Karate, kids helped CEOs tackle Covid

The impact of two years of the pandemic was visible on businesses. However, what was not directly visible were the shocks that were absorbed by leaders who stood firm in their resolve to navigate their businesses through uncharted waters. Leaders across industries revealed to TOI some of the scars they acquired while running their businesses in times of Covid.

They shared how certain practices helped them build nerves of steel to ensure business continuity and, more importantly, to emerge as better leaders. Mars Wrigley India country GM Kalpesh Parmar set up his own ‘personal board of directors’ to deal with the several shifts created by the coronavirus.

“A few years ago, I had read, ‘Think of yourself as your own business, with you at the helm as the CEO’. Being your own CEO involves many things but, importantly, you need your own personal board of directors who will steer you towards your success,” says Parmar. Parmar’s personal board includes his close friends, his wife and his children and he continues to hold on to this group as they motivate, challenge, help him expand his network and unlock business opportunities.

Welspun Corp MD & CEO Vipul Mathur became a proficient reader of not only organisational development, culture building and execution books, but also motivational books during the pandemic. As he looked for answers amid surging Covid cases, Mathur said he became a more disciplined reader. It’s a best practice that has stayed with him.

“From a leadership perspective, I realised that while most people were initially in denial mode, it was important for me to accept the reality, identify the challenges it poses and calibrate the strategy accordingly,” says Mathur. Unprecedented times, he says, are going to stay and one doesn’t have all the answers. “Books, an emphatic approach & connect with peer groups helped me immensely to get a grip of the situation at hand,” adds Mathur.

Chai Point founder Amuleek Singh Bijral believes tapping into the reservoirs of emotional and mental toughness is key. And for this, he began pursuing martial arts. Other than taking up karate, Bijral realised how spending more time with his kids — which was not always the case in pre-Covid times when Bijral had a hectic travel schedule — has made him a better leader.

“I have realised that I somehow become tougher — physically, emotionally and perhaps also intellectually. This gave me an opportunity to connect with my people at a level I had never connected before. The pandemic ultimately has given me the perspective that no matter how adverse the situation, tough leaders will thrive,” says Bijral. Parmar continues to invest time and energy in nurturing his personal board.

“I am intentional about it and calendarise my meetings with them,” he says. His advice to all those who want to develop a personal board: “Go to your board with an open mind, ask questions and, finally, be clear on what you want from these individuals,” And at the end of it all, he says, be humble and vulnerable.