Once upon a time, there was a guy who heard about Zomato being one of the coolest companies in town, with an office situated in a farmhouse – that had a pool and a big garden! In August 2013, he showed up for an interview. First of all, the place did not look like an office. His interview went well and he joined Zomato’s Marketing Team.
No points for guessing – I was that guy.
Almost everybody in the office claimed to be a foodie. I knew one thing about myself – I wasn’t a foodie. I still remember what one of my future peers told me in an interview – “whether you know it or not, everyone’s a foodie.”
The Marketing Team made all the ‘cool’ stuff you saw everywhere. The people in my team were beyond amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Back then, every graphic designer I knew, had only one dream — to work at Zomato and make those quirky social media posts. I was passionate about animation, and used to think of everything in motion. But here, all ideas started with the word minimal. People were crazy about “minimal design”.
I still remember the first marketing creative I made for Zomato. The whole team received individual briefs from Akshar Pathak to make anything which can be cool. I don’t know how many articles I must have read that day. I was scribbling and taking notes when suddenly I landed on a quote by Steve Jobs: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” I thought to myself, “But why when there’s Zomato?” I immediately jumped into execution mode. Next day, when I presented my work to Akshar. For the record, it is impossible to impress him. But no thanks to any graphic or illustration, it did great.
Those who understand animation would know how much effort actually goes into making them. If I have to explain in simple words, a 5-min Tom & Jerry episode would roughly have 7,000 individual images. And then the render time, and all the jing bang that you have to do to come up with something presentable. (or maybe, I am not that skilled in animation, after all).
But with minimalism as one of the core philosophies of our marketing team, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop creating stuff. Akshar asked me whether I was on something. Akshar and Shantanu (a.k.a. Shanty – the coolest guy I ever met in Zomato) were my go-to people. I am sure, they kept a plastic bag to throw up every time I would take an idea to them.
Akshar would either say, “kya bakwas hai ye” or “ye bohat mast hai abhi daalte hai ise”.
My worst nightmare happened two years later when Akshar decided to join AIB. And I thought Akshar doesn’t slog like the rest of us, honestly. I was under the impression that he only makes cool creatives and writes jokes on Twitter. Most people still think so. But I was wrong. As soon as he was out of Zomato, Zomans started reaching out to me from all corners of the world (20+ countries) we were present in – to get their work done. I felt like a juggler who’s spinning 5 plates. And then people just started throwing more plates at my face. And that was when I realised how much Akshar handles by himself when he is not writing lame jokes on Twitter, or coming up with viral social media campaigns.
The biggest plate I had to cater to was the 2015 Zomato Restaurant Summit. Our Restaurant Summits are a gathering of carefully curated restaurant owners, senior marketing professionals, and industry strategists. They are the nation’s biggest networking event for restaurants and F&B businesses.
It was being hosted in 8 cities across India, Portugal and Turkey. And I was supposed to build every collateral. One man army. Me. Lol. One city alone would have a few dozen graphics to be printed, sometimes with little variations between them. Not to forget, we were short on time too. The only thing keeping me together was mugs of coffee.
That’s just the story of how I created everything in a day.
And imagine when on the day of the Summit, you realise that you have printed the wrong certificates for restaurant awards. Yeah, we had put the “Bangalore” under the award certificates for restaurants in Pune.
This had to be fixed. I felt like a guy sitting at the end of a gun, ready to be shot at. Somehow, and ‘where there’s a will, there is a way’, we found a way to fix everything in a couple of hours, and reframed all the certificates. It was an assembly line of Zomans fixing this with us – but it was indeed the best team building activity I have ever been a part of.
We finally pulled a great restaurant summit – in all the cities. Everything spotlessly accurate and clean.
I had to take a mini vacation after the Summit got over.. hahaha. I had learned a lot in that one month than in my last job (where I worked for more than a year).
Fortunately, Akshar got bored with AIB and returned a couple of months later while those plates kept moving. I don’t know how many I am juggling right now. But I am determined to not drop even a single one of them. The way I see it, they are all made of glass, and have to be handled carefully.
I believe that one should find a place to work where they can be challenged every day. I complete six years at Zomato very soon. I don’t believe in looking back to see how far I have come. I keep my head high to see how far I can still go. There is so much to improve. There is so much to learn. So much more food to try.
I don’t call myself successful either. Nobody can measure success. I just wake up every morning, rub the sleep off my eyes, work-out, and show up for work.
You learn a lot at Zomato and I am lucky to remember a lot of these lessons. One of the most important lessons I have learned here is that you and your work are two different ideas. You should never take anything personally. Don’t get attached to your ideas. It’s foolish to get attached to your ideas and lose your objectivity.
We should all learn to take all the feedback with a smile, (stab that person in your head), and work even harder upon improving yourself. It’s not about proving to the other person that you are improving. It’s about yourself – it is up to you to learn and improve – for your own sake. Every critic should be a reminder for you to get better.
Right now, I work with a large team. But I don’t see myself as a manager. We hate that word here. Because managers are not supposed to be managers, they are supposed to be leaders. That’s how Deepi drives the culture at Zomato. The biggest example is he himself. A few weeks ago, I was caught up with something else and missed out on his message for an important edit in the messaging on some marketing collateral. It was urgent, and since I didn’t respond, he did it himself. The work shouldn’t suffer because of somebody’s presence or absence. And this is just one tiny example. I can only aspire to be a leader, not like him though, but a better version of myself. And someday, soon, I will.