, Pune and now an independent consultant. His expertise and research areas are in the areas such as anaerobic bacteria and methanogenic archaea, Petroleum biotechnology, Bioenergy and Anaerobic treatment of industrial waste-water. With more than 30 years of research and application level work in the field his inputs were very analytical and valuable.

Following are the highlights of the meeting with Dr. Ranade and SIIP team.
– There are no technologies in India at present which are studied and vetted end to end. The focus of all the technologies is on breaking of the solid or faecal waste into liquid (effluents) and gaseous (Methane) components.
However, a detailed analysis of these components is missing and needs to be conducted and documented.
– A lot more research needs to be done to analyse the ability of the bacterial inoculum on various types of faecal waste and how the inoculum deal with the pathogens (if any) present in the waste.
– A detailed comparative study of all the technologies present in the market need to be carried out scientifically and the reported to the public for a better clarity and understanding of the pros and cons of the respective technologies.
– The lack of study stops the treatment units from putting in a secondary treatment system to deal with the effluent discharge making sure it is harmless to be released in the environment without harm.
– A overall standardisation of the inoculum concentration to be used for the bio-digester is not ideal and an optimal concentration can be used provided enough work has been done.
– A bio-gas digester should have a digestion cycle of at least 60 days, the digesters implemented by municipal corporations have a very small digestion cycle of 20 or so days will not get any desired output and volume of gas generated will be very low.

Managing Crucial Conversations: Talking when stakes are high

About the Speaker –

Protima Sharma is Managing Partner at PeopleWiz Consulting Firm. Founded in February 2011, PeopleWiz Consulting is a management consulting firm, dually headquartered in Pune & Singapore, focused on providing Organization Building solutions for growing organizations. She has done MBA in Human Resources from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. After getting a good grounding in HR while working with Thermax & Business Transformation consulting while working with TCS, she founded PeopleWiz.

Below article is extract from the lecture given by Protima Sharma as a part of Startups 101 Lecture Series at Venture Center, Pune.


Why Are Communication Skills Important?

Communication is a most important skill. Communication skills are not only needed in daily personal life, but also required in the profession, workplace and in business. Communication is the heart of every organisation. Everything you do in the workplace results from communication. Reading, writing and listening carefully are the three most important communication skills. Good communication skills require you to being able to listen to others. In our busy, world, sometimes we forget that simple fact.

This video from Big Bang Theory is the best example of poor communication and social skills.

What are Crucial Conversations?

Discussions where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. These could be day-to-day occurrences that affect lives, and in many cases, these are pivotal conversations whose results may be extremely significant.

  • Opinions vary: You’re talking with your boss about a possible promotion. She thinks you’re not ready; you think you are.
  • Stakes are high: You’re in a meeting with four coworkers and you’re trying to pick a new marketing strategy. You’ve got to do something different or your company isn’t going to hit its annual goals.
  • Emotions run strong: You have just completed the annual salary revision and given best possible salary raise according to your ability to pay. Your highest paid employee walks in and resigns because he feels the salary raise is poor and unjustified.

Why can’t we handle these conversations?

People generally choose to at least try to handle such situations as well as they can. However most of the times they don’t do very well, for the following reasons:

  • Physiologically, human beings are designed to handle stressful situations with fists and feet, more than intelligence and attentiveness.
  • Most of such situations spring up unexpectedly, and most of us can come up with only a knee-jerk response to them because of the pressure.

The consequences of either avoiding or messing up these conversations can be severe and can affect all aspects of life – personal and professional.

Protima also talked about how to prepare for Crucial Conversations. She explained 7 ways for it. But most important thing is first find out your style of behaving and talking and ask your friends for feedback.

1. Get Unstuck

Spot the conversations that are keeping you stuck and ask critical questions to yourself: What conversations am I not holding or not holding well? Am I holding the right crucial conversations? Find out your style under stress and then work on your skills to improve.

2. Start with your heart

  • Work on me first, Us second. Remember that the only person that you can directly control is yourself.
  • Focus on what you really want. When you find yourself moving towards silence or violence, stop and pay attention to your motives
  • Refuse the Fool’s Choice. Watch yourself, see if you are telling yourself to choose between peace and harmony, winning and losing.

3. Make it safe

Make it safe, when it is safe you can say anything. Establish mutual purpose and show mutual respect. Say you are sorry when you have done something wrong.

4. Master Your Stories: How to stay in Dialogue when you are angry, scared or hurt

Stories provide our rationale for what’s going on – Why?  Judging! What? We do it without realizing it.

5. STATE your path

Be persuasive not abrasive. Always share your facts because facts are least controversial and gives you safe beginning to start conversations.

6. Explore others path : How to listen

Be curious and listen to others honestly. You can say- “I’d really like to hear your opinion on this”.

7. And finally move to ACTION!!

Suggested Book by Protima –

  1. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan
  2. The High performance Entrepreneur by Subroto Bagchi


About the Author:  Pramod Bhurji, BIRAC Social Innovator at Venture Center, Pune

Dr. V Bhaskar’s lecture on GST organised by PIC


Pune International Centre (PIC) in association with Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries & Agriculture (MCCIA) organised a lecture on “Goods and Service Tax (GST) Revolution: Challenges and Opportunities” on 20th June, 2017. The lecture was given by Dr. V. Bhaskar, Former Special Chief Secretary, Finance Govt. of Andhra Pradesh. In the esteemed presence of Dr. Vijay Kelkar, former chairman of the 13th Finance Commission and architect of GST. The programme was chaired by Mr. Pramod Chaudhari Founder Chairman, Praj Industries Ltd., Trustee, PIC and President, MCCIA.

Profile of the speaker:
The main speaker, Dr. V Bhaskar retired from the IAS with international to state level experience on policy formulation and implementation of issues relating to public administration; issues such as finance, taxation, and energy regulation.

In the varies duties that he has performed in the past, he has been the Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission and Special Chief Secretary in the Finance Department of the Government of Andhra Pradesh. He has also worked in the International Monetary Fund at Washington DC, in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce and Industry for Government of India at New Delhi. He has also played an instrumental role in the Thirteenth Finance Commission which suggested the GST reform in first place. He has also worked as Collector and District Magistrate of Anantapur and Visakhapatnam districts in Andhra Pradesh. Prior to joining the IAS, he worked in the management cadre of the State Bank of India, specializing in credit to industries.

Dr. V. Bhaskar obtained his Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University and Masters in Science from St Stephen’s College, Delhi followed by which he also secured a PhD in Economics from the University of Hyderabad. He is also a Certificated Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers, Mumbai. During and post his academic tenure he has published a number of research papers on the topics of his professional interests which include taxation, public finance, governance and energy regulations.

Dr. Bhaskar provided insightful explanations on the need, operations and tricky parts of GST. This report is a collated version of the entire talk.


What is GST?

Goods & Services Tax is a comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax that will be levied on every value addition.

There are multiple steps an item goes through from manufacture or production to the final sale, these can be called as multiple stages. Buying of raw materials is the first stage. The second stage is production or manufacture. Then, there is the warehousing of materials. Next, comes the sale of the product to the retailer. And in the final stage, the retailer sells you – the end consumer – the product, completing its life cycle.

The various stages of the life cycle would be like this:

GST will be levied on each of these stages, which makes it a multi-stage tax on value addition. Value addition can be explained using an example.

Let us assume that a manufacturer wants to make a shirt. For this he must buy yarn. This gets turned into a shirt after manufacture. So, the value of the yarn is increased when it gets woven into a shirt. Then, the manufacturer sells it to the warehousing agent who attaches labels and tags to each shirt. That is another addition of value after which the warehouse sells it to the retailer who packages each shirt separately and invests in marketing of the shirt thus increasing its value. GST will be levied on these value additions – the monetary worth added at each stage to achieve the final sale to the end customer.

Destination-Based Taxation:

Goods and Services Tax will be levied on all transactions happening during the entire manufacturing chain. Earlier, when a product was manufactured, the centre would levy an Excise Duty on the manufacture, and then the state will add a VAT tax when the item is sold to the next stage in the cycle. Then there would be a VAT at the next point of sale.

So, earlier the pattern of tax levy was like this:

Now, Goods and Services Tax will be levied at every point of sale. Assume that the entire manufacture process is happening in Rajasthan and the final point of sale is in Karnataka. Since Goods & Services Tax is levied at the point of consumption, so the state of Rajasthan will get revenue in the manufacturing and warehousing stages, but lose out on the revenue when the product moves out Rajasthan and reaches the end consumer in Karnataka. This means that Karnataka will earn that revenue on the final sale, because it is a destination-based tax and this revenue will be collected at the final point of sale/destination which is Karnataka.

Need of GST:

A significant chunk of Dr. Bhaskar’s talk focused on the need of a unified taxation through the country because of the overly complicated pre existing structure of the taxation. As briefly discussed above currently, the Indian tax structure is divided into two – Direct and Indirect Taxes. Direct Taxes are levies where the liability cannot be passed on to someone else. An example of this is Income Tax where you earn the income and you alone are liable to pay the tax on it.

In the case of Indirect Taxes, the liability of the tax can be passed on to someone else. This means that when the shopkeeper must pay VAT on his sale, he can pass on the liability to the customer. So, in effect, the customer pays the price of the item as well as the VAT on it so the shopkeeper can deposit the VAT to the government. This means that the customer must pay not just the price of the product, but he also pays the tax liability, and therefore, he has a higher outlay when he buys an item.

This happens because the shopkeeper has paid a tax when he bought the item from the wholesaler. To recover that amount, as well as to make up for the VAT he must pay to the government, he passes the liability to the customer who has to pay the additional amount. There is currently no other way for the shopkeeper to recover whatever he pays from his own pocket during transactions and therefore, he has no choice but to pass on the liability to the customer.

Goods and Services Tax will address this issue after it is implemented. It has a system of Input Tax Credit which will allow sellers to claim the tax already paid, so that the final liability on the end consumer is decreased. Input Tax Credit is a credit an individual receives for the tax paid on the inputs used in manufacturing the product. So, if there is a 10% tax that the individual must submit to the government, he can subtract the amount he has paid in taxes at the time of purchase and submit the balance amount to the government.

The GST being unification of various taxes is another strong advantage that this new taxation system offers the Indian market.  Prior to GST, Indian markets dealt with around 46 different types of taxes. Ideally this number should be in single digit, GST has done a substantial work in getting it down to 22 in one swooping act.

Working of GST:

So essentially, Goods & Services Tax is going to have a two-pronged benefit. One, it will reduce the cascading effect of taxes, and second, by allowing input tax credit reducing the burden of taxes and prices as seen above.

When Goods and Services Tax is implemented, there will be 3 kinds of applicable Goods and Services Taxes:

CGST: where the revenue will be collected by the central government

SGST: where the revenue will be collected by the state governments for intra-state sales

IGST: where the revenue will be collected by the central government for inter-state sales

In most cases, the tax structure under the new regime will be as follows:


A dealer in Maharashtra sold goods to a consumer in Maharashtra worth ₹ 10,000. The Goods and Services Tax rate is 18% comprising CGST rate of 9% and SGST rate of 9%. In such cases the dealer collects ₹ 1800 and of this amount, ₹ 900 will go to the central government and ₹ 900 will go to the Maharashtra government.

Now, let us assume the dealer in Maharashtra had sold goods to a dealer in Gujarat worth ₹ 10,000. The GST rate is 18% comprising of CGST rate of 9% and SGST rate of 9%. In such case the dealer has to charge ₹ 1800 as IGST. This IGST will go to the Centre. There will no longer be any need to pay CGST and SGST as the dealer will get a credit in his name against this IGST which can be later claimed by the dealer while filing the suitable tax returns. 

How does GST benefit the common man:

Let us understand this with a hypothetical numerical example:

Say a shirt manufacturer pays ₹ 100 to buy raw materials. If the rate of taxes is set at 10%, and there is no profit or loss involved, then he has to pay ₹ 10 as tax. So, the final cost of the shirt now becomes ₹ (100+10=) 110.

At the next stage, the wholesaler buys the shirt from the manufacturer at ₹ 110, and adds labels to it. When he is adding labels, he is adding value. Therefore, his cost increases by say ₹ 40. On top of this, he has to pay a 10% tax, and the final cost therefore becomes ₹ (110+40=) 150 + 10% tax = ₹ 165.

Now, the retailer pays ₹ 165 to buy the shirt from the wholesaler because the tax liability had passed on to him. He has to package the shirt, and when he does that, he is adding value again. This time, let’s say his value add is ₹ 30. Now when he sells the shirt, he adds this value (plus the VAT he has to pay the government) to the final cost. So, the cost of the shirt becomes ₹ 214.5 Let us see a breakup for this:

Cost = ₹ 165 + Value add = ₹ 30 + 10% tax = ₹ 195 + ₹ 19.5 = ₹ 214.5

So, the customer pays ₹ 214.5 for a shirt the cost price of which was basically only ₹ 170 (Rs 110 + ₹ 40 + ₹ 30). Along the way the tax liability was passed on at every stage of transaction and the final liability comes to rest with the customer. This is called the ‘Cascading Effect of Taxes’ where a tax is paid on tax and the value of the item keeps increasing every time this happens.

In the case of Goods and Services Tax, there is a way to claim credit for tax paid in acquiring input. What happens in this case is, the individual who has paid a tax already can claim credit for this tax when he submits his taxes.

In our example, when the wholesaler buys from the manufacturer, he pays a 10% tax on his cost price because the liability has been passed on to him. Then he adds value of ₹ 40 on his cost price of ₹ 100 and this brings up his cost to ₹ 140. Now he has to pay 10% of this price to the government as tax. But he has already paid one tax to the manufacturer. So, this time what he does is, instead of paying Rs (10% of 140=) 14 to the government as tax, he subtracts the amount he has paid already. So, he deducts the ₹ 10 he paid on his purchase from his new liability of ₹ 14, and pays only ₹ 4 to the government. So, the ₹ 10 becomes his input credit.

When he pays ₹ 4 to the government, he can pass on its liability to the retailer. So, the retailer pays ₹ (140+14=) 154 to him to buy the shirt. At the next stage, the retailer adds value of ₹ 30 to his cost price and has to pay a 10% tax on it to the government. When he adds value, his price becomes ₹ 170. Now, if he had to pay 10% tax on it, he would pass on the liability to the customer. But he already has input credit because he has paid ₹14 to the wholesaler as the latter’s tax. So, now he reduces ₹ 14 from his tax liability of ₹ (10% of 170=) 17 and has to pay only ₹ 3 to the government. And therefore, he can now sell the shirt for ₹ (140+30+17) 187 to the customer.

In the end, every time an individual was able to claim input tax credit, the sale price for him reduced and the cost price for the person buying his product reduced because of a lower tax liability. The final value of the shirt also therefore reduced from ₹ 214.5 to ₹ 187, thus reducing the tax burden on the final customer.

In addition to the change in the pricing, GST improves the implementation of taxation stages. Now, taxation is applied in 4 main stages including:

  • Levy
  • Collection
  • Appropriation
  • Apportion

In the previous taxation scheme, different governmental bodies were performing different roles with different types of taxes without much consistency across nation. With GST reform, there is a clear cut mandate of which agencies to take care of the respective stages of the taxation process, this will cause a much harmonies procedure  leading to a very efficient management of taxation funds by the government in most coherent fashion.

Overview of GST:

GST is being implemented by the government with a clear cut purpose to achieve the following:

  1. Ease of doing business in India
  2. Promote investments (external and internal)
  3. Give rise to competitive business culture
  4. Harmonise the national marketing
  5. Cause a catalyst to the growth of India
  6. Provide a unified taxation platform for services and goods likewise

Promoting Empathy and Change Making’ – Using Real World Data & Gamification

About the Speaker: Parag Mankeekar is a medical & public health professional and an anthropologist. He is currently the founder director of Neeti Solutions, which develops simulations games and interactive learning products for societal challenges. He has closely researched on terrorism and had met terrorist groups in Afghanistan to understand how it impacts nations and lives of the common man.

Parag likes traveling and meeting different people, which helped him to fabricate different components of a real life simulation game. He is an Ashoka and Erasmus Fellow. The below article is an excerpt from the lecture given by Parag as a part of Social Innovation Lecture Series held at Venture Center, Pune.


Ever since the industrial revolution, with the introduction of machines and technology, we imagined the world would get closer and become a better place. Our needs made us inventors to seek for solutions to make our life easier and comfortable. However, this development came with a price, which was only accessible to the ones who can afford it. “ The promise of globalization was to create a win-win situation, where consumers in the rich world will get cheaper goods and people in the poor world will get jobs which will help them to get out of poverty”, says John Hilary, Executive Director War on Wants in the documentary True Cost.

During Parag’s travel to Paris, he came across Yann Arthus-Bertrand who worked on the film HUMAN. One of the speakers in the film says, “We invented a mountain of superfluous needs. You have to keep on buying, throwing away. It’s our lives we are dilapidating.”

After 275 years in the industrial revolution, the world faces challenges where 6 billion people are living in poverty, there are war and hate crimes, migrations, xenophobia, climate change and the list goes on. There is inequality in the world at every level in terms of resources, money, and talent. Why are we not able to change it?

What we forgot goes in the old Sanskrit phrase, “Vasudev Kutumbakam” which translates to “the world is one family”. This can only be achieved by having empathy.

Following are the remarks of Barack Obama to Northwestern graduates at 2006 Commencement:

“The world doesn’t just revolve around you.

There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit.  But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.”

This is what the game, ‘Real Lives’ intends to do by enabling people to experience someone else’s shoes without going to the actual place. The game events are simulated based on the authentic statistical data from over 193 countries. A user is born in the game in a different socio-economic condition at any part of the world, experiences different life events and life decision making while living a virtual life. The objective of the game is to enable people to become empathetic global citizens by the use of technology. The game is very well received and currently, ranks no. 2 on CNET.

Figure 1: Snapshot from the game ‘Real Lives’

Through his travel journeys and experiences, Parag has well-connected his passion with Real Lives which shows that if you have a purpose you can be a change maker.


About the Author: Shubham Singh is presently working as the BIRAC Social Innovator at Venture Center, Pune.