Zomato has a “deskless” office so that employees never get too complacent

Members of the tech team in Zomato’s Gurgaon office.
Members of the tech team in Zomato’s Gurgaon office.
Image: Zomato
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Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal says it took six years to define his company’s culture. From the moment he founded the restaurant listing and review site in his New Delhi apartment in 2008, he’s been laser-focused on growth. Today, his message to his 750 employees is clear: stay in startup mode.

“It’s very hard to articulate a culture,” says Upasana Nath, the company’s 35th employee and regional director for the Southeast Asian market.Everything is hustle. Early on this year we moved to a five-day workweek. We were running six days the last couple years.”

The ecommerce company’s New Delhi headquarters is a “deskless” office, similar to software company Valve, where no one has a fixed desk. Without a permanent desk, says Nath, you can never get too complacent.

Goyal tells Quartz that the company’s “deskless” culture is largely symbolic, indicating to employees that they need to be flexible in terms of roles, locations, and reporting structures. “We still have that very early startup culture where everybody is able to do everything,” he says.

That ethos rings true among employees, whom the company calls Zomans. On job ratings and review site Glassdoor, many describe Zomato as a place where “employees eat-sleep-breathe Zomato!” Most new hires, who are university graduates, are asked to change their Facebook photos to incorporate a Zomato logo. One former employee shared his disapproval of the policy on Quora, to which Goyal responded in a lengthy post saying that while it’s not a mandatory practice, employees should be the company’s biggest brand evangelists. “If they are ashamed to put their work in front of their names within their personal networks,” he wrote, “well, they should not be doing that work.”

Zomato generated around $5 million in revenue in its most recent financial year, primarily from advertising, and raised a $37 MM Series D in late 2013, which it’s using to focus on global expansion. It’s currently in 13 countries and has plans to expand to 22 more in the next two years. Goyal will double the size of his workforce to 1,500 in the next year and just launched the first of what will be a series of acquisitions.

Defining a company culture is good for branding and talent acquisition. “As you get bigger and get funding, you have the luxury of being able to treat people better,” says William Pearce, a consultant for Western companies entering the Indian ecommerce space.

While the company has always had aggressive sales targets, its culture was more relaxed in its earlier days, when Zomato was called Foodiebay. Employees—including Goyal, who once described his work style as “more an aberration than inspiration“—had flexible schedules and would start their days whenever they wanted. “Back then, I thought I was working smart,” Goyal tells Quartz. “I think I’ll say the same thing three years from now. The biggest thing that’s changed is there is this urgent sense of prioritization.”