Sandeep Sharma, senior VP and country manager, RealPage India, often holds ‘jump-the-queue’ meetings to get feedback from employees
Image: Selva Prakash Lakshmanan for Forbes India
RealPage is a Texas, US-headquartered maker of cloud software for managing real estate properties, used predominantly by property management companies in the US, but with presence in other parts of the world as well. The company had $1.2 billion in revenue for 2020 and a market value of about $10.2 billion—it was recently acquired by Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm.
RealPage India was started some 12 years ago, in Hyderabad, but much of the ramp-up in the development centre’s staff has happened over the last two years, under Senior VP and Country Manager Sandeep Sharma. Today RealPage India has close to 1,400 staff providing product engineering, IT infrastructure management and non-voice backend business process management services to the parent company.
“Even during the pandemic, we continued to hire,” says Rekha Narendra, vice president and head of HR at RealPage India. In fact, the company recruited more than 400 of its employees last year. And today, 70 percent of the software engineering across the product portfolio of RealPage is delivered from India, adds Sharma. Ninety percent of the IT infrastructure management across the company is handled from the Indian centre.
The unit also delivers design services and backend finance and legal compliance work as well.
The company did exemplary work in ensuring its staff transitioned well to working from home—some employees had even moved back to their home towns. “We used to pride ourselves on our face-to-face meetings, and now everything had to be done virtually,” says Narendra. She came up with a programme to ‘reimagine’ processes at the company—everything from recruitment to ensuring employee wellness was given due importance.
To keep morale positive when stress levels were high, Narendra and Sharma used innovative town hall sessions. One town hall, for example, was hosted by the parents and children of the employees. Another had ‘pride’ as a theme, and had special guests—a dancer who had overcome ridicule and scepticism to pursue his art, and a homemaker who had successfully taken to body building.
On the work front, the duo did several sessions with managers to equip them with ways of managing their teams effectively in the virtual environment. “We changed the ‘how’, but retained the ‘why’,” Sharma says. “We never moved away from the vision of being a best employer and inculcating a profit-centre mindset.”
Over the last year, RealPage India exceeded its target for delivering savings that went straight to the bottom line by a wide margin.
Even before the pandemic, Sharma took many simple, but intuitive initiatives that made a real difference to his staff. For example, a simple, but effective process to get genuine feedback from the rank and file was the ‘jump-the-queue’ meeting. Managers were excluded from these meetings so that staff could give open and honest feedback and what changes they needed. Through the pandemic, the sessions continued in smaller batches.
Another popular initiative was ‘Thank God, it’s Thursday’ through which employees were asked to spend an hour at work every week on themselves to do something they really enjoyed—it could be as simple as reading a book or doing stretches.
Sharma started writing individual letters to high performers and others who deserved recognition; he has written some 110 so far. This became a trend at the parent company as well and other senior leaders started their own versions of the practice, he says. Last year, staff churn came down from about 17 percent to a bit over 10 percent. And several staff are return-employees, who left to go elsewhere, but came back to RealPage India.
“The way I see it, RealPage has made tremendous strides in the GCC (global captive centre) space with incredible energy, scaling new heights in product development and engineering, reimagining people engagement, GCC community and CSR initiatives,” says KS Viswanathan, vice president for industry initiatives at Nasscom, India’s IT industry lobby. “Today’s technology-centric workforce regards a company such as this as a place to enrich its career experience.”
“The exchange of ideas with RealPage leadership has created a sense of camaraderie among cohorts with similar business goals. Many of these conversations are centred on the good-to-great journeys that we embark on as organisations. I am loving the ideas that spring from these dialogues,” says Ramesh Kaza, senior vice president and chief information officer at the Indian unit of finance company State Street.
Sharma, under whom much of the expansion of the India centre has come about, recalls that things were not so rosy when he joined. Morale was low and there was “politicking”, he remembers. He has gradually overhauled the company, putting it together around several long-time performers. Today, the “JTQs (jump the queue) get over in 15 minutes sometimes,” Narendra says. “No one has much to worry about any more.”
(This story appears in the 26 March, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)