Championing change: PhonePe amplifies diversity in offline sales function
With a focus on women, LGBTQI, and People with Disabilities, PhonePe's D&I Initiative is reshaping the offline sales industry. By ensuring safety, creating infrastructure, offering mentoring programs, and support to working mothers, PhonePe is committed to fostering an inclusive environment for all.
Imagine you head to a roadside vendor or your local kirana store to shop for daily needs. Once done, you use your phone to scan the UPI QR code and complete the payment. Effortless isn't it? Well, thousands of salespeople have been at it behind the scenes across the country, helping merchants adapt to newer technologies.
At, we employ over 5,000 people directly and approximately 12,000 contractual employees and freelancers to power a crucial part of the business. The offline sales organisation includes sales personnel who are our ambassadors on the ground, responsible for onboarding merchants and driving visibility for the brand across remote parts of the country. The ground force is supported by a management layer with strong execution skills, excellent strategic orientation, and a deep understanding of the market they operate.
An important part of our focus recently has been to improve diversity in the offline sales function.
With a focus on women, LGBTQI, and people with disabilities, PhonePe launched its Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in March 2021.. Building a diverse and inclusive organisation is a journey, and we are getting better at it through stronger hiring, better infrastructure, and ongoing training and conversations.
Given the need to spend long days in the market, the offline sales industry has always been dominated by men. Female representation in this field has traditionally been low due to concerns around personal safety, lack of on-ground infrastructure, and challenges of work-life balance.
As PhonePe tried to build a more diverse sales team, resolving these concerns became a core priority. Our goal was to create sustainable infrastructure that would allow us to attract, enable, and empower women into on-field roles.
“Market interactions are my favourite . Every interaction with a merchant is an opportunity to empower them with the benefits of financial convenience. The path might be challenging sometimes, but it is also incredibly rewarding. The UPI ecosystem is redefining the way people transact and I feel a sense of purpose by making a difference in the lives of thousands of merchants.”
- Manaya Bagga, Senior Area Sales Manager, PhonePe
Addressing safety and infrastructure concerns
Considering the nature of the job requires them to be on the field, focus on safety and on-ground infrastructure would impact their lives on a daily basis.
We started by ensuring the right infrastructure support as safety, hygiene, and comfort were non-negotiable table stakes for us.
Safety measures: As we began to think about the sales environment from a woman's perspective, we had to go beyond basic measures like a 24X7 security team and backup support for all employees. We designed routes for women who avoided remote locations and also created an SOS feature on the security app. This would trigger an emergency update to the manager via call/message and email to ensure access to immediate help. PhonePe’s 24X7 centralised security team is also available round the clock on a helpline number.
Access to clean washrooms: It can be quite daunting to find a clean, safe, and hygienic washroom in busy market areas and remote locations. PhonePe has partnered with Woloo, a tech-enabled washroom discovery app, to enable access to over 30,000 clean washroom facilities in 285 cities across India. Women sales personnel can see the nearest available washroom around them in real time, with safety and hygiene assured.
“I was hired as part of a campus recruitment programme and got started with offline sales. I have thoroughly enjoyed interacting with merchants and understanding the retail market. It's been a huge learning curve. Having a supporting manager and consciously reaching out for guidance from senior leaders has helped me have an enriching career. As part of the mentorship programme, I have picked up lessons in team management, conflict handling, and data analysis by interacting with senior leaders. ”
- Nishi Jaiswal, Senior Territory Sales Manager, PhonePe
Creating a conducive environment for women to thrive
It was also important for us that the women in the team could thrive through the right guidance and support.
Mentorship programme: We launched a mentorship programme where women sales executives could be mentored by senior members of the sales leadership team, and learn from shared experiences. The programme is aimed at defining a career path for female employees and supporting them through the journey.
The offline sales function has about 27% women representation in leadership roles. They have come together to provide 1:1 coaching to women early in their career journey.
The prior on-ground experience of senior leaders helps simplify their learning journey, builds confidence in their skills, and lets women better navigate the environment in the field. The programme is a win-win as both parties gain from the insights of the other.
“The experience of mentoring fellow women in sales has been enriching for me. Some of the discussion areas have been around creating an impact, communicating, and influencing proficiency and growth opportunities. I have seen the programme help women with diverse perspectives, cultivating confidence and gaining access to opportunities. I look forward to continuing on the journey of nurturing diversified sales and leadership teams.”
- Gargi Singh, Mentor & Head of Enterprise Business, PhonePe
Enabling managers: Immediate managers have the largest impact on an employee’s experience and so having managers who understand and appreciate the value and challenges of their women team members is crucial. Regular sessions are held for managers to sensitise them on issues concerning the sales team. This goes a long way towards ensuring women feel confident in their roles and know that their manager is with them on the journey.
Mothers at PhonePe programme: All full-time female employees in the offline sales department can avail benefits of the Mothers at PhonePe programme. Through the programme, we have created a support system for expectant and new mothers. This is designed to help them not only manage family and work priorities but also ensure a smoother transition back to their careers.
Apart from the six-month maternity leave policy, all expecting mothers have access to a 1:1 counselling session by a wellness partner, with the option to avail office conveyance allowance for three months, flexible working hours, and access to a creche facility in cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi-NCR, Pune, Chennai, and Mumbai. We are constantly adding more cities to offer support to women.
The road ahead
While we make efforts to build an enabling environment, challenges do exist, especially with a huge talent gap in the market. It is here that formulating the right policies, driving open conversations, providing access to mentors, and building the right infrastructure can help drive diversity.
With slow growth in numbers, it can sometimes feel like an impossible task, but we are focused on the small wins, knowing that taking tiny steps every day will take us far.
- By Manmeet Sandhu - Head of HR at PhonePe.