Every crisis can have a silver lining, if we’re determined to find one, insists Vineeta Singh, the chief executive officer (CEO) of SUGAR Cosmetics, referring to the nationwide lockdown that started in March. While the covid-19 crisis may have slowed down business, Singh is happy to report that the downtime has helped her to focus on her health and fitness. “When the lockdown started, the only excuse I had for not working out, that is, lack of time, got knocked out of the park. I started doing high-intensity interval training, kickboxing, Tabata and weight-training workouts with my friends on Zoom," says Singh. Having followed the practice for over 80 days now, Singh says she feels like being back to her fitness levels when she was an Ironman triathlete and three-time Comrades Ultramarathoner few years ago.
The lockdown may have disrupted our work and personal lives and affected businesses, but it has also presented a unique opportunity to create new habits or even make some tweaks to our lifestyle that can add up to big results in the long run. This holds true especially in the case of business leaders who often complain of busy work schedules making difficult for them to indulge in their personal interests and activities.
Bhavin Turakhia, founder-CEO of collaboration tool Flock, for instance, couldn’t read books daily because of a busy work schedule but the lockdown has helped him not only catch up with his favourite authors but also use the learnings derived from them into his work. “I read biographies because it offers a great perspective and you can learn a lot from people who’ve accomplished great things," says Turakhia, whose personal favourites are Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Bad Blood by John Carreyrou.
Like Turakhia, Audi India’s head Balbir Singh Dhillon is also trying to invest his time in book reading. “Also listening to some audio books on apps," he adds. One book that has stuck with him is Good To Great by Jim Collins, which talks about how great companies triumphed by taking the leap from good to great results and sustained those results over time.
For Edelweiss AMC’s CEO Radhika Gupta, the lockdown helped her rekindle her relationship with cooking. “I used to run a restaurant from my dorm in Wharton around 15 years ago. I used to enjoy cooking food for friends. But with work taking precedence, I never went back to it," says Gupta, who has a full-time cook at home. When the lockdown started, Gupta had this sudden urge to make something in the kitchen. She started with simpler dishes, and then began experimenting with Mexican food and is also making cheese at home. “This time has taught me to be creative. Just like I have done some ‘creative substitution’ while cooking due to unavailability of ingredients, for work too I have been following the same technique — make do with what we have. Since we couldn’t get actors for our campaigns, our employees stepped in, and one of them even learnt video editing."
Pallavi Barman, head of marketing and operations at HRX, picked up chanting while working from home. Every day, after finishing all household and office, she sits for 20 minutes with her eyes closed and meditates. “I have never been into meditation or chanting before. And to sit and reflect at my day was a luxury I never had. But this chanting has helped me be more patient. Whenever things have seemed difficult at work, I have managed to remain calm which helps me stay productive."
Hemant Sagar, designer and one half of Lecoanet Hemant, too, decided to learn something out of his comfort zone: Thai language. “I keep visiting Thailand and someday would want to move there. To be honest, I had tried learning sporadically last summer when I was living abroad. But in Delhi, I haven’t found any teacher. Finally in the lockdown, I found some online platforms which connected me to Thai teachers in Bangkok," he says.
Some leaders are utilizing the lockdown time to build their network. Priti Joshi, vice-president (strategy) at Bumble, says she’s using the time to build her online network and make meaningful online connections. “Networking has always been a crucial part of my professional life and something I’ve always really enjoyed and found inspiration in," she says, adding, “On the professional side, I’m really learning how to be productive but also be balanced - recognizing that where I work and play are the same space so it’s important to draw distinct boundaries."