In an Interview with G20, Shailja Dutt, founder-chairperson, Stellar Search, shares her entrepreneurial journey and ability to quickly adapt to the Covid crisis.
Q. You are a supremely successful entrepreneur in a cutting edge sector, the founder of Stellar Search. This Global Leadership advisory is predominant with a strong geographical footprint pan Asia & Africa. It is a recognised name in 25 countries. How did you build this phenomenon?
A. After having spent a couple of years in corporate, in consulting and executive search, I started my entrepreneurial journey as a single person operation, out of a small office. What kickstarted this idea was the desire to spend more quality time with my child, and the space and flexibility that came from working at my own pace. As the days went by, fuelled by this nascent success, we grew brick-by-brick, person-by-person, and client-by-client. Nearly two decades later, I’ve transformed my dream into a larger than life reality; but my goal remains the same, to make a game-changing difference in the way corporations hire.
Our core values of people, passion and purpose are tenets that I have always held steadfast in my heart. Connecting people to their purpose with passion and authenticity form this firm’s foundations.
Q. In this executive search arena, how have you revamped HR policies? And as well spring up & deliver talent management in this covid era. Share the modus operandi with us…
A. With talent taking center-stage, companies are re-imagining the HR function to build organisational resilience and drive value for the future.
Like all knowledge based services our transition from office into a work-from-home environment was seamless. We had spent the last couple of years investing heavily in technology, and this allowed us to morph effortlessly into the work- from-anywhere culture.
Over the years we have passionately created an ethos that thrives on collaboration, connection and open communication, which when enabled by digital applications has led to what I would like to believe is the “future of work”
Some things that we have relooked at, and restructured include our meeting rhythms, where instead of having weekly or quarterly meetings we ensure daily intra office engagement. Our performance appraisal system has evolved to a very futuristic, highly development-led, monthly feedback session from a quarterly/ by-annual “appraisal”. Our leave and work-flexibility policies have been redesigned to accommodate the changes that have accompanied Covid/post-Covid life.
I am extremely proud to say that as a team, we were able to quickly adapt to the Covid crisis and deliver search solutions with the same finesse we had before the pandemic. We are working collaboratively as a cohesive unit, seamlessly, because we responded with agility and embraced flexibility which is now a part of the new normal.
Q.  As a firm how have you been able to effectively respond to the crisis & develop effective measures & strategies?
A. With the pandemic posing an unprecedented set of challenges and uncertainty, businesses have seen a radical shift in the way they operate while navigating from a new normal to the next normal. We have continued to support our clients, strengthen their businesses and  continually add value. Being in the business of change, we knew the value of being agile, being open and communicating continuously with all our stakeholders.
In the early days of the pandemic, Business Continuity Planning and crisis management were buzz words for many but it was old hat for us at Stellar as I had seen my husband implement BCP plans for his various companies over the last 20 years. Here I realised, communication was the differentiator and we put all our energies on crafting, sharing and amplifying the right messages.
For the large part, over-communicating was a huge positive, especially in the early days of the pandemic when we knew little and assumed a lot.
We maintained very strong communication cycles, not just internally, but also vociferously articulating externally all that we were passionate about- be it leadership values, talent retention, empathy based leadership and so much more.
This allowed us to engage as a strong brand, highly visible on social media- sharing, informing and inspiring with every story and sound byte.
Q. Share with us some of your new employee & engagement techniques.
A. We took one day at a time and found our silver linings in little victories. We mindfully learnt to appreciate things that we often overlooked. Despite the stress of evolving life and business situations, we persevered with passion and empathy- because frankly that’s what we have done in the past, and that’s what we will continue to do.
Frequent zoom calls and e-meetings ensured that we were all constantly in touch. We created an active virtual group, which allowed us to celebrate special occasions, and daily joys with the same spirit that we did when we were in office.