Bringing the best on board: A Leadership Hiring Manager’s Seasoned Swiggy Ride!

March 21, 2024

General Manager – Leadership Hiring, Anishka John recalls priceless wins and learnings in her journey with Swiggy for around eight years. 

“I have always loved hiring for non-tech roles. You see, I have had an aversion towards technology!” confesses Anishka while sharing her incredible story of going above and beyond in the realm of food tech. Flexible, knowledgeable, observant and aware, Anishka plays an important role in hiring the best people across industries for Swiggy’s leadership team. This includes her openness to hiring for tech-based roles whenever needed. This seasoned Swiggster comes with two decades of experience in leadership hiring. Filled with exciting revelations and invaluable lessons, here’s her story.

An image of Anishka John
Anishka John

1) Tell us about the journey that led you to the field of talent acquisition.

I studied through and through in Delhi. I am a Psychology graduate with an MA in HR. My professional journey began in 2004 when I joined a company that ran psychological assessments for individuals, school students, and corporate professionals. These assessments ranged from identifying the ideal educational streams for students after high school to measuring the English proficiency of working professionals. After around two-and-a-half years, I joined an executive search firm as a research associate, and my role involved mapping and identifying the best fit for various roles. During my time there, I got to interact with clients and candidates across the Pharma and Hospitality industries. 

Post my marriage, I moved to Bangalore and joined another company where for six years, I hired for niche roles and established leadership teams for reputed organisations in the non-tech space. Then I switched to a company that specialised in tech-based hiring. After working there for a year, now knowing both sides well enough, I realised I was more interested in hiring for non-tech roles. Following my interest, it was in 2016 that Swiggy happened to me.

2) Given your interest in non-tech hiring, what were your initial thoughts when you joined Swiggy, a company positioned in the food-tech industry?

When I joined Swiggy, we were a small group, where I was the only one in the leadership hiring team for non-tech roles. It was a period of ambiguity when we were figuring out the kind of people we wanted in Swiggy. Gradually, we figured out the ideal personas for various roles here. We already had a tech-hiring team in place when I joined. My first two mandates involved hiring for the COO and the CFO. It was a learning curve for me as the more candidates I met, the more I got a sense of the kind of leaders we wanted in Swiggy. Initially, I was hiring for non-tech roles, where I contributed to building the Private Brands business for us. I also did plenty of lateral hiring for roles such as maintenance managers.

As someone averse to tech, I still got the opportunity to push through and do tech-based hiring. For a team called ‘All Things Supply’, I recruited professionals in software and engineering-based domains. I also got a chance to fill up roles in product and program management. Currently, I conduct hiring for non-tech leadership and analytics-based positions. From 2016 till now, it has been a journey of ups and downs, but one thing is certain – we have hired some great minds who played a key role in shaping Swiggy’s growth story.

3) Swiggy’s growth story so far has witnessed rapid advancements in technology. How do you think Swiggy’s ways of hiring have evolved with time?

I think a lot of new processes have come in compared to earlier. For choosing the best leadership candidates, these processes have enabled us to focus on specific competencies in addition to a role’s requirements on paper. We deeply assess if the person would be better than 50% of our workforce. We also look at the adaptability of candidates to acquire diverse skills and agility to move across business units if needed. From assigning colours as unique as ‘blood red’ and ‘Wimbledon green’ for clubbing our candidate pool across categories, we have reinvented consistently to adopt a 4-scale rating that enables us to identify whether the candidate fits a particular role. 

4) Talking of consistency and commitment, what is it that made you stay with Swiggy for 8 years?

It’s the culture of openness that Swiggy carries, where I can simply go and talk to my manager or leaders without an appointment. Hiring for both tech and non-tech roles, I got to do different things, because of which I have diversified my portfolio by hiring across various domains. I have always been passionate about leadership hiring, and I feel this passion will persist. But at the same time, I am also willing to take up other responsibilities that come my way. I have learned to make decisions from an organisational point of view and that has helped me grow immensely. Overall, it feels like, ‘Oh! These 8 years have gone by so fast.’

5) In your fast-moving tenure here at Swiggy, is there a specific leadership-hire interview that stood out to you?

The one that has stayed with me is hiring for the Vice-President of Operations, sometime during 2017-18. The role itself was challenging and the requirements for it kept evolving as we expanded our business. Operations is a realm that requires one to view Swiggy’s offerings from three dimensions – our customers, our delivery executives, and our restaurant partners. In a span of six to eight months, we interviewed close to 160 people! There were times when I had to communicate to our founder and CEO, Sriharsha Majety, and our leaders across teams including the Operations Team about the limited talent in the market based on the mix that we were looking for. After thoughtful consideration, the team and I finally managed to fix on the 161st candidate we interviewed. By constantly refining my perspective on this role, I learned a lot about identifying the best candidates in a manner that matches with our founder’s thinking.

6) Moving on to interviewing potential leaders, how do you think their perception of Swiggy as an employer brand has changed with time?

Earlier we had to pitch our benefits and our plans for the future to the people we interviewed, and convincing them was a challenge at that point. Now, as we have emerged into a trusted brand and have become profitable, our willingness to offer a smooth railroad of convenience to customers shows up in our offerings. All of it has strengthened our brand image and now it requires much less effort for us to pitch to potential candidates. 

7) Talking about approachability, who has been your go-to mentor at Swiggy that you reach out to?

I think my best mentors have been my manager, Vipul Mehrotra and my skip-level manager, Girish Menon. They always understand my problems and provide perspectives I might not have looked at before. It’s possible because of their wealth of experience in tackling similar issues earlier.

8) If you were to swap your roles with someone in Swiggy, who would you choose?

I would choose to swap my role with someone in core HR Business Partnering. I think the role keeps you grounded with the organisation and its people. I wouldn’t mind trying it out, as that would allow me to be around people and understand their problems better. 

9) And what hobbies do you like pursuing outside of work?

I am a mother to two mischievous boys! I like spending time with them and they even have a good idea of what I do at work. In fact, the younger son is well aware of our organisational structure at Swiggy! I love baking and along with making bread, I try my hand at preparing desserts too. Thankfully, nothing goes to waste as my husband and kids are ever-hungry and always ready to taste new dishes I try to make. 

10) Now from your family at home to the threads that keep the team at Swiggy together. Which Swiggy value do you resonate the most with?

The one I resonate with the most would be to Never Settle, because I do not have an option to say that I cannot fill or hire for a role. I have to look at various ways and suggestions to close the hiring for a role within a stipulated time. 

11). Having completed eight years in the company, how would you describe Swiggy and its culture to potential candidates?

I can vouch for the fact that we are a transparent organisation. There’s a culture of performance where if you do well, you will be rewarded. Your point of view will be respected here, as you have the right to stand up and disagree, provided you commit fully to a decision. We continue to make ourselves better by investing in technologies that allow better aggregation and distribution of our offerings. Convenience forms the core of the problems we solve.

12) In addition to its key stakeholders, do you think Swiggy delivers #UnparalledConvenience for its employees as well?

Absolutely! Personally, post-COVID, I took the benefit of our Blended Ways of Working policy, and that enabled me to cut down on my travel time and utilise it more productively. Most of our people outside the base location do not need to relocate. To foster togetherness, our fun quarterly meetup, Jamboree unites our hybrid workforce with stakeholders. If we want to explore a different role or location, Swiggy gives us that opportunity.

13) Speaking of opportunities for upcoming talent, what advice would you give someone who wants to venture into a career similar to yours?

Be passionate about what you do. Seek something different that you can bring to the table. In hiring, it is all about managing stakeholders, understanding the talent market, and meeting important deadlines. 

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