Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/you-can-hire-talent-to-do-anything-but-managing-people-is-tough-radhika-guptas-debut-book-factors-in-the-4-fs-a-must-read-for-all-ceos/articleshow/91314930.cms
SynopsisThe Edelweiss MF CEO feels that rejection is not the end of the road, and it doesn’t hurt to have a plan B.
April has been a hectic month for Radhika Gupta. The Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Edelweiss Mutual Fund found herself between more-than-usual Zoom calls, plenty of interviews and a bunch of Twitter Spaces sessions. That’s not all the multi-tasking that the “heavily 7-month-pregnant” – she says with a smile – has been doing. With a book out and a baby on its way in June, her life currently is not just one project but a limitless adventure.
‘Limitless – The Power of Unlocking Your True Potential’ published by Hachette India also happens to be the title of Gupta’s debut book, conceptualised and created during the pandemic. Failure, feedback, fear, flaws – the 200-page read has a generous dose of personal references and anecdotes as she traces her professional journey and her highs and lows.
In an exclusive interaction with ETPanache Digital’s Lopamudra Ghatak, the young boss reveals that despite being a social media influencer, with an impressive 147.9K followers on Twitter, she still finds it tough to have “difficult conversations”. The vice-chairperson of the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) remains optimistic about India and its potential, and says there’s more to love about social media, and little to hate. And she also has some money advice for women.
Excerpts from the interaction:
Lopamudra Ghatak: Congratulations, Radhika! For the book that is out, and the baby that is on its way. You must be feeling a bunch of emotions.
Radhika Gupta: Thank you! Yes, the initial feedback to ‘Limitless’ has been very warm. I think people resonate with different things. I think books are very personal and so I wanted to keep it an honest account. I know that some parts in the book will work for people more than the other parts. A lot of people who follow me on Twitter have been saying for the past two years that I would be writing a book but I kept saying no. It is one thing to tweet and it is one thing to put out something in full form.
LG: We all know that rejection is not easy – whether at work or in life. In your book ‘Limitless’, you write that difficult decisions about rejection, risks and imperfection are not not usual dinner-table conversations in Indian homes. You also talk of your own phase – how you tried to end your life after having faced rejection by seven consulting firms. How do you think we can normalise the chat about the R-word?
Radhika Gupta: Yes, you are correct. Having faced rejection early in life, I thought I would talk about it a little more openly and help it become a dinner-table conversation. Often we glorify only success – and miss acknowledging the hard work that goes into any effort, irrespective of its results. An enterprise may fail – but there is effort that has gone into it. The stock market domain – of which I am a part – has taught me that life is a collection of ups and downs. It is an aggregate upward graph, much like the markets, but it is not a one-way straight line. And, trust me, that is okay.
I once tweeted that businesses are unfortunately not what we project on Excel, and life and marriages are not what they look like on Facebook and Instagram, and I got some strong reactions to that tweet! I think social media and the world we live in creates a lot of pressure on individuals. Many people write to me about issues of perfection, self-confidence, rejection, and facing constant comparison etc. In fact, one of my favourite chapter titles in the book is the one called Thank God I Am Flawed – we must learn to accept our shortcomings and live with them.
Radhika Gupta’s first book – ‘Limitless – The Power of Unlocking Your True Potential’.
LG: You write that it is okay to not feel dejected as there is always an option B or a plan B. Looking back, do you think that if you had not faced early rejection, would you have been able to start a fund business at 24?
RG: Life is a result of hard work. It is also a result of choices and chances. In the book, I talk about rejection and whether it is our own fault. Everyone’s career – and not just mine – and everyone’s life is finally a product of those rejections. So if you had not been rejected in a particular place you would have landed somewhere else and you would not have been standing where you are today.
The reason I talk about option B so much also is that at least in the world that we come from, in most Indian homes, you grow up hearing ki mujhe engineer banna hai; mujhe doctor banna hai; mujhe X, Y, Z banna hai (I want to become an engineer or a doctor when I grow up) and you hold on to that and if it does not work out and you have not achieved that little engineering milestone in your life, then nothing else is worth it. I do not think life is defined by that one particular window which is why I talk about option B. I think it is so important in a country like India which is inherently competitive because of our population dynamics.
LG: But it is not always easy to be enthusiastic if the original idea doesn’t work, right? Choosing plan B and trying to make the best of it sometimes leads to self-doubt as well. Being a leader and a manager, how do you tell your juniors that they will be ok, eventually? What, according to you, is the trick to share feedback the right way?
RG: There is an old Indian saying ki hum toh aise hi hai (We are like this only!) and I think that is the biggest disservice that you can do to yourself. I think you should be constantly a version of yourself every few years that is different, that is almost unrecognisable. The core remains similar. But if I think of myself and I think of people whom I know and idolise or want to emulate, they are constantly changing. Their persona from what they were five years ago and what they are now.
As a person I think I am constantly changing, evolving. Especially so, over the last five years when I have been managing people and that I think is a privilege. It is also extremely difficult. Hundreds and thousands of books have been written on leadership and yet it is one of the most difficult things to get right. You can hire talent to do anything but managing people is tough.
LG: You also write that you are someone who has struggled to have difficult conversations …
RG: I am someone who has faced difficulty having difficult conversations. I have struggled initially to give not-so-positive feedback. While I am not perfect, today I am better than what I was, say, three or four years ago. I think the idea is that you have to constantly be a better version of yourself.
LG: Having studied abroad, you returned to India at a time when the country’s economy was undergoing a transformation. You write that it is now an India which is on the cusp of huge strides to be taken, there is hunger and ambition in many people. How do you see the workforce evolving?
RG: I think the options for young Indians have changed incredibly in the past 20 years. Two decades ago, I think career options were very limited. The way a young person was perceived in terms of their role at the workplace was very limited. Life was measured in terms of years of experience. If you do not have 15-20 years of experience and I have heard this at some point in my career, your options were few.
Now I genuinely believe that a young person in India has limitless options. It is because younger people are taking the lead in the start-up industry and are creating companies worth billions. They are leading companies whether as entrepreneurs or as CEOs. My 70-year-old father keeps saying that the country’s youth is at a premium today. Everyone wants to hear what a young person thinks and see life through the lens of a young Indian. Today’s India offers a diverse range of opportunities from what it did 20 years ago. Whether it is an influencer or a CEO or a start-up owner, I think the potential that the young community has is tremendous.
LG: Recently you tweeted a picture of a $14 bag and wrote that you had swapped it for a Louis Vuitton.
RG: Yes, I talked about this story in ‘Limitless’. And I did tweet about the bag.
LG: Now that you probably do not have to think twice before you pick up a LV bag, do you purchase on an impulse?
RG: No, I am not impulsive! As a member of the financial services and asset management industry, we are in the domain of advising people how to save and invest money. I think that is extremely important but we often, unintentionally, make a big deal about money.
Ultimately one of our goals is to live a better life. Money is deeply emotional. Many of us come from backgrounds where we perhaps had less than what we do now so it was not meant to be enjoyed. It is meant to signal things, it is meant to dream, it is meant to live a better life. Of course, you are supposed to save but that saving and investing is supposed to have an outcome and I think when money is outcome-oriented, investing is a lot better. To me, the bag signified financial independence.
LG: You are someone who shares your thoughts online a lot. You have a very strong digital presence across platforms – 148K Twitter followers and 267K followers on LinkedIn. But then you also mentioned that there exists a thin line between feedback and trolling. How do you let yourself not get affected by the faceless or the nameless who just want to pull you down?
RG: I have mostly got good things from social media, and I am grateful for all the love that I have been blessed with. There are people who have found me on Twitter and written to me about their personal loss. Someone sent me her late mother’s saree because she wanted me to have it. Someone else sent me a hand-embroidered stole. All these things are so endearing, I cannot even describe. These are things that cannot be expressed in money. In the face of such love, I honestly don’t care if there are five faceless trolls, honestly.
Sometimes, I really have fun with trolls who trouble me. The reason I take them on is because I believe I have a platform now and in tackling them maybe I can send a broader message to people who are also going through the same issue. Recently I was trolled for writing a book – and I chose to respond to it. While we are at work, we can also have a personal life, an identity, hobbies and yet stay super-committed professionals. That is something I have learned at Edelweiss, our Chairman Rashesh Shah is an avid marathon runner. My husband also runs the marathon. The CEO of Goldman Sachs was playing drums at a concert – he is a musician and nobody was trolling him. In fact people were celebrating him, and I think that we certainly need to celebrate that. In India, we need to cut the myth of working 24×7.
LG: What is your sense of work-life balance? Who is Radhika Gupta away from the corporate cabin?
RG: I live life authentically and I think you have one life and you should make the most of it and that is what I try to do. So I am working, I am trying to pursue my passion for writing and engaging with people. I am trying to live a meaningful family life, I am trying to spend lots of time with my parents. I am trying to watch lots of movies and read Urdu and I am trying to live as complete a life as possible and I think that is what all of us should do. You ask me about people wanting to build an online presence, I think the only thing that works in life online or offline is authenticity.
LG: So any advice that you have for women wanting to join the workforce? What is your advice to women wanting to break the glass ceiling in the financial services sector that is still considered a male-dominated industry the world over and not just in India?
RG: Go join it, leaving gender at the door. Leave gender at the door and really go out and pursue what you want to pursue without limitations.
LG: And any financial advice for women particularly?
RG: Make sure you are involved, make sure you know what is going on in your family’s finances. Even if you are a couple, you must know what is going on, be aware, be involved, review once a quarter, do not outsource and stay clueless please. This is of all the things in life that you don’t want to outsource.
Start earning and start making investments in simple things as you do not need to do very complex things. Basic mutual fund SIPs are a great way for most of us to get started and to learn the game in a risk-free manner.
LG: Do you read a lot of fiction?
RG: I do not read finance books. I read only fiction. I love fiction from all around the world. I like stories, and I like telling stories. Being a diplomat’s daughter, I grew up all around the world. My reading list has been a mix of American, African, Russian, East Asian authors.
(Originally published on May 04, 2022, 04:20 PM IST)
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