Ritu Mehrotra, regional manager, South Asia, Booking.com
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.
Ritu Mehrotra, regional manager, South Asia, Booking.com, is a chartered accountant and company secretary with an MBA by qualification, an executive management grad from Harvard University, an entrepreneur who sold her California-based food tech start-up in 2015 and still a South Delhi girl in her heart despite living in Gurugram these days. Ritu Mehrotra, 44, is also a doting mother, travel enthusiast, cancer survivor and a business leader who leads the South Asia operations of the popular global travel company Booking.com.
Fitness plays an important role in Mehrotra’s life right from her school days when she played basketball and has tried her hand in all sports that she came across. These days one of her biggest motivation to stay fit, apart from health reasons, is to be able to keep up with her 19-year-old golfer son who loves cycling. “We love riding together and I’d like to keep up with him,” says Mehrotra, who enjoys outdoor activities. She has borrowed the lessons of tenacity, perseverance and focus from her fitness routine and applied them in her leadership role at Booking.com and believes in “anytime, anywhere fitness.” “If I can't go to the gym while travelling for business, I just go for a run or do yoga in my room. If I can't go out, I may go up and down in a 14-storey building.”
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Your workout routine.
I like to combine balance, strength and flexibility, so my workout is a combination of yoga and strength-training exercises, and I do 30 suryanamaskaras every other day. I am training to pull off pull-ups currently.
Favourite fitness activity.
I love the outdoors. I cycle over 20km on Sunday mornings… it adds a sense of calmness and serves the perfect purpose to my fitness regime. I also truly enjoy running.
Yoga poses like the wheel, crane and headstand. It was very hard in the beginning as one needs constant training and requires tenacity.
The new normal...
Now that we’ve truly harnessed the power of work from home, life these days pretty much involves work and a healthy balance of passion because of the time we save on commuting. Also, I’ve imbibed some of the travel trends such as work-cation and staycations. I try to take off on less-explored and closer-to-home destinations to rejuvenate and mix work with leisure. The new normal has truly given everyone more opportunities to explore what our beautiful world has to offer.
Has your fitness routine helped you navigate the uncertainties of current times?
Definitely. It has brought about a sense of calmness, resilience and [helped me] focus on the right things.
What is the one change you would encourage your teammates to make to take on the current challenges?
Take time out for themselves. Spending quality time with the people they love or pursuing a passion outside of work always helps in living a balanced and healthy life. Also, take good care of your bodies as fitness enables a person to be better equipped in challenging times.
Any leadership lessons in your fitness journey?
Having short-term goals and achieving them gives me a high, and to achieve those goals one has to show high level of tenacity, perseverance and focus. These values are interchangeable in my leadership role as well as my fitness regime.
What impact does your image of a "fit leader" have on your team?
A fit mind can only happen through a fit body, and a fit mind can enhance mental stamina and endurance, which is extremely important in a leader. The benefits of these leadership qualities are transcended into the team that brings efficiency in the teams’ performance.
Mehrotra says she loves the outdoors, and cycles more than 20km on Sunday mornings.
Has being fit helped you become a better leader?
Yes, it has. I believe that fitness helps one bring fresh perspectives, something that is paramount in today’s dynamic business environment. Additionally, it helps in bringing efficiency in one’s day-to-day functioning, which is very important for a good leader.
Your leadership style…
When you are trying to run something at scale - you rely on other strong leaders. Personally, I believe in letting my teammates, at all levels, lead; I empower and trust them to do the right thing. As a leader, a lot of your job is to make those people successful. It’s less about trying to be successful yourself, and more about making sure you have good people, and your work is to remove roadblocks for them so that they can be successful.
I also value teamwork and I think it’s important to build organisations where people really want to work together. Everything comes out of that. So, setting up collaborative cultures is another big thing I focus on.
Challenges for the next year…
I want to be able to do 20 pull-ups at a stretch. A friend inspired me to do this.