Learnings from Building a Healthcare Startup in India

Shashikant Kore interviews me about my previous startup.

(From 2008 to 2011, a doctor friend of mine, Amit Paranjape, and I ran BharatHealth, a healthcare startup, which failed. In conversations about startups, I would often mention learnings from this experience. For a long time, Shashikant kept asking me to write an article about it, and when I kept putting it off, we finally decided to do it as an email interview.)

Please provide your academic and professional background before starting up.

I am currently a co-founder and CTO at ReliScore.com, a startup focused on helping companies filter job candidates based on evaluation of actual job-related skills. I advise a couple of fintech companies and a Govt of India initiative for startups.

In the past I’ve worked for large companies, and small; I’ve worked in India and in the US; I’ve seen a successful exit, and I’ve seen a dotcom failure; I’ve done product development, and I’ve done research; I’ve written consumer software, and I’ve written enterprise software; and I’ve been a developer, I’ve been an architect, and I’ve been a manager (but hated it).

I’ve done my BTech in Computer Sciences from IIT-Bombay and a PhD in Databases from the University of Wisconsin, USA. I am an inventor on 18 US patents, 2 European patents, and 1 Japanese patent. I’m interested in a number of areas of computer science, including: highly scalable systems; distributed and fault-tolerant software systems; text search, information retrieval, and analysis of unstructured information.

You took a sabbatical after leaving Veritas/Symantec. What were your plans for this period?

I had gotten bored of my big-company job, and I was lucky financially to not have to worry for a few years. So my plan was to just work on things that I found interesting.

As a result, I spent a couple of years doing a bunch of things: I worked on my Hindi song lyrics website . I helped Meeta (@meetalks) set up her movie reviews site. I started https://punetech.com because I felt that the tech community in Pune needed a forum like that. I consulted for a few friends’ companies.

How did you come up with the idea for BharatHealth? Who were your co-founders at BharatHealth?

The doctor friend came up with the idea. He felt that a web-based system to capture all the health records and interactions between a patient and a doctor could revolutionize how healthcare is conducted, especially in case of chronic problems where the care requires lots of little tweaking over the long term. (Note – chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention.)

He approached Amit Paranjape and me and both of us liked the idea. That’s how BharatHealth was born.

Who were the target customers of BharatHealth? What problems did BharatHealth solve for those customers?

It’s easier to explain with an example. Let’s focus on diabetes patients as that was one of the first verticals we targeted.

Our initial target customers were doctors providing long-term diabetes care. The idea was that the doctors would offer BharatHealth to each of their patients. In the beginning, the patient’s basic history, the doctor’s current diagnosis, and medication protocol would be uploaded to the system.

After this, on an ongoing basis, the patient would keep uploading blood sugar readings into the system as recommended by the doctor. The doctor would check this on a regular basis and if any problems were noticed, they would recommend adjustments to the medication.

Similarly, if the patient had any non-emergency questions, they could just ask it in the system itself. The doctor would check the system a few times a day and answer any questions. This was much better than the patient having to come to the clinic and wasting a few hours, or calling up the doctor on the phone. More importantly, the doctor would be able to see the full history of the patient right in front of them along with the question so the answer would be quicker and more accurate.

We felt this was a win-win scenario.

What were your initial hypotheses for BharatHealth? 

We felt that this would:

  • Improve patient outcomes because of better availability of patient history, symptoms, medication
  • Decrease the amount of time spent by the patient waiting in waiting rooms
  • Increase the throughput of the doctor because the system would allow answering a question in 30 seconds, whereas the same question on the phone or in person would end up with at least 5 minutes if not more.
  • Patients would be happy to pay the doctor for the use of this system
  • Doctors would be happy to pay us a cut out of #4
  • Once a system like this was up and running, we would be able to monetize it in various other ways

What did the early version of the solution look like? How long did it take to get the first version in the hands of the customers?

This was at a time (2009-10) when touch phones hadn’t yet become common in India. Hence the system was a web-based system. We expected that all doctors and most patients would access it from laptops or desktop computers, while a small fraction of the patients would use smartphones to enter their test results and questions.

We built the system using Python+Django. It took a couple of months to get the first version to the customers.

How did you reach out to the early customers for BharatHealth?

Quite early we decided that this would be a B2B2C solution. We focused on getting doctors as our customers, and the doctors would ask their patients to join the system. In other words, we would never be selling to the patients directly.

We used our doctor co-founder’s connections to reach out to doctors in Pune, and made the sales the old-fashioned way –  by meeting them, showing a demo, and asking them to join.

What were some of the early marketing channels you used? Did you also have a sales team?

We only did direct sales. We did all the sales ourselves. The idea was that once we had figured out how to do the sales ourselves and streamlined the pitch and process, we could then hire a sales team. However, we never reached that stage.

What was the customer feedback of initial versions? Did any feedback surprise you? How did the initial feedback shape your product roadmap?

I’ll answer this in terms of general “customer reactions”. We ran into these major categories of customers/potential customers:

  1. A small number of doctors quickly understood the pitch and started using the system. They were generally happy how it worked and how it helped them and their patients.
  2. A number of doctors said they liked the idea but they did not think it would work in their situation because of one of these reasons:
    • They felt that a good fraction of their customers were not tech savvy and would not be comfortable using a web-based system
    • They would need to teach their receptionist to use the system, and that would be impossible
    • The system was in the cloud, and they didn’t think the internet was reliable enough
  3. Some of the doctors liked the system, sounded enthusiastic about wanting to use it, but when it came time to start using the system, they never got around to it, because always some higher priority thing came up and operationalizing this system kept being pushed lower on the todo list.

What were some of the hardest challenges in terms of product, marketing, sales and the market itself?

An experienced entrepreneur had told us that our product required behavior change on part of the doctors, and that would be very difficult. We never really appreciated how big of a stumbling block this was. In retrospect, I feel that a number of the problems in points #2 and #3 in the previous answer all stemmed from the fact that behavior change was required and our product did not provide a big enough incentive for driving that behavior change.

Speaking of incentives, based on our initial market validation (with about 5-10 friendly doctors) we felt that the significantly increased patient convenience and potential improvements to medical outcomes would be strong incentives for doctors to use this system. However,  once we moved past our friendly doctors, the impression we got was that in most cases, “Can this system get me new patients” was the more important question on their minds. And since we did not do a B2C play, our answer to that question was No.

Another problem we ran into was that doctors are used to the pharma-medical-representatives style of sales, where there is lots of hard-sell, lots of money flowing around, and royal treatment of doctors, and without that kind of a sales model, we were not very effective at selling into this market.

Another problem with this market (or the way we were selling the product) is that every doctor wanted customizations to the product to incorporate their own workflow into the system. While this is true of the early stages of any B2B product, I felt that this problem was more pronounced in case of doctors, because most of them have high-throughput practices with workflows that have been optimized over the years, and getting them to change those workflows would require too much behavior change. We tried hard to build a very flexible system that could easily incorporate the requested changes via configuration, but in many cases we had to give up on the customer after a number of rounds of changes.

All these reasons that affected our ability to sell to individual doctors were multiplied by N when we tried selling to hospitals. In the former case, we had doctors who didn’t feel they could convince their patients (and receptionists) to use the system. In the latter case, the problem was compounded because we had hospital administrators who had even less confidence in their abilities to convince doctors (who would then have to convince patients).

BharatHealth came up at a time when mobile phones were ubiquitous, but smartphones were just starting out. How big a role phones played in your solution? Would a smartphone have helped in some way?

In this sense, we were too early to the market. A few years later, when touchphones were truly ubiquitous, the resistance to our solution would have been much lower. Without the guarantee of an always-on smartphone with every patient, the (mental) barrier to entry was too high, and as a result the behavior change required was too high.

What were the signals that indicated the product is not working as per your team’s expectations?

While we made quick progress with the initial set of doctors we had talked to, we soon found that expanding past this inner circle was quite difficult. As we approached more doctors, we found that the meetings and demos went quite well (according to our possibly inexperienced judgement), and they sounded positive about the product, but getting them to take the next step was difficult.

In many cases, in spite of positive feedback, we would not be able to get them to set up their account on the system. There was always a plausible reason for it; some emergency that came up, or some other higher priority activity because of which they wouldn’t have time to learn the system. And in the cases where we got them to create an account and learn the system, we found that they wouldn’t actually sign on patients.

As a result, growth just slowed to a crawl.

At what point did your team decide to pause efforts on this product and company?

During a long stretch of low/no growth, Amit and I were involved in some unrelated initiative (part of our PuneTech work), and we hit upon the idea for a different product in a space that we understood much better (hiring for software industry) and we felt it would be easier to sell because we understood the potential customers and their motivations much better (having worked in that industry for 20+ years each). As a result we decided to stop BharatHealth and ReliScore (our current startup) was born.

Last decade saw significant improvements in technologies like smartphones, wearables and machine learning. You mentioned smartphones would have lowered barriers for adoption. What healthcare problems, that you are familiar with, can now be solved in a better way with new technologies?

Since I moved to a non-healthcare startup, I haven’t really kept close tabs on what all is going on in the healthcare tech space.

The potential for use of smartphones, wearables, and machine learning in healthcare is huge. You pick any aspect of healthcare and it has the potential to be revolutionized by these technologies.

However, the challenge primarily lies in the “behavioral change” that I mentioned earlier. This falls into two categories: preventive healthcare vs acute healthcare.

Preventive healthcare could be applied to everyone, and it could have a huge impact on the world. However, getting people to start using an app and/or providing it with the data it needs is not easy. Most people are quite lazy about taking steps now to prevent future problems, especially if it involves a payment. And if it doesn’t involve payment, then there is always the concern about how the company will use the data and whether privacy will be preserved. As they say it is easier to sell aspirin not vitamins. Because of this the companies most likely to make good progress in this area would be those like Apple, who have: 1. a good brand image, 2. an app or device that is already in people’s pockets, and 3. the data entry is minimal-effort, ideally zero-effort.

For acute healthcare (i.e. solving a problem you have right now, i.e. aspirin instead of vitamins), doctors and other providers have to be in the loop (given the current state of technology and regulations), so this involves handling behavior change and incentives for those players. As is clear from our failure, this is not something I understand well, and I haven’t yet seen a compelling model from someone else.

Since you faced challenges with B2B2C model, which seems to be the primary route to market, what are your thoughts on using the B2C approach?

I think the right kind of B2C approach could succeed, but the focus has to be more on psychology, incentives, distribution, rather than the technology. And would need deep pockets also. We considered pivoting to a B2C model, but we decided that we neither had the expertise nor the budget to pull it off.

You mentioned, you thought about B2C pivot, but didn’t work on it for a variety of reasons. Do you remember what some of those B2C ideas were?

We thought of a lot of ideas, only some of which I remember. For example:

  1. Allow end-users to capture their medical history and reports, and enable easy sharing of this data across patient, doctor, pathologists/labs, family (e.g. NRI children), and for second opinions. 
  2. Same as #1, and get medical insurance companies to offer discounts to patients who show good control over time.
  3. Allow end-users to capture their medical history, and allow them to ask questions to our team of doctors
  4. Same as #3 but have software triggers and/or doctors looking at the data to warn patients of potential problems that they’re ignoring
  5. Same as #3 but allow the patients to suggest which doctors they would like on the system and use that to create pressure on doctors to join.

How long did you work on BharatHealth, from starting work on it, till deciding to stop working on it? I could add it to give some idea of  commitment for new entrepreneurs.

Approximately 3 years.

If a new entrepreneur wants to explore this space again, what advice would you give?

I would say this:

  • Focus on psychology, incentives, distribution, rather than technology. Technology is the least of your challenges. Ask yourself if you can do the first 3 to 6 months of your startup using just WhatsApp and an Excel spreadsheet and you personally handle all the customers. You’ll be surprised at how often this is possible.
  • To be able to do #1, steep yourself in the culture of this domain. Talk to doctors who are not your friends, hospital administrators who are not your friends, and so on.

My Gap Year after 12th Std

(For the past few years, I have been encouraging 12th Std. students to take a gap year, and I usually give the example of Nishchala Bhandari who took a gap year and was very glad to have done it. For the benefit of other students, I asked her to write an article about her experiences.

This is the article is written by Nishchala, who took a gap year after doing her 12th Std in Pune, India, got a lot of interesting and valuable experiences, and later joined New York University (NYU), where she is now a second year student. She hopes that this article will nudge other 12th Std. students and their parents to consider taking a year off before college.

Update: After this article was published, Nishchala had this further update: “My experience with the gap year also greatly helped me get scholarship for NYU. In case any undergrad students are looking for how to get their applications to stand out in order to attain scholarships, a gap year might be an interesting place to start.”)

When I finished 12th grade, I had no idea what I wanted to do. The year seemed to have spun into such a blur of fast forward motion—with relentless examinations, endless stress, unnerving conversations with adults on my future—that by the time it was time to apply for college, I felt lost. I didn’t feel mature or skilled enough to leave home and jump into the even more tiresome rat race of college. I remember struggling to write my CommonApp essay in October—I felt like I was missing something.

Around December 2013, about a month before college applications were due, my dad—knowing how lost I felt—suggested that I take a gap year: a year off before starting college—no school; no classes; just a year to take a break and do whatever I wanted. Initially I was completely opposed to the idea. Why would I waste a year of my life? To top it off, I didn’t personally know anyone who had ever taken a gap year—what would people think of it? What would colleges think of it? It seemed like an outrageous thing to do. But finally my dad convinced me to read up on it before jumping to a decision.

Researching online on the gap year shifted my thinking. Although a gap year wasn’t all that popular, there were quite a few people who had done it, and their accomplishments that they published online were inspiring. In fact—and to my surprise—I found that many colleges in the US encourage students to defer their admissions and take a year off before starting college. Big shot universities like Harvard and MIT actually write, in their admission letters itself, that students should seriously consider taking a year off (you can read more about what Harvard has to say about gap years here). Harvard writes that its students who took a gap year “are effusive in their praise. Many speak of their year away as a ‘life-altering’ experience or a ‘turning point,’ and most feel that its full value can never be measured and will pay dividends the rest of their lives.(…) Virtually all would do it again” (Harvard). After filling out notebooks with lists weighing the pros and cons of a gap year, and after reading as many articles I could get my hands on, I felt inspired and finally decided that I too would take a year off before going to college.

The decision was definitely not easy; there were times when I questioned whether or not I had made the right choice. The majority of the reactions that I got from my relatives and friends was coated with absolute disapproval. And the constant Facebook updates of my friends celebrating their newly found college lives only made it worse and made me feel like I was behind. But by the end of the year, I felt so refreshed and fulfilled that I too could proudly say that my gap year was a ‘life altering’ decision.

In the larger scheme of things, a year here or there doesn’t really matter. Of course though, taking a gap year has its risks. If you don’t use it well you might fall into a year long pattern of laziness which can be difficult to get out of. But if you do use it well, the effects can be rewarding! Since college applications are right around the corner, it is the perfect time for students to think about taking a year off. To help with this thinking, I’ve written about my year as an example. Although—please keep in mind—there is no such thing as a “typical” gap year since you can do pretty much anything; the sky is the limit! Below are brief write ups about the activities that I did during my gap year, and my overall experiences:

Fellowship with Make A Difference

In 11th and 12th grade, I used to volunteer as a teacher with the NGO Make A Difference (MAD); I would teach English to a class of 10 underprivileged children at the SOS center in Pune. So during my gap year (starting from early June 2014), I decided to take this a step further and applied to lead the education program—called ‘Ed Support’—for MAD in my city. My responsibilities as Ed Support fellow entailed recruiting a team of 60 volunteer teachers and 8 volunteer interns. Our team worked over the academic year (2014-2015) to teach English, Math and Science to approximately 120+ underprivileged children in shelter homes in Pune.

My fellowship journey has undoubtedly been one of the most brilliant and meaningful experiences I’ve been a part of. I had never before led a team at that scale, and I had never before felt like I was making such a positive impact on society at that scale. The sheer work that was required to establish the base for MAD Pune—we had about 850+ applications in 2014—meant that almost every day of my year went into working on the Ed Support program: conducting teacher trainings, interviewing applicants, reviewing classes etc. The journey was challenging, even frustrating many times, since the problems of poverty that the children were trapped in seemed too deep and too complex for a bunch of volunteers in their 20s to solve. But the experience taught us compassion, optimism and resilience, and how to take challenges one day at a time. In addition to this I got to scratch the surface of positive leadership—how to connect with people, motivate a team, skillfully resolve disputes, how to innovate—and learn brilliant skills that would help me throughout life.

Part Time Job at “Expression & Freedom Speech and Drama Academy”

In addition to my work with MAD, I was doing a part time job with E&F Academy (from February 2014 onward). I worked as a teacher assistant, and mentored several classes of students ranging from ages 8 to 13 who were learning poetry and drama. I wrote the annual script for the drama class, helped design the annual poetry, speech and drama curriculum, created weekly lesson plans for classes as well as designed the annual poetry book which was a collation of poems written by the students across the year. The classes provided a spectacular platform for me to channel and share my passion for drama and poetry; I learned the art of how to make teaching more creative and interesting by incorporating the magic of theater and poems. Furthermore, mentoring the classes helped me loose my inhibitions and transformed me into a more confident, creative and self-aware person.

Working on bits of the E&F curricula was a part of most of my days over the year. Having a paying part time job heightened my sense of responsibility, organization and accountability; it was not only an invaluable experience to include in my college applications, but it also equipped me with life skills which will stay with me when I get a professional job later on.

Shadowing PhD Students Majoring in the Field of Biological Sciences

For about a month and a half (from February-March 2014), I went to Chandigarh to shadow PhD students who were researching in the field of biology. After 12th grade, one of the potential majors I was thinking of pursuing was biological sciences, but I didn’t know exactly what that would entail, nor did I know which field of biological science I wanted to pursue; I wanted to get a first hand experience of what exactly researching in the field of biological science meant. What would I do on a daily basis? Would I have to work alone or with people? What kind of lifestyle would I lead? What kind of jobs could I get with a biology major, and how would they look like on a day to day basis?

To attempt to answer these questions, I went to IISER and Punjab University where I met with students pursuing Masters and PhDs in different fields of science. I got a chance to shadow, interact and ask them questions about their research experience and overall experience in their careers. The exposure was eye opening; research in the field of biology was extremely different from what I had in mind—it was nothing like what I imagined I would be doing when I used to study biology in school. I quickly realized that research was not an area that matched my personality, and perhaps it was time for me to think of a different field, or perhaps a different major entirely.

The year of down-time I got, away from the conventional lifestyle of school and classes and college applications, gave me perspective. Having that extra time to heavily focus on helping the underprivileged—a cause that I now know I want to continue working for in my career—and getting that extra time to teach my hobbies to my students at E&F—as well as learn from them—would not have been possible without the gap year I took. I felt like I had accomplished something real and meaningful for the first time in my life.

By the end of the year I felt rejuvenated, bold, and better equipped to handle whatever was to come next. I was ready to jump back into the rat race of fluctuating GPAs, examinations, deadlines, projects, college major selection, identity crises and everything in between. Even more, the time off made me feel more connected with myself; the choices I made over the year, the kinds of activities I engaged in and my journey of leading such a large team sculpted me and taught me skills and lessons that no school textbook could ever teach.

I remember hearing a quote from a play that went something like this: “It’s important to know what you want to be when your grow up, but it’s far more important to know who you want to be.” In our monotonous routines of school, examinations and classes, we often forget this. My year off implored me to introspect on what kind of person I was, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go. And now that I’m done with my first year of studying in New York University, I feel a transformation within me, and I can confidently say that I made the right investment in myself by choosing to take that year off.

So whether you ultimately decide to take a gap year or not, I urge you to—at the very least—consider the value it may add to you; the possibilities of all that you can do with your year might mark the beginning of a journey truly exciting.

Useful Links

A few websites I found helpful while researching on gap years:

About the Author – Nishchala Bhandari

Nishchala is going to begin her sophomore year in NYU. Her major is undecided, but she’s leaning towards Economics. She loves to photograph, listen to music, bake, read and travel. She is also weirdly obsessed with staplers. If you have any questions for her, you can contact her at nishchalab@gmail.com.

Should you encourage your child to take a gap year before college?

Should you (would you?) encourage your child to take a “gap year” before starting college (i.e. after 12th)? If no, why not? If yes, how would you suggest the child plan the year? What activities/experiences would you hope for the child to take up? Does your answer change depending upon whether the child is going to do college in India vs the US?

My friend Suvikas Bhandari’s daughter just finished a very successful gap year. And she has written about her experience. In addition, I wanted the opinions of others who have gone through this in the past, or are thinking about it.

So I posted this question on my Facebook page and got a bunch of great responses, some of which I’m reproducing below.

Note: I am NOT talking about taking an year off to “study for the JEE.” The gap year is not about studying and academics. Studying in an Indian college becomes all about just the subjects, and that too, often theory. A gap year is about taking an year off so the child can travel alone, take up one or more jobs/internships, learn some out-of-the-way skills, and generally get life experience. A gap year helps with giving a sense of perspective, a sense of responsibility, and most importantly, an idea of what matters in the real world (which can help a lot in college to make you focus on the right things).

Gap is Good – But should it be well planned or not?

In general, most people felt that a gap year is good – but many qualified the statement by saying something like “gap with proper guidance for a limited time frame would be really productive” or “gap year but should have full plan on hand before u decide on it”.

On the other hand, Rujuta disagrees:

However, I am against having a detailed plan – I would say have a plan but be prepared to throw it out of the window when you think it isn’t working or your experience along the way takes you in a different direction. Plan to be out of your comfort zone…plan to do things you have never done before….don’t preplan what you want to learn….don’t get demotivated if all of the year wasn’t ‘productive’. I wish I had the opportunity to do this.

First Hand Experiences

The best comments I felt were first-hand accounts from my friends who themselves took a gap year (intentionally, or forced due to circumstances) and wrote about that.

For example, Idea Smith shared her own experience:

I don’t know if this is relevant but I’ll share something. I had a gap year of sorts just before I graduated (long story involving science-vs-arts battle with family, low attendance and ATKTs). In that time, I worked out, lived in another city for 3 months, interned with an ad agency, did a life program called the Landmark Forum and found my first boyfriend. Having that year really changed the course of my life because it gave me a chance to think and explore outside the rigid social construct I was in. After I graduated, I actually worked for a year alongside preparing for CAT. I didn’t need a gap year that someone like me normally would have, because I had had it the year earlier.

It also helped me discover that I would always need periodic breaks of that sort to collect my thoughts and refocus my attention. That’s what kept me from getting desperate in 2003, after the recession and when jobs were scarce. It’s also what allowed me to take a sabbatical in 2005 at a time when people were holding on to their jobs. And finally, all these helped me quit my corporate job in 2009 to do other things – knowing that it was okay to stop running, think and even do something else, without always having a 10-step plan and bulletpointed details down.

That was 15 years ago and I know a lot of things have changed. It might be good if the family/parents did not impose a lot of activities on their child. Instead, if possible it might make a lot of sense to encourage the child to think about what interests him/her and then help him/her find activities that let him/her explore it.

And Ankit Saxena had a similar story:

I have my own interesting experience on this one. I was forced to take a gap year in between my engineering because of attendance shortage, which meant I had to lose an year and also a complete 9 months free time without college.I was an electronic engg. student but always wanted to learn computer science (as I was good at it since childhood days) , but you dont necessarily get to choose the college and branch at your will.

So in my “gap” months , I had the best time of my life. I joined a tech startup based out of my college E-cell and learned how to write bigger softwares and not just palindrome programs. We implemented ERP for a Bangalore based company and made a POS solution for the hospitality sector – with Windows Mobile App for stewards in restaurant to take orders and implemented the system in a couple of big restaurants in Mumbai.

I learned about softwares, startups, business, execution and everything about sustaining chaos. Six months later I was leading software development for the company with a team of 6 engineers. All before I turned 20.

PS: I went back to studies after 9 months and topped my branch that semester and did my own startup from the same E-cell a year later.

So in hindsight, according to me, its always good to take a break from the social norm stream and explore what you like.

In Depth Reading on this topic

Manish Kumar suggests a couple of books that you could read, about Indian kids who took a gap year and wrote about it:

I have taken such break myself and I recently wrote about my experience here in a note. I also know many people who have taken “gap year” for various reasons…

If you’re curious, I would highly recommend 2 books by Indian kids who have taken “gap year” long ago.

(1) Free From School by Rahul Alvares.
(2) Learning the Heart Way by Samyukta

The printed copies are not available for these books, but I guess Gutenberg project has soft copies. Both are highly recommended for older children – maybe 8th standard & up!

(Manish also points out that Marathi hardcopies of these books are available from BookGanga.com)

Avinash Punekar pointed out one possible downside of a gap year:

BTW, most Indian companies tend to reject candidates with education/career gap automatically.

Note, however, that some companies do it, not all or even many. Also, if a company has a stupid policy like this, I am not entirely sure of whether you should be joining this company.

There are many other interesting comments which I’m not reproducing in the interest of keeping this short, but please check out the original discussion.