Why are India’s startups bringing Steve Jobs, Coco Chanel, and Shakespeare to the office?

Fit into the culture.
Fit into the culture.
Image: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
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It’s not just people. A company’s culture can be discerned from even inanimate elements like the office halls, walls, pillars, walkways, and boardrooms.

For instance, earlier this year, when Uber sought to give itself an image makeover. Among other things, it symbolically renamed its conference hall the Peace Room, in place of the earlier War Room.

Indian internet companies, too, take nomenclature quite seriously. Be it e-commerce major Flipkart or e-payments firm Paytm or space startup Team Indus, they all thoughtfully choose in-house themes, ensuring that these reflect the company’s values and aspirations.

On the face of it, this may seem overindulgent, experts believe it helps build a company’s ethos. “Rituals and routines can play a role in developing an organisational culture by creating narratives within the firm,” said Suresh Bhagavatula, faculty at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. “Some talent may join startups because of these rituals and routines.”

So here’s what some of India’s best-known young companies are doing to give themselves a quirky, contemporary feel.


Room themes: Icons of various fields (The Beatles, Steve Jobs, Satyajit Ray, Isaac Newton, Andy Warhol, Leo Tolstoy, William Shakespeare, and Ernest Hemingway).

The core theme for various rooms at Flipkart’s Bengaluru headquarters is “human greatness,” a company official said. ”We believe that inspiration can be drawn from many aspects around us, but the ones that we closely relate to are human achievements,” Satheesh KV, director, Total Rewards (an employee rewards programme) at Flipkart, told Quartz. The wide range of fields reflects the company’s employee diversity, Satheesh said.

Team Indus

Room themes: Space missions (Mangalyaan, Voyager, Pathfinder, Pioneer, and Challenger) and inspirational words (Aspire, Believe, and Create).

In October 2015, when Team Indus moved to its new Bengaluru office, marketing head Sheelika Ravishankar took it upon herself to pick the names. “Everyone who works at Team Indus was a space nerd while growing up, so these names keep the magic alive for them,” Ravishankar said. “Many a times, when we have visitors, they request to be photographed with the doors carrying these names.”


Room themes: Fashion designers (Coco Chanel, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Gucci), sports legends (Pele, Roger Federer, Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Schumacher), technologists and inventors (Barbara Liskov, Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey, James Gosling, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison), showbiz stars (Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Nicholson, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg), and brands (Apple, Coca-Cola, Mercedes, BMW, Disney, and Google)

In 2016, the Flipkart-owned e-tailer named several of its meeting rooms after women achievers to symbolise gender diversity. ”As a technology-led fashion e-commerce organisation, we draw inspiration from various sources and that is how we have named our meeting rooms,” a Myntra spokesperson said. “It adds a lot of fun and a sense of style to our workplace… Each room is also designed to depict the name through curated pics, themes, and colours, which add to the glamour of the office space.”


Room themes: Cricket stadiums (Lord’s, The Oval, Old Trafford, and Chinnaswamy) and locations from the Game of Thrones (Winterfell, Westeros, Pyke, and Highgarden).

One of the world’s largest online recruitment firms, Indeed.com, has offices in 60 countries. Whenever the US-based company opens one, it leaves the theme to the local employees. Indeed believes this brings in a sense of belongingness among employees. One meeting room in its Bengaluru office is named Chinnaswamy, after the cricket stadium that can be seen from the window there.

“Creative themes add flavour to the sometimes banal work life. This reminds the employees that they are not just choosing an employer, but a way of life,” said Sashi Kumar, managing director at Indeed India.


Room themes: World cities (London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, among others).

These names at the the company’s office in Delhi NCR symbolise Paytm’s ambition. ”Every meeting room is named after an important city in the world. It symbolises ‘built in India, built for the world,'” Paytm senior vice-president Shankar Nath said. “It inspires us to widen our horizons, and develop products and solutions that have universal appeal.”