Book review — Saying no to Jugaad — The making of Big Basket

Abhishek Kumar
4 min readMay 6, 2020

So I just finished reading Saying no to Jugaad — The making of Big Basket. While I wouldn’t rate the book a must read, there are some clear takeaways for an young and growing organization. Some real good lessons on issues facing the industry, keeping the delivery talent for a longer time and changing the processes as a firm scale.

Following are my key learnings -

1. One of the key things stated everywhere in the book is — Stay grounded. A lot of us have big pictures in mind, but having the ability to be hands-on, not losing touch of the ground reality while growing and moving up in life is important. This is what helped the BB team understand why delivery boys were leaving in chunks withing just 60 days — Living conditions in city, too much workload, training schedules — And solve that issue.

2. Culture is important — People evaluate the culture of a place by seeing how leaders behave. A hundred CEO speeches on culture are not as good as demonstrated behavior. So, ensure that you use all opportunities to showcase the culture you wish to create. Ensure that 10 of your colleagues do the same. There will be moments when you would want to take shortcuts. While shortcuts may be inevitable once in a while, be very careful about taking those that undermine the culture.

This part of the book was very enjoyable — On how they ensure local delivery boys, in their cities and towns are made a hero of. How they are celebrated — They solve twin purpose of motivation and recruiting right.

3. Avoid activity traps — This I see everywhere — From firms to their founders to their top leadership teams. Everyone wants to contribute, to do “something”. And it’s a bigger trap. A good idea is to focus on limited execution at a time and not make much noise about anything else.

Don’t do anything because it is considered good. These things act as conversation starters or talking points in social contexts, but may not yield bang for the buck. Activity traps can sap energy and focus. So, avoid activities that show you are doing something even if not doing anything may be the best thing.

4. Internal customer centricity — A lot of founders forget this, especially those who start at an young age and come from affluent families. And in the process, end up jeopardizing the whole customer experience.

Your customers will only be as happy as your employees. Internal customers are as important as external, paying customers. Some of your employees serve paying customers. The rest of them must serve these employees

5. Sticking to first principles — Sticking to first principles when solving any issues that you/your firm Is facing is a great idea. Do not over benchmark to anything — Every firm is unique in many ways and drawing a parallel to other firms in other geographies/lifestage/industry is not just NOT helpful, but counterproductive. Always drill down to last possible issue to find problems. It’s finding the right problem where most fail, solution is mostly self-evident.

Sticking to first principles by asking why helps you define the problem better and will be your north star when you lose direction. And you are bound to lose direction periodically.

6. Delegate but learn to keep track of the most important things — Most of the people who claim they don’t have the time are often lost in the weeds. They are busy with things that someone in their team should be doing. They have not cared to build a team or coach their team members or empower them. As a result, the important things are neglected. Or they delegate so much that there is very little difference from abdication. Solve for both.

7. On hiring — Hire people who can multitask. Don’t hire specialists at an early stage — It’s always costly and there’s not much to do for stars. Hire for attitude and ability to learn/unlearn rather than for past achievements.

Hire stars once you have achieved PMF and are at a certain scale. Don’t cheap out here. People are Processes are always worth paying for. Pay 10–20% extra if you have to, but get good people.

8. Some things are just good to do- As far as possible, define the outcomes you expect and evaluate whether your initiatives are delivering the outcomes you expected. But don’t hesitate doing some fundamentally sound things even if outcomes cannot easily be measured in the short term.

Treating people well, taking care of their growth doesn’t show up immediately, but is always the most important thing. This may not be very evident. Process is important : If executed diligently even ordinary people can deliver extraordinary customer experience. It is human tendency, especially in an Indian context, to deviate from process the moment you take your eyes off. So, it is very important to ensure process adherence with a tight audit process and where there are consequences for process deviation.

There are some good examples on tech and process issues and I wish the author to be more candid than what he is. Some more deeper discussions on issues faced, their solutions and setbacks instead of being a feel good book mostly would have made this much better.

Good to read for anyone interested in understanding the challenges of groceries delivery in India. One time read.

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