Giving HR a good name

A case study on building an identity for an Indian startup

In India, startups today are forming at an alarming rate. They feature young founders often fresh out of engineering / business schools looking to capitalise on ever improving conditions and a favourable infrastructure. The VC money helps of-course. All this means you, or someone you know has a startup that they’re looking to grow to scale. With growth comes increased competition, ramped up recruitment and high degrees of stress. Managing people can be difficult for a first time founder with little to no experience. This is where Simplr comes in.

When we first met Dinesh, it was clear that he meant business. This was a problem that he had faced himself first hand as he took AasaanJobs from a team of 20 to 200 in less than a year. This would be a “Virtual HR in the cloud.”

When you need to build a castle in the cloud, where do you begin? Why with the dreamers, of course!

The first step was to give the dream a name, an identity. If a product is about the experience, the brand is about the memory. They would follow the same principles.

A typical Human Resource Management System in India sounds just as dull and boring as “Human Resource Management Systems”. In that phrase, lay the first clue:

Humans are people, and people must be treated like people, not resources.

We turned to HR professionals who worked at startups. The more we spoke to, the more we were convinced that they weren’t being as productive as they could be. Their day was littered by products that were difficult to use, and required a great degree of skill to learn. It made them feel inefficient, undervalued and in some cases: downright dumb. They were cold and indifferent.

We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.
– Father John Culkin

It was rather disappointing to see the kind of impact a simple tool was having on their lives. Where there is frustration, there is an opportunity. We had the opportunity to do some great work that made a tangible difference to a lot of lives. The experience of using this product would have to be an order of magnitude better than the incumbents… and we felt confident.

A few brainstorming sessions later we arrived at the short and sweet: Simplr. It incorporated everything we felt the product would be.

Soon we were asking the tough questions: “What sort of company do we want to work at?” “What sort of workplace do we want to encourage?” “What company will we help people build?” “What do we stand for?” We met different people, with different belief systems, who give us different answers. We went back with our findings, and thus ensued the long meaningful conversations. This gave us our brand values:

Friendly became quite a discussion point in these conversations. While we conducted user research for the product, “user friendly” was a recurring term that almost everyone we spoke to mentioned.

“Why don’t we take it a step further, and make it actually friendly?”

“Yeah, why does it have to be so cold and indifferent?”

“No, I mean like a friend.”

“A mascot?”

“Like Clippy? We know how that went.”

“No, not like Clippy. Clippy was painful. This one will be empathetic. It’ll be there to support you when you need it, and we can define when it gets involved. It won’t be there all the time.”

“That sounds difficult, but it’ll be quite something if we can pull it off.”

“Yes. Yes, it will.”

People are a complex concoction of emotions, other animals: not so much. We were looking for Simplr’s spirit animal. If we went down the mascot route, the logo couldn’t be a monogram or a symbol. The mascot was a part of the brand and not the brand itself. Word-marks on the other hand, are great for subtly communicating the brand’s values. They can be iconic, have great recall value and work well with other elements. We had a few options:

The mascot could play really well with the interface and we were excited.

The Sassy Hippo

We thought a sassy female hippo might be an interesting character for the app, to put people at ease and add a little flavour. A colourful female authority figure who would always be there to offer timely advice.

The Zen Rabbit

Rabbits are curious, sociable and intelligent animals. They are inherently endearing and can potentially lend themselves to many avatars. An interesting extension to the rabbit was a carrot: universally recognised symbol for incentives.

Soon we had a winner.

We had a lot of fun working on this project and especially love how the product and the brand work with each other.

Simplr is currently under development and should be ready for the world very soon.

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