Rajiv Mehta: A fit employee can be an example to customers

With running, you wake up at a certain time, you run mostly alone and hence are focused on a task


Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Running was an occupational hazard of his previous job that Rajiv Mehta could not have avoided. As the head of sports brand Puma in India, Mehta was on a business trip to Sri Lanka in 2011 when his then boss asked to join him for a run on the beach. And that's how it all started.

Today, the chief executive of Arvind Brands and Arvind Sports Lifestyle runs four times a week and believes that anyone who cannot spare some time for their health daily is inefficient. A chemical engineer with an MBA from the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (Insead), Mehta trains in Bengaluru, where he lives and works, and has run a handful of corporate relays, 10km races and half marathons. He loves running in Cubbon Park and around Ulsoor Lake; his wife, Suhani, prefers the gym.  Edited excerpts from an interview:

How does running affect your performance at work? 

Of course, running affects my work…positively. I am more energetic through the day, my focus and concentration are higher, I am also disciplined and driven because of running. With running, you wake up at a certain time, you run mostly alone and hence are focused on a task, you are using your whole body to run and hence getting to exercise your mind as well—endurance running is more about the mind than the body.

How do you balance your training and work?

I am personally very disciplined about the way I fit my training into the day. No matter what time I sleep, I always wake up at the same time. With this discipline, I have been able to manage work as well as training. If you cannot take out 30-45 minutes for yourself in a day, then you are inefficient. You have to put your health above everything else. 

What effect does leading by example as a fit leader have on your team members?

Being energetic has a couple of rub-offs. One is, I look like a part of a young organization and can be seen as a fit leader who at least appears younger than he is. Second, a fit employee can be an example to customers and vendors on how our clothes look on people, and you become a walking-talking brand ambassador for your brands. 

Any leadership lessons you find in distance running?

A leader is dedicated, disciplined and determined. This is exactly what distance running also teaches you. Without the three Ds, you will not be able to finish your race. It also teaches you to self-evaluate. Distance running is a race against yourself and not against anyone else. 

Has running changed the way you network?

Running has definitely opened me to a world of different professionals. We are all runners before we are anyone in the corporate world. Like any sport, you tend to talk about your passion before you talk about work. 

In a perfect world, how would you incorporate running/fitness in the workday of all your team members? 

I would first provide showers (in the process) at work; I would get them coaches for free and then encourage them to park their vehicles at a certain distance and run to work....This would bring about discipline and dedication.

Your favourite running moment...

In June, I did a running tour in Prague. It was amazing. You run with a runner at a pace which is like a recovery run. You run through the city at 7am, and because you are running, you cover more ground and can see a lot more of the city. I spent an hour and a half and covered almost 13km. 

Running With The Boss is a fortnightly series where CEOs and MDs talk about leadership lessons, management mantras, the importance of a fit team, and striking a work-life balance through running. For the video and earlier stories, visit here

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