The Importance of Investing in Company Culture in the Age of Unicorns

India has entered a whole new high as one of the top countries with over 100 unicorns.

Over the past two years, despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, Indian start-ups have experienced unprecedented growth and momentum. This left many people wondering, is there a secret sauce behind such innovation?

The answer would be- Yes. An interesting idea that emerges if we observe the overall momentum of the industry is that all unicorn brands invest deeply in creating their mojo. Brands stand out in their specific business sectors, thanks to a targeted or differentiated corporate culture, designed to meet their aspirations. Take, for example, a culture of innovation, creation, and collaboration that deep tech/AI/new tech start-ups bring. Or the concern for the environment, society and governance that many brands incorporate. Some of these unicorns have built solutions that focus on local issues or work at the community level to increase participation. They have built models of shared success with benefits and growth opportunities for employees, delivery partners and customers. This is what differentiates them and intrinsically contributes to the success of brands and especially of a brand capable of positioning itself as an employer of choice.

So what are some of the key learnings that we can inspire more companies to invest in company culture?

Invest in talent and brand image Corporate culture

Talent is a key ingredient necessary for the success of any business. We all talk about the various benefits, but investing in talent goes beyond monetary or convenience incentives. The Great Place to Work®, India study reveals that the innovation velocity rate assesses an organization’s current ability to innovate. A simple measure of an organization’s capacity for innovation is determined by the number of employees who consistently experience meaningful opportunities to innovate versus those who find these opportunities missing, absent, or even threatening.

In fact, with the help of technology, successful unicorns offer innovative and creative practices that can benefit an individual on a deeper level. For example, many offer shared success models quite early in their careers to talented resources. Workshops and experiential opportunities allow employees to try new ideas without fear of failure. They also offer blue-collar training opportunities around delivery, logistics, or front-line staff that can help them learn and progress both upwards and sideways in their careers.

From “I” to “we”

Collaboration is more than a buzzword in corporate culture. Any new business must adapt quickly to internal and external market pressures to survive, a startup culture typically promotes business agility and adaptability as key virtues.

In this new and disrupted economic and business landscape, innovation is a priority for today’s leaders. Traditional innovation strategies have become dormant and with the new emerging workforce, business leaders must create a culture of innovation for all.

Another aspect is to recognize the employee as not being an isolated island. In the post-pandemic era, companies are investing not only in the employee, but also in their family and community. This has led to greater trust, and the sense of community and pride in the brands we work for has grown and will continue to do so this decade.

Strong models

Any Unicorn today cannot be separated from its leadership – especially the founding team. They serve as exemplary role models and pioneers who have shown the courage to take risks or venture into virgin industries and technologies. They are followed by the first group of employees who believed them. They too are role models for later members joining teams and organizations. This is why role modeling is such a crucial part of corporate culture. Senior management must continue to inspire their teams and employees.

They must seize opportunities and participate with the rest of the organization at all levels by encouraging and motivating them. Clear guidelines that ensure meritocracy, rewards and recognition, balance between freedom and rules, and equality for all are predefined that leaders must constantly define.

For a business, especially in the growth phase, your culture is your brand – not only to current employees, but also to future employees, as well as existing and potential customers. A positive and valued culture helps set the company apart, helping it stand out from its competitors. The current Unicorns make excellent case studies in this regard – they bring to the table all that is good…talent, business promise as well as investor validation. But, even so, out of the 100 unicorns, only 27 are considered profitable. Will they be able to build lasting legendary brands – it will depend on who can consciously build differentiated and agile cultures based on intentional collaboration and nurturing a strong sense of belonging.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.