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Everyone is getting the same employee benefits or engagement at the organisation : Interview CEO & Co-founders, Tartan



For the past few years there has been an increased focus on the future of work, and HR Tech has become the cure-all for nearly every workplace woes. From facilitating remote work to helping automate basic functions like rewards & recognitions, talent management, learning management, payroll, organizations worldwide are arming themselves with bleeding-edge HR Tech tools and solutions.


In the forever expanding HR Tech landscape, several startups have taken the responsibility of developing SaaS platforms, software, API’s etc to help drive the HR Tech journey forward.


We recently had an email interaction with Pramey Jain, CEO & Co-Founder, Tartan & Meet Semlani, Co-Founder, Tartan to understand how their platform Batik is helping align benefits needed by today’s employees with solutions that are easy to engage with, thereby making workplaces more employee-centric.


Tell us about your company and what it aims to provide for working professionals in India.

Tartan is essentially a Data-to-Distribution platform. The workforce or the working professionals are the actual consumers. Whether a person works in a senior role at any company or a gig economy worker at a delivery company delivering food, items etc., as long as you are employed and making money, you are considered a working professional. And through our platform, we primarily solve two things: how we can utilize their income and employment data and how they can access products like Loans, Credit Cards through a self-service marketplace.


Now Imagine as a working professional, you are applying for a car loan, and there are multiple things that you need to do, like doing your KYC, providing proof of income, providing supporting documents like bank statements etc. This entire process is cumbersome and takes a lot of to-and-fro for the consumers and the financial institutions to collect the relevant information. Through Tartan, workers can share their work and income history data stored in the HRMS or payroll system used by their employer, seamlessly with any business with a click of a button, thereby validating their work and income status in less than a minute. With Batik, we have built a platform for employers and employees alike through which workers and employees can access products from Home Loans to personal loans to early salary with the click of a button. With Batik, we have aggregated many products in the areas of health, wellness, gift cards, travel and many more such unique options for employees thereby removing the admin hassle of the HR team who find and manage these vendors individually.


How did this idea come into existence? What was the genesis of this idea? 

Meet, and I have worked together for many years, driven by a common goal of helping the gig economy. The idea initially started as a personal finance management app for gig economy workers. We noticed this issue from the point of view of these food delivery boys, who couldn’t manage their finances. With Covid, things got even worse for these people. My partner, Meet’s house help suffered during the lockdown; there were very few options available to help them financially even though they had an active job through Ola. Together we teamed up and tried to help them through their network to get a loan and realised that they were trying to help the underserved and undeserved category. Through personal experiences, we understood that the home loan offers did not favour these working-class people. When we started looking deeper into the problem of why is this segment not getting any kind of products, we realised that the data was not being considered. We realised we could use it by looking at their income data; banks can give them loans. And that’s when we started Tartan as the Data layer. And started building on top of it, and we realised the problem runs much more profound and employees themselves cannot access the right products. Hence, we then started Batik as the distribution layer, which today has taken shape and become like this SaaS company utilised by employers, who can give their employees access to our products.

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What are the gaps in the industry from an employee engagement perspective?

I feel the gaps exist from the perspective of what the employees want and need today. Post-Covid, now that things are returning to normal, and this is the era of the future of work, I think we are not focusing on what employees need today.  Employees need discounts when they go out, focus on their fitness, and need to be happier when they are at work. I think these are the gaps we are not discussing and trying to solve something general. The issue is that we are not even looking at the various segments. There are Gen Z employees in the workforce, the Millennials and so on. They are people in the age group of 21 years, and it stretches up to 40 or 50 years working in the same organisation. And everyone is getting the same employee benefits or engagement at the organisation. I think much segmentation is required, typically referring to what your employees need and want. A gym membership would appeal more to a 21-year-old than a family dinner for a 40 or 50-year-old, and a 25-year-old would prefer a fancy restaurant with friends. An understanding of the gaps like these needs to be addressed by the industry.


What challenges and barriers do you see in this ecosystem, and how are you planning to address them?

Being open to trying new things is one of the challenges and barriers I see in the ecosystem. Many professionals use various systems and tools today, especially the HR team, decision-makers, and C-level executives, who can help the employees. I think more and more companies need to be open to that as they grow. Now we’re in this whole future of work era where remote work is the norm. I think that is one of the biggest challenges we want to address regarding the barrier. And it’s also inclusive as an ecosystem. I believe that if we were to go with the idea that what worked for Infosys 15 years ago might also work for us. That’s necessarily not true because Infosys is a generational company. And today, we are in a world where at least 1000 companies are starting every day. And there are about, you know, anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 people joining the workforce every day, at various levels. As an ecosystem, that is one of the biggest challenges; how are we trying to address that as Tartan or Batik is really connecting with what the people need today? We’ve been employees ourselves, and we’ve seen these problems first hand; we have faced this problem first hand. While working with startups and in the corporate world, we realised no one solution fits all. A lot of customization is required to address a CHRO at Infosys vis-a-vis a CHRO at a startup. We are open to customisation and ready to change the status quo with our approach.

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Why is Batik a unique product according to you, and how are you different from your competition

As such both Tartan and Batik do not have any direct competitors. It is pretty much an untapped and blue ocean for us. The value proposition offered by both brands is simply unparalleled in the industry and unheard of in the given scenario. The way we have managed to aggregate these varied brands/ products in Batik, there is no single brand in the market addressing this at a macro level, which gives us a tremendous competitive advantage. Similarly, for Tartan, there is no brand yet we can take head-on for competition.


What are your future goals for the company?

The company aims to become the go-to Employee Engagement, Rewards and Benefits solution. We are working with a couple of large corporates and smaller startups. We aim to become a single source while working with a broader ecosystem where multiple players exist. We want to build this as a one-stop solution, partner with numerous organisations and serve the needs of the organisations and the employees, which will allow more people to get engaged with their employers. They look forward to coming to work every day and want to get settled well into their jobs. It is one of the social purposes that we want to solve. And that’s one of our primary goals.


We also aim to position this as a global product where countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia require such products. We want to expand our footprint to Europe and the United States of America, where the benefits apply to every individual employee. Still, the labour laws are stringent out there. So the government has to take good care of them. At the centre of all this is the employer-employee engagement that we are trying to focus on, which is one of the more significant initiatives we are working on.

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What are some of the new and innovative ways you are trying to make work-life balance interesting for your employees while embracing a remote work culture?

Tartan is a startup that is born out of the pandemic. We have been operating for almost 18 to 20 months, and it’s been only three times since we met some colleagues. But thanks to technology and how we have set up the systems, things have been seamless. Our meetings happen a lot over Zoom calls and a lot of video calls as well. We meet as a team; there is travel involved once every four to six months for the mid and senior staff, where they get to meet and discuss with the founders.


We also have a fixed policy of lights out where our work requires us to be present 24/7; we have done a fine job balancing it out so that people don’t need to be available 24/7. Taking time off is possible, and we don’t press on that; we always want to talk to our employees.


As founders, we have one-on-one meetings with all our colleagues, and the frequent travel meetings help once every six months to ensure that we all work and party hard together. This allows the entire team to get along and let loose once every couple of months.


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