Case Studies - Brand & Marketing

The Power of Fractal’s Rituals

Co-founder Srikanth Velamakanni tells us how AI and analytics company, Fractal, uses thoughtfully designed rituals to shape their culture and brand.

different coloured ropes forming a circle on a pale blue background

At first glance, Fractal.ai’s Client Advisory Board (CAB) meetings seem like typical client engagement interactions. There are senior teams from clients and Fractal – and yes, there’s a Powerpoint deck. 

It is the first slide bearing just the company’s current NPS score, however, that signals the difference.

Fractal co-founders Srikanth Velamakanni and Pranay Agrawal always start the meeting by presenting the latest NPS score, regardless of whether it has gone up or down and delve into the reasons for the change. They then detail the company’s roadmap and strategy for the coming year and ask the assembled clients for their feedback. Included in the presentation, is a summary of the feedback from the previous year, and actions the company has taken in response.

It is unusual for a company to do this. It is even more unusual to do this in an open-house format where key clients – some old, some recent – can interact with each other, speak freely and participate energetically. 

“One of our principles at Fractal is ‘clients ahead of our company, our company ahead of our team, and our team ahead of ourselves,’ says Velamakanni. “With the CAB, we are communicating to our clients that we think of you as key partners in our journey. This inclusion makes them feel invested in our success and helps us refine our approach based on their input. Beyond that, it exhibits the trust and confidence we have in our relationships.” 

CAB is just one example of rituals at Fractal. Param Venkataraman, previously Chief Design Officer at Fractal, now runs his own behavioural design studio, 3 Big Things, along with partner, Shalini Raghunathan. They define a ritual as ‘a tool that allows for thoughtfully designed experiences, which create a context for systemic change, with a human at the centre of it.’

“The potential of rituals for creating organisational change is not recognised enough,” says Venkataraman. “When implemented thoughtfully, rituals are extremely powerful instruments, both for transforming culture and shaping brand perception.”

Fractalites Forever

Most companies focus on onboarding processes, but Fractal is one of the few that has crafted rituals for a considered exit process, to stay true to its value of ‘Extend extreme trust and be accountable.’

“We believe that even when they leave, our people are Fractalites,” says Velamakanni,” and our exit process reflects this. We ensure that all dues are settled and we go beyond a typical exit interview.  We put a bunch of people in a room and ask them why they are leaving and try to learn from that process. We ask them to write uncensored exit emails to the whole company to say goodbye. This is quite unusual – most companies do not want their people to be reading multiple farewell emails, but it is an essential part of our transparent culture.” 

The Lifecycle of a Ritual

Shalini Raghunathan, co founder 3 Big Things, says there are 5 stages to a ritual:

  1. Invoke (prepare to introduce the ritual and define activities, rules and roles, invite people to join)
  2. Affirm (the ritual may seem awkward at first, but commit to the intention until it takes root)
  3. Sustain (keep the momentum going)
  4. Adapt (the ritual may live on in spirit, but the associated activity may be quite different)
  5. Conclude (recognise when the ritual has served its purpose, and close it down)
Infographic showing lifecycle of a ritual with 5 stages: Invoke, Affirm, Sustain / Evolve, Adapt, Conclude
Lifecycle of a ritual, from the toolkit by 3 Big Things.

Rituals can be big or small. Marico chairman, Harsh Mariwala started a 4pm popcorn ritual as a way of creating informal conversations across functions and hierarchies. The ritual was timed to counter the 4pm slump and the smell of popcorn would draw people to the popcorn machine organically. Mariwala himself kept his door open to reinforce the intent.

Evolving Town Halls

An excellent example of how a ritual has adapted and sustained, is the town hall at Fractal. 

Borne from a need to communicate during the lockdown, the online meeting started with a few teams, but has evolved into a powerful weekly forum to which the entire company is invited. The same deck that is presented to the CAB and to the Board, is shared with employees at the townhall. Senior leaders, including the founders, spend around 45 minutes every single week, answering questions from employees. These questions can be asked anonymously, but they are visible to everyone and are prioritised via upvoting. The NPS score, which is Fractal’s north star, is also presented and discussed. (Starting with single digits in 2008, the score now stands at a handsome 77).

A ritual that started out as a response to a crisis, says Velamakanni, has evolved into something that demonstrates and upholds Fractal’s culture. 

The town halls also highlight the importance of custodians for rituals. 

A custodian is a core believer in the need for the ritual and is the connection between the ritual and the intended outcome. The town halls began during the lockdown with the founders as custodians. While Velamakanni and Agrawal continue to affirm the importance of the ritual through their participation, the meetings themselves have now evolved into a knowledge-sharing format, where different teams take ownership and share relevant information. 

“The most important thing to remember is that you can only invite people to participate in a ritual, you cannot enforce it,” stresses Venkataraman.“People participate in the town hall because they see the value. Mandating attendance would never work.”

As a company evolves, so will the kind of rituals it needs. Velamakanni points to Fractal’s ‘Ideas to Business program,’ where Fractalites can incubate entrepreneurial ventures. “This came out of an understanding that when someone’s growth curve bends towards entrepreneurship, we should think about how we can support them. It also embodies our Learn & Grow value.” Of the ten or so ventures that Fractal has incubated, Qure. ai and Theremin.ai have raised external funds.

THC Takeaway

In the corporate world, standard operating procedures, frameworks and processes are ubiquitous. However, few companies have fully leveraged the transformative potential of rituals. From Jeff Bezos’s insistence on detailed meeting notes to Walmart’s iconic cheer, there are many well-known corporate rituals. Closer to home, Indigo Airlines’ practice of clearing trash before landing, has helped to reinforce its “on-time” promise.

Moreover, as Fractal’s examples illustrate, even seemingly routine processes like client meetings or exit interviews, can be significantly enhanced by adopting a ritualistic approach. By imbuing these processes with a sense of ritual, companies can instil consistency, accountability, and a shared sense of purpose. This, in turn, can serve as a powerful vehicle for cascading core values throughout the organisation, ultimately driving retention and loyalty for both clients and employees.


3 Big Things has created a toolkit to help you design your own ritual. Download it here.

Leave a Comment

All comments are moderated according to our comment policy. Your email address will NOT be published. All fields are required.

The Hard Copy is a resource for building and growing modern brands. Sign up to get case studies and advice in your inbox every week.

Related Articles