Manesh Mahatme, head of the WhatApp Payments team at the Meta office in India, remembers when he needed to take out a loan to attend university in India.
“Having access to financial assistance when I was in school empowered me to receive an education I’m proud of, ultimately helping me grow a career,” he shares. “Getting that loan was a defining moment in my life, and my experience has fueled my strong desire to move the needle on making financial services more accessible for those who need them most.”
After spending seven years at a large tech company, Manesh joined Meta to lead Payments
for WhatsApp in India. “I saw how we were positioned to drive impact at unprecedented scale,” he notes. “More than 400 million people use WhatsApp every day in India, yet only a small percentage of the country has access to the convenience of digital payments. Knowing we can help bridge this gap with payments on WhatsApp motivates me each day.”
In addition to tremendous opportunity, Manesh says the culture and community on the WhatsApp team are unlike anything he’s experienced elsewhere. “I’ve been blown away by the collaboration that takes place across teams,” he notes. “Being part of it has helped me evolve as a leader and reinforced my philosophy on what it means to build communicative, innovative, and effective teams.”
Effective collaboration drives innovation
With nearly two decades of experience across technology companies, Manesh came to Meta accustomed to working with and leading large teams.
“I wasn’t sure what it would be like working on Payments with a lean team,” he says. “Having led a team of almost 200 people in my last role, I worried I may not have the same level of support while working on a single product.”
Eight weeks into his role, Manesh found he was pleasantly surprised. “I hadn’t ever experienced collaboration that is as effective as it is within the team at WhatsApp. This team is incredibly close and cohesive. People across the team communicate effectively, no matter where they are or what they’re working on. I experienced people across the company reaching out to help solve challenges, even when their focus wasn’t payments. I also felt empowered when I saw that even though I was new to the company, people put their trust in me and our team for guidance when informing plans for the year ahead.”
Knowing the entire team is invested in the Payments team’s success continues to inspire Manesh. “It makes such a meaningful difference to know people believe in what you’re doing,” he says. “I can reach out to anyone with questions or to validate an idea any time. As a result, we’re all collectively able to move more quickly and build better.”
An inclusive culture empowers teamwork
Reflecting on other early misconceptions, Manesh says thinking he may need to shift his leadership style was one of his biggest mistakes. “I incorrectly assumed I would have to take a lot of time to ramp up on company culture and understand all of the organization’s unspoken rules,” he laughs. “I’m so delighted my experience has been the exact opposite!”
“Meta has an extraordinary, inclusive culture in that people approach you with the mindset of, “How can we work with you and value you for your unique strengths and capabilities?”
He continues, “I often compare our approach to teamwork to a cup of tea. When you add sugar to tea, it’s not an ingredient that must blend in and go unnoticed. Rather, it makes for a sweet addition that elevates the overall taste. Similarly, every new person who joins our team is seen as a valuable addition with unique qualities that will improve our efforts, empower us to work more effectively, and drive greater impact. The result is a strong, balanced team that’s well-equipped to innovate and tackle novel challenges together.”
Purpose and vision inspire impact
Sharing a clear vision brings teams and stakeholders together and empowers people to do their best work. At Meta, the mission to make simple, reliable, and secure messaging available to everyone—no matter where they are in the world—is at the heart of every decision Manesh and his team make.
“I’ve never seen the power in being aligned as a team hold so true as I have while in my role on the WhatsApp team,” he notes. “With the introduction of Payments on WhatsApp, we’re able to provide access to those who haven’t yet onboarded the digital payments bandwagon.”
Manesh says that while it’s his job to focus on establishing a vision the team can wholeheartedly get behind, it’s also been critical to recruit the right people to guide teams and projects. “Our approach is rooted in teamwork and trust, so leaders can move forward high-level aspects of our vision and then get out of the way. Once this happens, our leadership focus shifts to removing any barriers the team may be facing. This helps ensure each person has all of the resources they need to succeed. This is how we empower team members and make a truly meaningful impact together.”
Challenging limiting beliefs is key for growth
WhatsApp teams embrace curiosity and bring a deep desire to learn to drive authentic conversations. “Everyone is encouraged to ask questions, and team members look for opportunities to shift their existing thought processes or try a new approach when something isn’t working,” Manesh explains.
Struck by the openness and transparency he encountered across the company from the start, Manesh says he’s come to realize that continuously seeking feedback is something that’s simply baked into the company culture. “We talk to people who use WhatsApp, and we use the same approach with one another,” he shares. “Questioning our own beliefs, in any instance, is key to building a better product. For example, recent user feedback helped us see that we need to focus on driving more awareness about Payments. Our team has since introduced new features, including new assets to build awareness on the WhatsApp home screen. People who use WhatsApp can also use their camera to scan payment QR codes. Opening ourselves up to new ways of thinking has made it possible to roll out Payments for people across India.”
Manesh concludes, “I think having a desire to develop a second order of thinking is incredibly commendable and in my experience, it’s rare. Coming to work with curiosity and the ability to speak genuinely and transparently are qualities we look for in new team members because they help us all grow.”
The WhatsApp team in India is growing!