In Conversation With Abhishek Gupta, Head of Human Resources, ZebPay

While acknowledging the pivotal role technology already plays and will continue to play in HR practices, including automated processes, data-driven talent management, and advanced tools for recruitment and performance evaluation, it's crucial to emphasize that technology can never replace the human touch in HRM says Gupta in an exclusive conversation with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People.


It is going to be a year soon since you have been elevated to Head of Human Resources at Zebpay. How has your experience been? Can you share some insights on your accomplishments in the last year?

As I approach my one-year anniversary as the Head of Human Resources at Zebpay, I can confidently say that the experience has been enriching and rewarding. Over the past year, I have had the privilege of contributing to the growth and development of our HR function, fostering a positive work culture, and aligning our strategies with the broader goals of Zebpay. 

The year has been an exciting journey with the crypto industry making notable progress. Our HR team has emerged as a true enabler for the business. In my tenure as Head of Human Resources at Zebpay, I am proud to highlight several significant accomplishments that have contributed to the growth and success of our HR function and the overall organisation. 

Highlighting a few below:

  • Implementation of strategic HR initiatives aligned with Zebpay’s growth, enhancing recruitment processes, talent development programs, and onboarding efficiency
  • Introduction of employee engagement framework G.R.O.W. {Growth & Recognition, OHANA Engagement and Wellness} focused on employee engagement and well-being, including wellness programs.
  • Launch of Zeb LEARN, a comprehensive learning and development framework, offering training programs and career development opportunities to empower our workforce.
  • Strengthening our organisational culture, fostering diversity, and implementing policies to ensure an inclusive workplace
  • Successfully navigating the challenges of remote work by implementing policies, conducting virtual team-building activities, and ensuring seamless communication.

With these accomplishments, we have had our share of learning and now we intend to take these learnings forward to achieve even higher results. 

With your background in talent acquisition, how do you approach building a strong team in the crypto industry, which may have unique challenges and demands?

Navigating the unique challenges of the crypto industry requires a strategic approach to talent acquisition. The industry is still in its nascent stage from the talent ecosystem point of view, and hence it can be tricky to find the right fit sometimes. 

I focus on a few things in our aim to create a dedicated and exceptionally strong team at Zebpay.

Industry Specialisation: My approach begins with a deep understanding of the crypto industry. I prioritise hiring professionals who not only possess relevant skills but also have a comprehensive understanding of blockchain technology, cryptography, decentralised finance etc.

Adaptability and Innovation: Given the rapid evolution of the crypto landscape, adaptability is key. I seek candidates who have a track record of embracing change and innovating in response to industry developments. This quality ensures our team remains at the forefront of technological advancements.

Regulatory Awareness: Navigating regulatory challenges is inherent in the crypto industry. I prioritize hiring professionals who are not only knowledgeable about existing regulations but also possess the ability to adapt quickly to evolving legal frameworks, ensuring compliance and risk mitigation.

Cultural Fit and Passion: Building a strong team involves assessing cultural fit and shared passion for the principles of blockchain and crypto technologies. I look for candidates who not only bring technical expertise but also share a genuine enthusiasm for the mission and values driving the crypto space.

Continuous Learning and Development: To stay ahead in the rapidly evolving crypto sector, I encourage a culture of continuous learning. Providing opportunities for skill enhancement, certifications, and attendance at industry conferences ensures our team remains well-equipped to tackle new challenges.

Networking and Community Engagement: Actively engaging with the crypto community is vital. Networking at industry events, participating in forums, and leveraging connections helps identify potential talent and keeps us connected to the pulse of industry trends.

By focusing on these principles, we continue to build and nurture a strong, adaptive, and high-performing team at Zebpay.

Having worked in both traditional industries like banking and fast food, as well as in the dynamic world of crypto, how do you adapt HR strategies to suit different organisational cultures?

My experience in various industries including the rapidly transforming crypto industry has equipped me with a versatile approach to HR strategies. I believe for any HR strategy to succeed, a detailed understanding of industry dynamics is crucial. For example, in traditional industries, stability and hierarchy often prevail, requiring structured HR frameworks. Conversely, in the crypto sector, flexibility and adaptability are crucial due to its dynamic nature.

Recognizing the cultural nuances within each industry is essential. Tailoring HR initiatives to align with the values and principles unique to banking, fast food, or crypto ensures cultural resonance. Similarly, crafting targeted talent acquisition strategies is vital. For example, in banking, the emphasis may be on financial expertise, while in fast food, customer service skills are prioritised. In crypto, seeking tech-savvy, adaptable professionals is key.

Tailoring employee engagement initiatives to suit the culture of each industry is essential. Traditional industries may benefit from structured performance reviews, while the crypto sector may thrive on a more dynamic and collaborative approach. Encouraging adaptability and innovation is crucial across all industries. However, the approach varies; in traditional sectors, it may involve process optimization, while in the crypto space, it could mean embracing cutting-edge technologies.

By being adaptable and sensitive to the unique characteristics of each industry, I strive to implement HR strategies that align with organisational cultures and contribute to the success of the respective businesses.

Transitioning from roles at KFC India, DP World India, Yes Bank, and Capgemini to the crypto industry at ZebPay must have presented unique challenges. How have your previous experiences shaped your approach to HR in the dynamic and evolving world of crypto, and what lessons from traditional industries do you find valuable in this context?

Thank you for acknowledging the unique trajectory of my career. Transitioning from various roles to the crypto industry at ZebPay has indeed been a dynamic journey, offering valuable insights. Each experience has been instrumental in shaping my approach to HR in this dynamic sector.

Coming from diverse industries has instilled in me a strong sense of adaptability and agility. These traits are crucial in the rapidly evolving world of crypto, where staying ahead of technological advancements and market shifts is paramount.

Having navigated regulatory landscapes in banking and logistics, I bring a keen understanding of compliance and risk management to the crypto space. This background is invaluable in ensuring HR strategies align with regulatory requirements. Similarly, the fast-food and banking sectors prioritise customer experience. Translating this customer-centric mindset to the crypto industry, I emphasise building HR strategies that contribute to a positive experience for both internal and external stakeholders.

Experience in technology consulting helped me craft tailored HR strategies at ZebPay focussing on attracting, retaining, and developing talent with a strong technological acumen. The exposure to diverse work cultures, from the fast-paced environment at KFC to the corporate culture at Yes Bank and Capgemini, has fostered cultural sensitivity. This understanding is crucial in the crypto industry, where a global and diverse workforce operates.

The emphasis on talent development and employee engagement in traditional sectors translates seamlessly to ZebPay. Investing in the continuous learning and development of our team is a priority, ensuring they remain agile and equipped to thrive in the crypto space.

In essence, my journey across traditional industries has imparted valuable skills in adaptability, regulatory compliance, customer-centricity, and crisis management. These lessons serve as a foundation for crafting HR strategies that resonate well with the ever-evolving world of crypto  at ZebPay

Given your emphasis on leadership development and talent management, could you share some key principles or strategies you believe are crucial for nurturing and retaining talent in today's competitive job market?

In today's competitive job market, fostering a culture that attracts, nurtures, and retains top talent requires a strategic and holistic approach. Here are some key strategies I find crucial:

Continuous Learning Culture: Encouraging a culture of continuous learning is essential. Providing opportunities for skill development, training programs, and mentorship initiatives not only enhances individual capabilities but also contributes to employee engagement and retention.

Leadership Development: Implementing targeted leadership development programs is instrumental. Identifying high-potential individuals and providing them with opportunities for leadership training, coaching, and mentorship fosters a pipeline of skilled leaders who can drive organizational success.

Flexible Career Pathing: Embracing a flexible approach to career progress is crucial for adapting to the dynamic needs of the modern workplace, fostering employee satisfaction, and ensuring organisational agility. This strategy not only optimizes talent utilization within the company but also enhances retention by empowering individuals to navigate their career journeys with purpose and enthusiasm.

Recognition and Rewards: Regularly recognizing and rewarding employee contributions is crucial for morale and retention. This includes both monetary incentives and non-monetary recognition, such as awards, public acknowledgement, and opportunities for increased responsibilities.

Flexible Work Arrangements: In today's landscape, flexibility is highly valued. Offering flexible work arrangements and acknowledging the importance of work-life balance enhances job satisfaction and attracts individuals seeking a supportive and adaptable work environment.

Employee Feedback Mechanisms: Establishing effective feedback mechanisms ensures employees feel heard and valued. Regular performance reviews, pulse surveys, and open communication channels provide insights into employee satisfaction and areas for improvement.

Diversity and Inclusion: Creating a workplace that values diversity and inclusion is crucial for talent retention. Embracing diversity initiatives fosters a sense of belonging, encourages innovation, and attracts individuals who appreciate an inclusive work culture.

Transparent Communication: Transparent communication about organisational goals, challenges, and future plans builds trust. Employees who feel informed and connected to the organization's mission are more likely to stay engaged and committed.

These principles collectively contribute to a talent management strategy that not only attracts high-caliber individuals but also fosters a workplace culture where employees feel valued, engaged, and eager to contribute to the organisation's success.

How do you incorporate innovation into HR practices, and what role do you see technology playing in the future of HR management, especially in the crypto and fintech space?

I prioritize its integration into various aspects of HR to drive positive outcomes. Currently, as we function in the digital assets space, which is so dynamic, I prioritise a culture of innovation to drive positive outcomes.

In my opinion, incorporating innovation into HR practices extends beyond technology, encompassing creative solutions in talent management and organizational development. This involves designing unconventional approaches to recruitment, implementing meaningful performance evaluation that aligns with the climate of business, and cultivating a work environment that encourages fresh ideas.

I have always advocated for the idea that HR needs to understand the business and engage in meaningful partnerships to be most effective. This itself ensures that we go beyond the traditional approach of doing things and constantly innovate as your approach needs to adapt to the ever-changing business needs.

While acknowledging the pivotal role technology already plays and will continue to play in HR practices, including automated processes, data-driven talent management, and advanced tools for recruitment and performance evaluation, it's crucial to emphasize that technology can never replace the human touch in HRM. A personal approach remains instrumental in shaping HR practices to meet future demands and challenges, enhancing efficiency in numerous ways while preserving the indispensable human aspect in the realm of Human Resource Management.

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