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Indian Startups’ Organizational Culture: Founders’ Foundation or Future Orientation?

ET Cases, 12 pages
AUTHOR(S) : Vandana Jayakumar and Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

Case Preview

Indian Startups’ Organizational Culture: Founders’ Foundation or Future Orientation?


“Culture is an abstraction, yet the forces that are created in social and organizational situations that derive from culture are powerful. If we don’t understand the operation of these forces we become victim of them.”

– Edgar H. Schein, Former Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management

Myntra is 100% acquired by Flipkart, confirms Sachin Bansal
Zomato’s India business breaks even
Phanindra Sama of redBus says best is yet to come, after acquisition
An entrepreneur from Aurangabad who deserves applause – Clear Car Rental closes second round of funding over dinner!
ideaForge’s UAV comes handy in Uttarakhand
The story of Rootwork’s early success
Rotimatic: Rotis at a click of a button
Shared cab service Cubito launches in Bangalore
Meet Oravel’s 19-year-old founder Ritesh Agarwal
How did Myntra ship orders in less than an hour?
Low-cost notebooks from two IIT Roorkee grads – Adister story

And the list goes on.

These are the inspiring stories of startups in India in 2013-2014 featuring on media platform for entrepreneurs that promotes entrepreneurial ecosystem in India). India’s startup scene is bustling with activity. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, India saw a wave of entrepreneurial ventures being set up. With a decently developed funding ecosystem – with angel investors, incubators, venture capitalists, accelerators, mentors, etc., – the Indian startups have progressed quite dramatically over the past decade. Many of these startups were initiated by the millennials and majority of the workforce in these startups comprises of millennials. One of the reasons behind the increasing interest among the millennials in working for startups is their organizational culture. Indian startups are known for their innovative organizational cultures. Needless to say, the Indian startups’ organizational cultures are in one way alter egos of the founders, reflecting their age and heuristics. Many, however, wonder would these cultures prepare them for demanding and challenging times ahead?..............

Indian Startups

As though to prove the adage ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’, Indian startups’ number had been ballooning during and after 2008 financial crisis. Interestingly, most of the entrepreneurs are first generation entrepreneurs. Almost 6 years later, the entrepreneurial culture seems to have come of age. By 2013, an average of two new companies were being set up in India every day. While, InMobi, and are startup success stories of the past, some other startups that sprung up in the recent past include

Organizational Culture

Edgar H. Schein, a former Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who has significantly contributed to the field of organizational development, defines organizational culture as, “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group has learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”.............

Indian Startups and Innovative Organizational Practices

Startups have expanded the range of fringe benefits that organizations grant to their employees. Benefits such as providing free meals to employees and flexi-timing have become commonplace. The startups are almost pampering their employees – evident from the range of free services made available for the employees at offices – in-house tai-chi instructors, marathon trainers, chefs, late night poker sessions and disco nights..............

Organizational Culture and Workplace Design

Culture also shapes an organization’s office space. Like the way cultures differ across companies, so do the workspaces. Many of the startups have designed their offices to reflect the organizational culture., a startup in Delhi, provides a social shopping platform for the Indian women. The office environment of Limeroad has been designed to reflect the shopping portal’s business philosophy...........

Employee Engagement at Startups (Shopclues), an e-commerce startup, engages its employees with an employee engagement module called as ‘4Ts’ – wherein the four Ts stand for team, technique, time and task. Employees choose their own projects and their own teams. Like other startups, when engaged in heavy work, the conference room wears the look of a college dormitory with people working on portable mattresses instead of fancy office furniture, enjoying their favorite food as they work.............

Millennials and Their Workplace Expectations

Workforce is generally categorized into four – traditionalists, baby-boomers, Gen-X and Gen-Y (millennials) (Exhibit V). These four different categories of workforce have different characteristics and work values.

Millennials started entering the workforce at the turn of the century. Millennials are expected to account for 50% of the global workforce by 2020...............

Startup Cultures: Would they be Thumbsup?

While the startups are providing a variety of perks and benefits to their employees as a part of their organizational culture, critics argue if these startups can continue providing these perks cost-effectively as these companies grow. Moreover, can companies be assured of complete employee engagement with these organizational cultures?........

Assignment Questions

I. What factors do you think have been contributing to the burgeoning growth of Indian startups in recent times? Using PESTEL framework, can you analyze the enabling or contributing factors?

II. What are the four types of organizational cultures and what according to you can be the industries that are suited for each of the four types of organizational cultures?

III. .........................


Exhibit I: Profiles of Select Indian Startups’ Founders

Exhibit II: Prevalence of E-commerce-based Startups

Exhibit III: Benefits for Employees at Google

Exhibit IV: The Top Three Factors that Motivate Employees to Join Startups

Exhibit V: Workplace Dynamics of the Four Generations

Exhibit VI: Millennials’ Characteristics

Exhibit VII: Drawbacks of Google’s Organizational Culture

Teaching Note Preview

Indian Startups’ Organizational Culture: Founders’ Foundation or Future Orientation?



This case study enables a discussion on the concept of organizational culture in the backdrop of the unique organizational culture of startups in India. It helps discuss as to how the artifacts help in shaping the underlying organizational culture. The startups’ organizational culture is largely driven by the values, beliefs and assumptions of the founders and is in sync with the workplace expectations of the millennials, the predominant workforce at startups. No wonder, there is an increasing incidence of fresh B-school graduates opting to work for startups. However, does the startup organizational culture as seen at some of the Indian startups prepare the organization for challenging times ahead? Given how Edgar H. Schein defined organizational culture, startups have a long way to go before they can prove the worthiness of their unique organizational cultures.

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding/Before the Classroom Discussion

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding (PCU) material is the background material that would aid immensely in mapping the decision areas of this case study and bring a synthesis amongst the relevant concepts. The participants/students should be encouraged to read this material to benefit from the broader perspectives outlined in the case study.

  • • Stephen P. Robbins, et al., “Organizational Culture”, Organizational Behavior, 15th Edition, Dorling Kindersley (India) Pvt. Ltd., 2013 – To develop an understanding on the concept and connotations of organizational culture


The students were asked to read the following three sections of the book chapter in particular:

  • 1. Section 3: Creating and Sustaining Culture
  • 2. Section 4: How Employees Learn Culture
  • 3. Section 6: Creating a Positive Organizational Culture


Expected Learning Outcomes

  • • Understanding the meaning of organizational culture (values, beliefs and assumptions) and its manifestation
  • • Identifying the four types of organizational cultures and debating on their efficacy • Understanding some of the Indian startups’ innovative organizational practices and discussing how they help shape the organizational culture
  • • Analyzing Indian startups’ organizational culture vis-à-vis Edgar H. Schein’s definition of organizational culture


Positioning/Case Setting

This case study can be suitably used in the following courses:

  • • Concept of organizational culture in Organizational Behavior course – To understand how cultures are created, how employees learn culture and how can an organization create a positive culture
  • • The concept of ‘building a startup culture’ in Entrepreneurship course


Assignment Questions

  • I. What factors do you think have been contributing to the burgeoning growth of Indian startups in recent times? Using PESTEL framework, can you analyze the enabling or contributing factors?
  • II. What are the four types of organizational cultures and what according to you can be the industries that are suited for each of the four types of organizational cultures?
  • III. How are organizational cultures formed? How do top management, selection process (of new recruits) and socialization influence organizational culture? What is the role of artifacts in shaping up an organizational culture?
  • IV. .................




Exhibit (TN)-I: Elements of an Organizational Culture

Exhibit (TN)-II: Four Types of Organizational Culture

Rs 0
Product code: OB-1-0029, OB-1-0029A


This case study is suitable to teach the concepts of organizational culture in general and startup organizational culture in particular as it focusses on the unique organizational cultures of startups in India, evident from their organizational practices and workplace designs. An organization's culture is manifested in the form of artifacts - physical structures, rituals and ceremonies, stories and legends and language. Apparently, the organizational culture of the start-ups in India is in sync with the workplace expectations of the millennials. An increasing number of fresh B-school graduates are also developing an affinity for a startup career. However, will the startups be able to sustain their unique organizational cultures over a period of time? Will these cultures help them sail through tough times as well?

Pedagogical Objectives

  • To understand the concept and connotations of organizational culture and discuss on the efficacy of four types of organizational cultures
  • To understand some of Indian startups' innovative organizational practices and discuss on their role in shaping up organizational culture
  • To discuss and debate on how artifacts, physical structures, rituals and ceremonies, language, stories, etc., shape an organizational culture, especially in the context of Indian startups and juxtapose the same in Edgar Schein's definition

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