Calm, poised and soft-spoken — that is the first impression one would get while interacting with Swiggster and Business Launch Manager, Aarti Kalra. Hardly would one assume that this is the face behind Swiggy’s launch in 13 cities, and 45+ universities, under the Swiggy Launchpad program. All that and more in a short span of just two years.
“Before Swiggy, I never lived on my own, or away from my family,” says Aarti, who is now accustomed to being constantly on the move and living out of a suitcase. Aarti and her teammate Sirjan Bir Singh Malhi spent close to four months launching several cities, the first being Ahmedabad.
“I still remember Swiggy’s launch at Ahmedabad. That was one with the biggest learnings I’ve had. Even though Sirjan and I stepped in as Sales Managers, we were involved in every aspect of the launch,” she recalls. “Another city launch close to my heart is Raipur. Not only was this the first end-to-end launch that I drove; it was also a tough city to launch in, given that it wasn’t tagged to any mother city. One that I’ll never forget.” (she narrates with a smiles)
A journey that began as a Sales Manager in October 2017 led to Aarti being the first and only woman Swiggster to have launched the brand in some of the most difficult cities across the country. “Some of the greatest perks of launching in different cities is that you get to travel, experience new cultures and make some good friends,” she adds.
Here are some of the life-lessons Aarti picked up along the way as she began her city launch journey at Swiggy.
Lesson #1: Travel teaches you about cultures, more than the Internet ever can
“Post Ahmedabad launch, we moved to Chandigarh and Jaipur. The stark difference one can see in people and cultures when they travel are truly amazing,” she narrates.
Ahmedabad, a perfect blend of the old and new, is known for its criss-crossing narrow lanes, mouth-watering cuisine and a host of exciting places to explore. Aarti recalls the place as being ‘very calm and sober’. “Chandigarh on the other hand, took me by surprise. The people were loud, the music louder! Hindi was never my strong-point, but thanks to Chandigarh my speaking skills have significantly improved,” she adds.
Lesson #2: Don’t completely discount the Internet. Research online before you visit any city
Next up was Wasseypur, a coal town in the city of Dhanbad painted with terrorizing tales, narrated through Bollywood movies — made famous by Anurag Kashyap’s two-part saga – ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. Oblivious to these narratives, Aarti was ready to launch Swiggy in the legendary city. “I told my friends that I was heading to Dhanbad for the next launch, and was caught off-guard by their reaction. They said I’m ‘extremely gutsy’ to go there. I immediately searched on Google, only to find out a plethora of stories around Wassepur and the city of Dhanbad,” she says. Worried, she decided to call her manager and discuss what she just discovered. “After surfing the Internet, I did get a bit anxious. But the trust my manager had in me made me take it as a challenge. He said he was confident in my ability to pull through and run the launch successfully.”
Lesson #3: When in doubt, just get up and about!
When it comes to new city launches, there is no time to sit back and relax. One has to roll up their sleeves, jump right into action and get the ball rolling. “We began ground work, the very next day. Dhanbad is a conservative city, where few women stroll around unchaperoned. My colleagues suggested I stay indoors, but I wasn’t one for working out of a locked room. If you need to get the real feel of a launch, you need to head straight to the field,” adds Aarti with a sparkle of excitement in her eyes.
As Aarti and the team started doing the rounds and speaking to folks on-ground, they realised that there was no culture of ordering food or eating out. Everyone ensured they returned home early. “For our next steps, we went about the city trying to onboard restaurants on the Swiggy platform. This, by-far, was the biggest challenge we encountered. We realised that most restaurants did not have a food license. To get restaurants on-boarded, we had to start from ground-level, enabling food licenses for the restaurant partners, and then getting them familiarized with the platform.”
Lesson #4: When all else fails, rummage through your contact list
No city launch is complete without chaos, crisis and challenges. This is where Aarti had to think fast and act swiftly. “Just when we thought we were all set to launch Swiggy in Dhanbad, we had to deal with another bottleneck. We were unable to get any photographers to take pictures of the restaurants. The photographers we did manage to find and convince were definitely not ones to take instructions from a woman,” she quotes. It’s funny how, in times of crisis, the ones we need the most are literally just a phone call away. “We had our photographer, Yash Joshi, fly in to help us with this. He helped us out with photographs of the restaurants and their dishes. Once this was set, we found an office space in the center of the Dhanbad. I handed over the launch of Dhanbad to a colleague and headed out for the Hubli launch.”
Break that glass ceiling
When asked if being a woman Launch Manager was hard, Aarti says, “Launching in a city is as easy or hard as you make it to be. Being a woman has nothing to do with it. All you need is a great organization, the hunger to hustle, and a super supportive team. Trust yourself, have faith in your team and uphold the Swiggy values, always. Our values are a beacon, guiding us forward on the journey ensuring our customers stay happy.”
Aarti went on to launch several other cities like Goa, Raipur, Guntur, Trivandrum and Baroda before she finally got back to her homebase – Bangalore. She has also been fondly called ‘The Iron lady of Dhanbad’ by some of the Swiggsters. A true inspiration for many women at Swiggy, Aarti urges every Swiggster to step out of their comfort zone and dive right into the challenge. You will either learn to swim out of it or find a helping hand to pull you through to the other side!