Thursday, 20 April 2017

Work Life Balance

Work Life Balance has been the subject of much discussion all over the World among people of all ages.

With increased work challenges, the stress levels are beginning to rise for almost everyone. When work life and personal life is out of balance, stress will increase. This is evident from the increased health challenges hospitals are beginning to see in terms of heart and cholesterol problems, increase in pre-diabetic disorders and significant increase in aches and pains in the back and shoulders of young men and women. Most psychologists would agree that the demands of an employee's career should not overwhelm the individual's ability to enjoy a satisfying personal life outside of the business environment. A poor balance between work life and personal life will lead to fatigue and poor health.

Business Dictionary defines Work Life Balance as “A comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee's primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle.” This balance should help you in attaining focus and awareness, despite the seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for your time and attention.

This balance needs to be looked in the context of four segments. Family, Self, Work and Friends. Each of these four segments are mutually dependent on one another. The boundaries between work and personal time are now hazy, at best.

Most people agree that they need to change their work priorities assuming that whatever change they make, will give them the elusive “balance that they are seeking. Work life balance for each one of us will be completely different. It will differ for a single person, one who is married and one who has children and other family commitments. There is no “one size fits all” definition for work life balance. No one I know seems to have achieved that perfect balance between “work” and “life”.

The widely accepted outcome of Work could be Achievement and that of Life could be Enjoyment. Are these two sides of the same coin? Are these mutually exclusive or could there be a blend of both achievement and enjoyment? At what stage should achievement give way to enjoyment if we assume that achievement results in more money, power, assets and other worldly belongings? Conversely, at what stage is too much enjoyment detrimental to achievement?

More and more people are depending upon their digital devices to earn a living, stay connected with friends, family and the workplace. They use these devices for their news and entertainment, when they have time. Smart phones with 4G or LTE is making data accessible from anywhere in the world in a nano-second. What are these devices doing to our work life balance?

So what are some of the questions raised by each one of us to justify this imbalance?

1.   I Spend Quality Time with my Family - Dividing one’s time equally between work, family and sleep is not an achievement of a perfect balance. Keeping one hour every evening to “spend quality time and bond” with one’s child is practiced by many. What happens if this time slot does not suit the child? Does the child then negotiate a new time slot?

2.  We go for expensive vacations and I buy gifts - Most duty free purchases of cosmetics, clothes, electronics and toys happens because of “guilt shopping”. Taking the family for expensive holidays and buying them expensive gifts to make up for all the time is not necessarily achieving the balance that your family is seeking. Such gifts would be tantamount to buying peace at home and such peace will be very short-lived.

3.   I work hard to secure a better future for my family. When I told my family that I was travelling 20 days a month to secure a better future for my family, I was in for a rude shock. I was surprised to hear that my travels and work was only for myself and that my family would prefer that, I spend more time at home!

We only have 24 hours in a day and there is no way that we can squeeze any additional time, irrespective of who we may be or how much power we may believe we have. Given below are some pointers that we can work on to manage the inevitable imbalance we have in our work and life priorities.

1.   Manage your time well. Prioritise and schedule your work in office and at home. Do not bunch up all your work for one day. Delegate to your colleagues and empower your teams to give yourself more time.

2.   Learn to say No. Most of us hesitate to turn down work or an invitation even though we know that we do not have the time. We do not like to offend another person by declining.

3.  Leave for your work at your work place. If you are not able to do this, keep your phone and other electronic devices in another room before you head to your bedroom. Nothing can be so important that should disturb your sleep.

4. Follow the “bottom drawer” principle. With the constant arrival of E Mails, WhatsApp messages, conference calls and so many other messages, you are inundated with messages that need a response. Anything message you believe is not important should be moved to a “junk” folder. The sender of the mail will follow up if it is important. Otherwise, empty your junk folder at the end of the month.

5.   Give yourself breathing space. Instead of running from morning to evening, whether for work or for family, you need to be step back and carve out some personal time for yourself, to think, plan ahead and rejuvenate yourself.

Achieving a balance between work and life is always a challenge for everyone. At work, you need to agree where you need to draw the line. The balance will change every day and in ways that you could never have anticipated. Do what you think is right and in consultation with your family. After all, they are the ones who gain or lose the most if the balance becomes unbalanced!

The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Self-Doubts of a Startup Entrepreneur

Most of us, who have started entrepreneurial ventures, have gone through several self-doubts on whether we took the right decision to pursue our dream venture and start-off on one’s own. We have also faced self-doubts when we have taken decisions through our journey of building our companies.

So if you have self-doubts and questions about why you took the plunge as a startup entrepreneur, relax. You are not alone. Self-doubt is a very normal human response whenever we are faced with challenges that initially seem insurmountable. How you handle these self-doubts, face your internal challenges and build your business will be the key differentiator between success and failure of your dream venture.

Accepting that you are not alone is a great start to addressing your own self-doubts. Here are some pointers from my learnings addressing the challenges I have faced in my entrepreneurial journey.

When faced with challenges, look back at your successes

Think of all the successes you have had in the past whenever you are faced with self-doubts and concerns. Positive thoughts will help you prepare better for each day’s challenges.

Stop worrying about what others think of you

You have embarked upon your entrepreneurial journey to achieve your dreams. Worrying about what someone else is thinking about your business or what your friends may think about how you are building your company is only harming yourself. Remember that others are too busy facing their own self-doubts and challenges to think about you and your challenges!

Dream Big. Think Small

As an entrepreneur, dream of the big picture and where you hope to take your young business five years from now. However, your tactical plan to achieve your dream must be to set “bite sized” goals for yourself and your teams on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis. Only when you start to achieve your small steps will you be able to run towards your dream.

Get great people in your organisation and delegate effectively

Putting together a good management team always helps in better decision making. Once you have a good team, empower them and delegate effectively. Remember that you only have a finite amount of time every day and you do not have the skill sets to handle all the work. At the same time, remember to set up strong systems to seek accountability from your people.

Do not be afraid to take decisions – right or wrong

When confronted with challenges, your people are looking towards you to take tough and well thought through decisions. Hesitating, procrastinating or deferring decisions can only harm the long-term interests of your business and your people. Not taking a decision is worse than taking a wrong decision. An incorrect decision can be corrected but a management team, faced with an entrepreneur who does not take decisions will be directionless.

Keep evaluating yourself

As the person who has the greatest stake in your business and your success, keep evaluating yourself constantly. Keep thinking of the worst-case scenarios that you could be confronted. Once you recognise and understand your downside, you will be able to take better and well thought through decisions.

Remember to carve out personal time each day

I have met many entrepreneurs who just cannot find time from their busy schedule. They are so immersed in their business that they fail to find time for themselves to introspect and they fail to find time for their family. Personal time, every day, gives you the much-needed breather from your hectic work schedule. If you can add an exercise schedule in your daily routine, you will be helping yourself with a fitter body to face your challenges.  

Learn to forgive yourself

I have met many entrepreneurs who keep regretting an incorrect decision and hence keep punishing themselves for what “may have been” the direction if they had taken another path. Will not forgiving yourself make a difference? Will you be able to turn back the clock? If the answer to both these is no, then you are wasting your time. Forgive yourself and move forward with a correct decision.

Do not wallow in self-pity

Mistakes will happen. Either you can run with the ball or you can wallow in self-pity. A weak entrepreneur transfers his uncertainties and self-doubts to the entire team very quickly and this can have snowballing consequences on the health of your young business. Pessimism in an entrepreneur is very visible to everyone.

Discuss with family

Remember that your biggest supporter throughout your entrepreneurial journey will be your family. Keeping them advised of what you are going through will get you a lot of support at home. Moreover, you will be surprised at how valuable the inputs you get from your family can be in handling your own self-doubts.

Stay connected

Staying connected with friends and the community you live is essential to retain your sanity. Keeping in touch with what is going on in the World is important to retain your perspectives. An all-consuming business can never be a recipe for long term-success.

Emotional involvement

While it is good to take strong ownership of your business, getting emotionally involved with your business is never advisable. Every entrepreneur needs to learn to distance himself from his business.

When you look back at the end of a few years, you will realise all your self-doubts only made you a stronger entrepreneur. Finally, remember that it is a lonely job at the top as an entrepreneur and keeping yourself motivated to keep pushing ahead will be your first and biggest challenge.


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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Monday, 3 April 2017

Indian Vegetarian Food - Open Letter to all International Airlines

Having travelled millions of miles and thousands of sectors on multiple airlines, in First, Business and Economy classes, around the world and having eaten all kinds of so called “vegetarian meals” made by gourmet and “starred” chefs in all five continents or even better prepared by gourmet Indian chefs and passed off as Indian vegetarian, I have been left, to say the least, disappointed.

A very large number of non-Indian airlines classify Asian Vegetarian and Indian Vegetarian as one and the same. Some even assume that Vegan and Indian Vegetarian is the same. Nothing is further from the truth than these misclassifications. Indians who are Vegetarian are not Vegans. Therefore, they do eat dairy, honey and gelatin products unlike the vegans.

After so many painful meal experiences, I am writing this open letter to international airlines to address some very basic points on what do most Indian Vegetarian travellers like on their food tray, irrespective of the class they may be travelling in, when they travel overseas. 

Milk products

Indian vegetarians eat all kinds of milk products. You do NOT need to give them margarine instead of butter. Yogurt (dahi) is standard fare for all Indians in their homes and does not need to be excluded from our menu. We can eat butter, cream, cakes, brownies, pastries, chocolates and all other similar products made from milk. Your gourmet chefs serve Indian sweets like "Gulab Jamun" and "Ras Malai" in the same food tray from which they have excluded butter!


While Indians eat all green vegetables, aubergine (baingan), Okra (Bhindi) and Squash (Kaddu) are normally not our preferred vegetables. In most homes in India, these vegetables are the "meal of last resort" when all other vegetables are exhausted in the refrigerator. You can use all kinds of beans, cottage cheese (paneer) or even deep-fried "samosas" as appetisers if you need more options to serve us. 

Main Course

We understand the constraints of serving meals on flights and the fact that in economy class you will generally have a vegetarian option and a non-vegetarian option. For special meal requests, you have “Asian Vegetarian” as an option – we do hope that you realise that Asia is a huge continent with almost half the world’s population in 48 countries with many more cuisine options!

Indian vegetarian food, itself, has a huge repertoire of cuisines. Your expert chefs can come up with multiple options. We are happy with Dal and Rajma as one option with rice. We do not want these burnt in the ovens and we definitely do not like "crispy friend basmati rice". Further, yogurt is standard fare in almost every meal in an Indian home. Why must you exclude this from our meal tray?


Most Indians have a very sweet tooth and love their desserts. If you are serving the passengers ice cream or a pastry, give it to the Indian passengers as well. Do not give them poorly made Indian desserts that your master chefs are trying to pass off as "Indian". And of course remember that desserts are eaten after the main course – you do not need to single out vegetarian passengers and give them their dessert with the starter!

Cheese, Paneer and Chocolates

Your chefs forget that cheese is made of milk and Indians eat all milk products. Why remove cheese from our meals when this is a huge value add you can make on our meal trays? If you can serve us chocolates and paneer, then cheese can also be served. Oh, and as a reminder, toufu is not the same as paneer or cheese!


While we like bread rolls, croissants and garlic toast, it always helps if you can also add a roti or a parantha to your bread basket. Rotis are available in various shapes and sizes in most cuisines of the World. Oh yes, just like the love and care your chefs give to make their croissants crisp and flaky on the outside and soft on the inside, our parathas too deserve the same TLC and must not be converted into a crisp papad (or papadam) because of repeated heating!


Packaged pickle in single servings is available everywhere, just like butter and preserves, and many airlines add this to the food tray. Indians like a little pickle with their food but can easily do without it if this adds too much to your food cost.

Mouth Freshener

While not essential, this is an excellent item to round off any and Indian meal and for a vegetarian, this would go a really long way! Mouth fresheners are available in simple and cheap sachets.


While alcohol is not related to Indian vegetarian cuisine, it would help to note that most of the older Indians prefer their whisky. A selection of whiskies and an additional malt whisky for good measure served on flights into and out of India would really earn you serious appreciation.

While most of us are now conscious of eating healthy food while at home, we are happy to give healthy food a "pass" when we are on a flight and when we are on a holiday!

Please do consider what you are serving to the Indian Vegetarian passengers. Indians form one of the fastest growing travellers and tourists in the World and definitely deserve your consideration.

If your culinary experts are not delivering what they are being paid to, reach out to Air India and Jet Airways from India and Singapore Airlines to understand what food they serve to their customers.


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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