Samir Bhatia: Exercise generates energy and positivity
At a friend’s insistence, Samir Bhatia ran his first half marathon in Mumbai in 2004, a few months after he had started running. He agreed readily because the thought of a challenge appealed to him. Since then, the founder and chief executive officer of SMEcorner.com—a digital platform that provides loans to the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) sector, has completed over 20 half marathons and 12 full marathons. He has run the six prestigious World Marathon Majors—New York, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin and London. His personal best in half marathons is 1 hour, 44 minutes, and in full marathons, 3 hours, 50 minutes.
In an email interview, he explains how running has made him more disciplined, and also got colleagues and friends interested in the activity. Edited excerpts:
What impact does leading by example as a fit leader have?
Apart from having high energy all through the day and being able to work hard for long hours, being fit sets a great example to the team to also be fit and physically active. In my 13 years of running, I have motivated many of my colleagues to start running and some of them today run full marathons.
How does running influence your performance at work?
Running keeps me alert and energetic at work. I do not feel fatigued despite waking up at 4.30am almost every day of the week. This surprises everyone but it is a fact that exercise generates energy and positivity in people and makes them more productive.
Has running made you more goal-oriented?
Most definitely. Getting over the finish line no matter what is something running has taught me. And it is most useful in my work life.
Have you ever hit the wall?
When I ran my first few full marathons, I would invariably hit the “wall” after 34-35km. I had to struggle with pain and fatigue in the last 7-8km. Running marathons has made me very strong mentally. The training in itself is challenging and has taught me to be extremely disciplined and committed. I have learnt to be patient and resilient, overcome challenges and obstacles without getting flustered, and complete the task no matter what comes my way. Running is my meditation and it is a great stress buster.
Any leadership lessons from distance running?
Running has taught me to be very disciplined, focused, resolute and patient. I rarely get flustered or stressed with challenges at work. Being a chief executive or an entrepreneur requires one to be able to handle challenging situations all the time, and remain calm, focused and determined. Running has helped develop all these qualities in me.
Discipline in a runner’s life is paramount. Do you think this discipline also reflects your leadership style?
Absolutely. I am highly disciplined and organized. Running requires discipline, planning, patience and resolve. All these are great leadership qualities and are reflected in my leadership style.
How do you balance your training and work?
My training has never come in the way of my work, and vice versa. I sleep early and wake up early, and have never had issues finding time to pursue my passion. I always travel with my running gear and do not miss a run no matter what country I am in or what the weather is like. I have run in bright sunshine, snow and rain.
Your toughest race.
While I have run tough courses like New York and Boston, the toughest race was the very first full marathon I ran, in Mumbai. I had no experience and I struggled to get over the finish line, with cramps and pain, in 4:52. But the feeling of joy that followed was something I can never forget.
Your best running memory.
When I finished the Boston marathon in 2016, I was the second Indian to have completed all six World Marathon Majors. My name also featured in the Wall of Fame of the World Marathon Majors Association. At that time, there were only approximately 600 people in the world who had achieved this goal. I was ecstatic when I went over the line at Boston, having achieved a major life goal I set way back in 2009.
Running With The Boss is a series in which CEOs, MDs and senior executives talk about leadership lessons, management mantras, the importance of a fit team and striking a work-life balance through running.