Business Today

Playing To Succeed

All work and no play makes you a dull person. CEOs are following this old adage and, in spite of their impossibly long working hours, finding time to do the things they love. BT spoke to some of the top executives.
Ajita Shashidhar & Sonal Khetarpal   New Delhi     Print Edition: May 19, 2019
Playing To Succeed
Rajesh Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Perfetti Van Melle India, the maker of Happydent chewing gum and Alpenliebe candy (Photograph by Reuben Singh)

A Different View

Rajesh Ramakrishnan is sure that photography isn't his hobby but passion, a part of his daily life. He thinks of photo concepts during his daily morning walk or even while he is on a flight. The possibility of one great click is sufficient for him to wake up at 4 a.m. or visit Vrindavan during the colourful holi or - in spite of his fear of heights - go on a trek to Mount Kilimanjaro.

An engineer by education, he never considered himself a creative person. But after he attended a photography workshop on the insistence of a friend, he was hooked. What appealed to him was how photography allowed him to see things from multiple perspectives. Everyone takes a photograph of Jama Masjid with pigeons flying. But the same mosque can be captured in all its glory as a reflection in an earthen lamp.

Seventeen years on, he is expanding his skills. What started as an annual calendar for charity has led to several photography exhibitions. His first solo photo exhibition was on "Yoga: Anywhere. Anytime" in National Museum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He won second prize at Instagram's competition on recreating a classic photo and got his photo displayed at Cannes.

This has had a direct bearing on his work. "I now look at each project from different angles, surround myself with people from different perspectives to ensure we have thought through problems/decisions from all angles," he says. Photography has also taught me to always have Plan B, he adds. "Often you travel for hours to take a picture but it rains. You learn to make do with what you have." Every Friday afternoon, he gives lessons on "Leadership From Photography" at companies. At present, he is conceptualising photos for his next exhibition in January 2020 where he is exploring hybrid photography - part photo, part painting.

Sunil Lulla, Group CEO, Balaji Telefilms (Photograph by Vilas Kalgutker)

Runner's High

Sunil Lulla has had a long series of interests - squash, sailing, drawing and then mixology. But since 2013, it has been running all the way. Initially it was a means to get fit and build stamina, until he joined Savio DSouza's running group in South Mumbai. Lulla has come a long way since his first half marathon in Goa in December 2013. He used to struggle to do even 5 km initially but finishing 10 km an hour is the new normal.

Lulla's passion for running is evident from the fact that he runs on an average three to four days a week, including on a Sunday, when he clocks longer hours on the road. The distance is usually either 70-75 km a week or 40-45 km, depending on whether there is a run to prepare for.

Contrary to the perception that distance running is a solo endeavour, Lulla says it is quite competitive. "You work against your own timing and that of fellow runners." It is also an opportunity to meet new people and have interesting conversations. "I am a conversational runner. In fact, I talk a lot when I run. It not only helps in increasing oxygen intake but also keeps one engaged."

Lulla says running has brought focus to his life. "When you pursue any sport, you focus on your nutrition and give attention to your physical fitness. It also brings focus to the way you live and work. This then gives a lot of confidence."

While Lulla has run at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park marathon and the Satara Hill Half Marathon, he says the most interesting one has been the midnight sun marathon in the small town of Tromso in Norway where the sun shines bright even at night. This year, he is preparing for the world's largest New York City Marathon in November.

Sumit Mukhija, CEO, ST Telemedia Global Data Centres India

Mr Fixit

Sumit Mukhija has been fond of fixing home appliances right from childhood. Whether it was a fan or an electric iron, he would work with electrical equipment to not only fix it but often just out of sheer curiosity. During a hot summer day, he converted a table fan into a makeshift cooler.

Even now, when he is not working, he is thinking about how he can make his home smarter. He has already automated his houses lights and fans, which run on voice command. The lights also switch on automatically when it becomes dark and switch off during bed time. The television and air conditioners, too, have been connected with virtual assistants such as Alexa or Google Home so that they can be switched off and on using voice commands. And, he didnt spend a bomb on all this. An integrator had asked for Rs 15 lakh to automate the electrical equipment in his home. He has done it himself under Rs 75,000 by ensuring minimum intervention. "I didnt change any wiring or switches. It did it by just adding a module or a controller," he says. Recently, he automated his home theatre system so that changing channels, switching on/off, moving from Netflix to TataSky and back can be done by tapping on the mobile or through voice command.

He says his love for fixing and modifying electronics has made him comfortable with problems. "I am usually never surprised in case of contingencies which are common considering the service-led nature of the data centre business and can come up with solutions on the fly," he says.

Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and MD, HUL (Photograph by Rachit Goswami)

Tea Connoisseur

Walk into the sprawling third floor office of HUL Chairman and MD, Sanjiv Mehta, you can be assured of some of the finest tea from across the world, brewed by Mehta himself. One of his favourite is Kenya Lipton Yellow Label blended with the home-grown Tajmahal Tea. Mehta, who never misses to make the morning cup of tea at his home in Mumbai, has also created a blend for tea lovers who visit the Tajmahal Tea House in Mumbai. Called the Spiced Tea Toddy Style, it is a black tea infused with a host of spices. So, would Mehta have taken up tea tasting as a career had he not been the Chairman of the country's biggest FMCG company? Not really. He says he would have probably become a truck driver as trucks always fascinated him as a child. "The complex 'Double-D' clutch of trucks in an era when there was no power steering had always fascinated me," confesses the 59-year-old CEO, who also took truck driving lessons when he was doing his CA articleship.

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