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“Couplepreneurs” On Love, Workplace Dating And The #MeToo Movement

“Couplepreneurs” On Love, Workplace Dating And The #MeToo Movement

Couple founders say understanding each other goes a long way in sustainable business growth

It’s like two people working together in sync with similar work ethic and trust, founder-couple of Samosa Singh tell us

Some companies also have HR policies that strictly prohibit employees from engaging in physical contact

Support and trust seem to be the two main benefits of working together or running a business together for startup founders who are also life partners. Having someone who knows one’s work and all the efforts he or she put in helps to get back on track when things go wrong, something that happens often in a startup. The better half will always know exactly what he or she is going through and can help strike a balance at both work and home.

What comes handy for these “couplepreneurs” is understanding each other’s state of mind and acting accordingly. They are so comfortable handling each other’s mood swings as they know the work and life situations intimately. It also makes it easy to address each other in the best possible way during not-so-easy times. In today’s competitive digital world, we are susceptible to getting overwhelmed and feel underaccomplished. Couplepreneurs thus feel that having one’s life partner as a business partner makes it easier.

Once the person trusts the other, knows that they share the same progressive outlook for building a business, there seems to be nothing better than forging growth with the life partner.

Perks Of Having Life Partner As A Business Partner

At times, the comfortable space the couplepreneurs have had professionally helps them navigate something in their personal lives as well. Other times, it can be the reverse where they have had something really great happening personally, which has helped them professionally.

“We also share the same interest and zeal to take the business further and therefore this translates into better decision making and execution capabilities. Since we are in this together, we can choose our responsibilities, according to our area of interest. I bring in subject and knowledge related expertise and he brings in customer experience and business expansion expertise” Avneet Makkar, cofounder of edtech startup CarveNiche Technologies told Inc42.

“It’s like two people working together in sync with similar work ethics, trust and better understanding. Everything comes under this journey of building a business from the ground up so it’s very important to have a structure and strategy in business and better understanding with your partner,” said Nidhi Singh, cofounder, Samosa Singh.

Nidhi Singh and her husband and cofounder of Samosa Singh, ShikharVeer Singh, always had the temperament for business and were keen to start something of their own. They cherished their personal relationship first and then while working towards the development of Samosa Singh, the strength of the personal relationship helped them in building a comfortable workspace, effective communication and to resolve conflicts at work, the couple told us. “Starting a business was not an overnight decision, we were thinking upon it from almost six years, to which we actually embark on!’ Nidhi added.

Couplepreneurs On Love, Work, Dating Policies And #MeToo Movement On Valentines Day
Nidhi Singh and ShikharVeer Singh, cofounders, Samosa Singh

For couples who have kids, working together is an added advantage. They can manage their professional meetings in a way that one of the two can take up PTMs, hobby classes and doctor appointments.

“A major breakthrough comes when you are parents because we majorly step in for each other as and when needed with respect to our kids and work. There is almost nothing that both of us can’t do or have restrictions on when it comes to our kids. And if your partner knows what you need on the work front he/she can effectively help you on the family front as well – help strike that balance,” said Vandita Kedia Purohit, cofounder, The Daftar and TraWork.

Vandita and her husband Abhishek Purohit, cofounder, The Daftar and TraWork, the ‘super ambitious souls’, as they call themselves, started dating before deciding that working together would only be more fun and exciting.

“The way I see it is, for us, being both life partners and business partners have gone hand in hand for me and Shezaan as there has been no segregation of work life and business life. To be honest, I would not have it any other way today,” Gita Ramanan, CEO and cofounder of Design Café told Inc42.

The couple has been working partners since 2007 and has been married for seven years. Since there is no clear demarcation between business and personal life, Ramanan feels one has to find the best version of herself or himself while helping each other grow personally and professionally.

Couplepreneurs On Love, Work, Dating Policies And #MeToo Movement On Valentines Day
Gita Ramanan with her husband and cofounder of Design Café Shezaan Bhojani

Are Startup Couples Risking Personal Relationships For Business Growth?

Not everything is so hunky-dory always and some call starting a business with their life partner an adventurous journey

“At times, it might be difficult to acknowledge or express individual professional views between couples but as long as there is honest commitment and communication between the partners, the blurred line between love and business can be breached with a positive attitude,” said Vipul Jain, CEO, Advancells, a healthtech startup .

“It is challenging. There are a lot of surprises that get thrown up, and it’s just keeping channels of communication open, trusting each other and respecting each other that helps,” Ramanan added.

At times, it does get hard for couplepreneurs to keep professional and family lives apart. Though they keep making a conscious effort of not taking work home and try to spend “we” time when not at work, it gets difficult to differentiate between the two.

Couplepreneurs On Love, Work, Dating Policies And #MeToo Movement On Valentines Day
Avneet Makkar and Vivek Shaurya, cofounders, CarveNiche Technologies

“I think it’s the biggest challenge all couple entrepreneurs face. It’s easier said than done! Business looks a lot easy and if you are husband and wife it seems like everything is running smooth. But when you are to start a business there are a lot of challenges and these challenges test you both professionally and personally,” said Samosa Singh’s ShikharVeer Singh. At times it becomes challenging for these couples to maintain a balance between the competing demands of professional and personal lives.

“Also, getting one day to yourself, & being completely offline is also important for your mental, emotional, and spiritual well being,” said Vivek Shaurya, cofounders of edtech startup CarveNiche Technologies

How Couple Founders React To Office Romance

The new-age work culture doesn’t allow one to disconnect completely from work despite spending more than ten hours at work routinely. Romance, dating and friendships thus become inevitable within the domain of work.

Considering the lifestyle in modern times, couples are very conscious when it comes to HR policies on dating. When someone is dating a colleague, a lot of their decisions tend to get driven by emotions and not by pure business logic. Business and emotions don’t work very well in tandem most of the time. So, a code of conduct, which is not written but inherently understood, becomes important.

“Basically, your feelings shouldn’t hamper your work or productivity. It’s not like couples don’t work together in an organization, but that requires an immense amount of maturity, understanding and respect for each other’s space,” said Archana Surve, senior partner, Jefferies & Bain, a public relations company.

Archana Surve and Jay Naduvath, cofounders, Jefferies & Bain

“Otherwise, it’s like inviting unnecessary conflict, which eventually has a negative impact on the work as well as the relationship. Also, it leaves room for other people to exploit the relationship,” she added. The objective of an employee dating policy should be to establish boundaries as to how relationships are conducted during working hours and within the working environment.

“Individuals in supervisory or managerial roles, and those with authority over others’ terms and conditions of employment, are subject to more stringent requirements under this policy due to their status as role models, their access to sensitive information, and their ability to affect the employment of individuals in subordinate positions,” said Jay Naduvath, managing partner, Jefferies & Bain.

The policies, however, do not preclude or interfere with the rights of employees protected by the National Labor Relations Act or any other applicable statute concerning the employment relationship.

“Although it is true that in today’s hectic work culture we literally never disconnect, it is also true that this concept majorly pertains to work and clients, and not personal relationships. Although there are no special guidelines or policies to follow in dating, I believe that dating should not hold on to virtual connectivity or professional ethics.” Meenu Jain, digital director, Advancells

Vipul Jain, CEO With Meenu Jain, digital director, Advancells

Love, friendship and conflicts arise from one common flame, and that is ‘human emotion’. In today’s fast-paced world of internet services, human emotions are often superficially moulded to be professional in the workplace. But dating with a professional mask seems more like an office interview rather than understanding someone you love.

“This simple yet complicated entity of human emotion should be given importance instead of staying connected over virtual cloud and trying to resemble a completely different person” Meenu Jain of Advancells added.

“Working in the same company or office as your partner has a few advantages, most important being able to see each other or talk to each other more often and easy that being in different places of work,” said The Daftar’s Abhishek Purohit.

Vandita Kedia and Abhishek Purohit, cofounders of The Daftar and TraWork

Pickyourtrail, a Chennai based travel startup, encourages a transparent work culture. “We believe that transparency is crucial to create an environment that will help employees be more engaged in their roles, without fear of being treated unfairly. We offer our folks the space to be open and honest, so if you are in a relationship at work or dating a coworker, whether you choose to be open about it or not, it’s completely an individual’s choice,” said Arishya, HR manager, Pickyourtrail

With most startups having a young team, with almost 70% freshers, stringent policies related to employee relationships may not always work. So, startups expect couples to treat each other, and the others who work with them, with respect and maintain high integrity and professionalism.

How #MeToo Movement Changed Startups

In India, the #MeToo started as an independent movement against sexual harassment of women in the workplace, after the global movement which was sparked off in the US and the UK. The organisations have started handling things more maturely and have become POSH compliant. Although #MeToo led to constituting an Internal Complaint Committee (ICC), startups have become stricter towards code of conduct as well to ensure the thin line between a casual and uncomfortable is not crossed.

Startups now have stricter policies that dictate how people should behave and communicate appropriately with the other gender, without making anyone feel intimidated or awkward.

“We are in the business of managing reputation and the risks associated with it, so it goes without saying that we leave no room for any taint on the kind of reputation we have, which can only be achieved if every one of our team members behaves maturely and responsibly with each other,” said Jay Naduvath

Some companies strictly prohibit employees from engaging in physical contact that could be deemed inappropriate at the workplace by a reasonable person, anywhere on company premises, whether during working hours or not.

“Employees who allow personal relationships with co-workers to adversely affect the work environment will be subject to disciplinary policy, including counselling for minor problems,” Naduvath added.

Expectations From Couples In The Team

India has developed a lot in the last decade, especially when it comes to openness in thoughts and liberal attitudes. The new generation is gearing up pretty well in terms of professional and personal growth as more and more people are sorting themselves out. “With a huge population of educated Indians busy with their careers and start-up ideas, dating has become more of a professional venture in the form of a business pact promoting each other’s growth,” said Advancells’ Meenu Jain.

In such a situation, what are the expectations these founders have from the couples working in their teams?

Millennials at work are very professional that way, couple-entrepreneurs told us. They might want some leniency with respect to time, dress code etc but when it comes to working and behaving in a certain manner, they are very professional and know what is expected.

“If people are ensuring that their coworkers are not being disturbed or distracted in any way, and a basic work ethic is maintained, I don’t think there is much to bother about. We have a very informal work culture, so till the time, things are not bothering the team we are okay about everything,” Daftar’s Purohit added.

Most startups trust in the ability of adults to actually make decisions that are fair and equitable. “We believe that we are all professional adults and we do not need to spell out any dressing or dating policies,” Ramanan of Design Café added.

Additionally, these couples conduct themselves in a way that they become role models for young employees in terms of professional behaviour despite having a strong personal connection. The couples also look at their partnership as an asset where they use their knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses to build an environment where they could strive together.

They also believe that it’s simpler to have life partners as business partners if one remembers to draw the line. They also leave us with tips for couples who are starting their entrepreneurial journey:

  • Ensure your goals align well with each other
  • Understand each other’s priorities well
  • Segregate the professional and personal aspect in a relationship
  • Keep effective communication, respecting the boundaries
  • Learn to handle conflict well
  • Have different verticals or segments to focus on
Note: We at Inc42 take our ethics very seriously. More information about it can be found here.