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Fit to Lead | Mamaearth's Ghazal Alagh: "My fitness routine has helped me stay sane"

"At home, all the doomsday talk (in the early days of the pandemic) was making everyone sad and this was affecting the kids too. So, I started making dance reels with Varun to lift the mood and we did yoga as a family…"

May 29, 2022 / 07:32 AM IST
Ghazal Alagh, co-founder, chief mama and chief innovation officer, Honasa Consumer Pvt. Ltd, the parent company of Mamaearth.

Ghazal Alagh, co-founder, chief mama and chief innovation officer, Honasa Consumer Pvt. Ltd, the parent company of Mamaearth.

Note to readers: Fit to lead is a series of interviews with business leaders on their approach to fitness, leadership and navigating the new normal.

At 33, Ghazal Alagh is already a successful entrepreneur, innovator and investor. Alagh, who grew up in Chandigarh playing all kinds of sports, is the first woman from her family to take up a job and she certainly didn’t stop at that. Today, Honasa Consumer has expanded beyond mamaearth and has five other brands under it including the recently acquired B-Blunt range of hair products, says Alagh with an energy and cheer that could infect one even over a video interview.

Fit to lead is a series of interviews with business leaders on their approach to fitness, leadership and navigating the new normal.While mamaearth was born out of a need - she and her husband, Varun, didn’t find products on the market that they thought were safe or good enough for their newborn son - the other brands were launched or acquired as part of their aim to make Honasa the top player in the personal care segment in India. “I lived in a huge joint family in Chandigarh, where no woman had ever worked in a job. Despite that my mother told me how important financial independence is and I never forget that,” recalls Alagh, who took up her first job as a corporate trainer at NIIT at the age of 17.

Alagh, who delivered her second baby just two months ago, is energetic and despite being on maternity leave currently, she just can’t stay away from work. “I really enjoy it and if my team needs me for something, I like getting involved,” she confesses. Another thing that she loves is living in a joint family, quite like she grew up in Chandigarh. She and Varun live their two kids, parents and grandmother. “When we had our first kid we were living on our own in Gurugram, were working a job and trying to bring up the baby. It was early days for us and hiring help was expensive. Ever since we have starting living in a joint family set-up again, life has been full of joy and it’s extremely helpful too,” she says.

Alagh believes there are two kinds of leaders in this world. “There are those who like the team to count and depend on them. Then there are those who want to empower their teams to think and act independently and responsibly. My team should be able to take their own decisions and function independently,” she says.

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Edited excerpts from the interview:

How do you achieve your health and fitness goals?

I enjoy waking up early and that gives me ample time to focus on myself. I start my day with meditation followed by yoga. I have been a yoga practitioner for years and this has been the one thing that helps me maintain balance in my life. Yoga has really helped me enhance my awareness of myself.

Favourite fitness activity…

Suryanamaskar. I find that it is a great exercise for my physical fitness and it helps in improving the mind-body coordination.

Your toughest?

Suryanamaskar is also my toughest. It has taken me years of practice to be able to increase the number of repetitions I can do.

Your new normal…

I am an extremely organised person. I plan and organise my schedule and calendarise both my personal and professional commitments. This helps me plan my day well and ensure I achieve most of my tasks. Even during the challenging times of the pandemic, I used to wake up at the same time as pre-pandemic, practice yoga and meditation, and then start my workday as usual. I had created a separate workspace to avoid any distractions.

While this helped me maintain my schedule and manage tasks well, the first few days of the pandemic were, frankly, scary. We were unprepared, our revenues had dropped to zero and we were all scared. At home, all the doomsday talk was making everyone sad and this was affecting the kids too. So, I started making dance reels with Varun to lift the mood and we did yoga as a family to stay healthy and mindful… these were our small activities of happiness. On the work front, Varun spent three hours convincing the cops that baby products were essential services and it was only on the 10th day that we started bouncing back.

Ghazal Alagh, co-founder, chief mama and chief innovation officer, Honasa Consumer Pvt. Ltd, the parent company of Mamaearth. Ghazal Alagh.

Has your fitness routine, in any way, helped you navigate the uncertainties of current times?

My fitness routine has helped me stay sane and maintain my mental well-being. With adversities all around and our near and dear ones suffering, it was easy for us to go down the negative spiral, but yoga and meditation really helped tide over the tough times.

The one change you would encourage your teammates to make to deal with the challenges of current times…

I would encourage them to read for mental agility and work out to maintain physical and mental wellbeing.

Leadership lessons in your fitness journey…

It has made me realise the importance of staying consistent in my efforts and keeping calm. For any initiative to show results, one needs to give it time and stay consistent with efforts to yield results, nothing happens overnight.

What impact does your image of a “fit leader” have on your team?

I hope I inspire my team, not just with my fitness but with my efforts across all aspects of life.

Your leadership style…

My leadership style is still evolving… I am young and I am learning on the go. For now, it’s a mix of pacesetting and coaching. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my team take ownership and succeed in their endeavours. One thing I firmly believe in is that people, not numbers or bottom line, are of utmost importance in any venture.

On achieving work-life balance…

A fit body holds a stable mind; that has been my fitness motto. The calendarisation of my days also goes a long way in ensuring a good balance.

Goals for the year…

A healthy, happier, and fitter me is all I wish to be. On the work front, the goal is rather big. We are working towards making Honasa the number one choice for personal care among Indian consumers.
Shrenik Avlani is an independent editor, writer and journalist, and co-author of 'The ShivFit Way', a book on functional fitness.
first published: May 29, 2022 07:27 am
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