Vikram Simha Reflects on Flexible Working, New Times, and His Work at GSG
The theme of flexible working is critical to our future, and GSG is presently investing a lot of time and attention to it. We would like to introduce everyone to Vikram Simha, one of the original Co-Founders of Pouch. He recently moved back to India to set up the Bangalore tech hub after years of working across the globe and some years in our London hub, pushing our engineering even further. Here are six questions we put to him on his recent move:
How has it been for you as an employee during almost two years of the pandemic so far?
On the business side it has been very good, although it took a lot of getting used to the constant change and now the new normal. Luckily, we were already a geographically spread-out team with people in London, Munich, Kharkiv, so we were used to working closely with colleagues over tools like Zoom, Slack, etc.
What took me time to adjust was the social aspect of our working lives. In our old way of working, the office week came with a more apparent work and personal life divide. Now the two have merged, and the line hasn’t just become thinner; it’s also more blurred.
On the Personal side, it’s been a very challenging time that has made me see the need to return home. Unfortunately, COVID badly hit my family badly, and the travel restrictions made it worse. I am no exception, I know everyone in the world is directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic, but this is my story. My parents were admitted to the ICU when the hospitals in India were struggling and it was almost impossible to visit them. I am so glad they have recovered and are leading a normal healthy life again, one where I can be near them again. I also really appreciate the support I had from my GSG colleagues, it was commendable and I am very thankful to them.
Was it particularly worrying for you to be so far away from your family in the beginning?
Yes, even before COVID came, because I come from a close-knit family and we all live together – with my parents, which is the norm in India. And not being able to be with each other, let alone be able to visit each other for holidays was a big deal. I am so glad to be closer to the family as I know I can handle any such crisis better.
How was your homecoming? was it a time of concern, relief, or celebration?
It felt like I was moving to a new country. Although I grew up in India, even worked there for 5 years before moving to the UK. I had spent a good 11 years away, travelling across Europe, the Middle East, and South East Asia for work. I was living a hybrid lifestyle that wasn’t traditional. So there were some difficulties during the first few months as I got used to things again, but I’m definitely celebrating now. Though I really believe I’m much richer for the experiences and all the new friends I made beyond India.
Do you have problems with working across time zones?
Not really. The time difference is only 3.5 hrs with Munich during the summer months and 4.5 hrs when the clock changes in winter months, which is quite manageable. Both our Indian employees and European employees have found smart ways to make it work without losing connection. It just takes a little extra planning in the calendar.
Going forward, what do you think GSG’s flexible working time means for our employees?
Flexibility is a great democratizer. It gives all parents a greater opportunity to work whilst they raise their children. It’s given all people who have to care for another life or soul a doorway to a career and a future. It can even empower people from the countryside who now don’t have to relocate permanently to crowded cities.
This is a great development and will open opportunities for a huge population who were earlier not able to work because of various traditional norms of company work rules. We can already see that through freelancing the informal tech community has gained so many opportunities. The Stocks of Fiverr has nearly increased 10x in the last 1 year alone. Upwork has increased 3x. And this is only the beginning and an equilibrium will be reached only in years to come.
If you have one tip for others who are moving to another country, what would it be?
Keep an open mind, every country has its own character, value system and way of life. So enjoy your new home, foods, friends, and look to create a fresh lifestyle for your future rather than recreating your past.