The founder and chief executive officer of the largest stock broker in the country on how his life and work routine have changed these past few days.
The 21-day lockdown triggered by the spread of the coronavirus has entered into the last 10 days and entrepreneurs, the original hustlers, have had to make a plenty of changes to their daily routine to adapt to working from home (WFH). Their daily schedules have been disrupted and their long drawn out usual meetings have been replaced by video calls. Not to mention the stress of a looming economic slowdown and pressure from investors.
Moneycontrol looks at how a scrum of business leaders is dealing with these fast changing times. In the first of the series, which we have named Virtual Leaders, Pratik Bhakta caught up with Nithin Kamath, founder and chief executive officer of Zerodha, the largest stock broker in the country to find out how his life and work routine have changed these past few days.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
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- What does your average day look like now given your normal routine must have been disrupted by the 21days lockdown?
I start the day with a workout. With hardly any physical activity during the day, these workouts have become very important. I have found myself a space to work from which is farthest away from the kitchen, so I can avoid binge eating and constant snacking. I start work around 8.30 AM and work till I sleep. I am definitely overworking, so are few of my colleagues. We face the risk of burning out if the lockdown lasts too long.
- How do you manage your office teams now? How are you keeping your staff motivated? Could you share some unique experiences that you have had during these 10 days of the lockdown while dealing with your teams/colleagues or investors?
Most of our interactions have always been digital. Work is mostly on Google Hangouts, phone calls, Zoom, and a lot of emails. Even before the lockdown, people and teams at Zerodha mostly kept in touch online using Google Hangouts and email. So not much has changed in that regard.
We also run a forum for all employees we call "Inside Zerodha" which has now become even more active. I engage with the team on this forum as it's easier for people to ask questions, and react here.
I recently did a podcast with the entire team, talking about our financials and addressing everyone's concerns. This turned out to be the best thing I have done in the past 20 days of lockdown. We had started WFH from around March 12th, and talking to the team was refreshing.
A small group of us play poker online while being on a Zoom call on the weekend or on holidays. A bunch of us on the core team are always talking about all things happening in our lives over messages.
- Now that you are working from home, how much time are you spending with family/kids? Any specific activity that you regularly undertake with your family members, which you thoroughly enjoy?
While I had assumed that there would be more family time than before, the opposite has happened. Maybe I am spending lesser time than before, because the boundary between work and personal time has disappeared. That said, daily I work out with my wife and play music with my son, and enjoy a drink with my brother and father once in a few days.
- Have you always had a separate work station at home or did you set that up because of the lockdown? Can you share with us how have you set it up?
I did not have a separate work station at home. My favourite spot to work in the house has always been the dining table. But in the first week of WFH, I added over 3kgs, snacking the whole day. So I have now moved to a spot on the terrace. It is a tall table, and I think working standing up is much better.
- Was there a hobby that you had given up because of work pressure but you have been able to resume now over the last two weeks?
Not really. I am ending up overworking. What is making it worse is the stress due to the stock market volatility, which has been the highest ever after the 2008 financial crisis. These are really tough times for brokerage firms.
- Did you manage to catch up with any old friend or a relative in this time period, someone who has not been in touch with you for a long time?
Not yet. I've seen my friends say that they are catching up with old friends and relatives, but I've been mostly just working. Maybe once the market volatility drops, I will be able to reconnect with people I have lost touch.
- What is that one major piece of management learning that you have gained during this forced lockdown?
The lockdown forced us to sit down and improve many of our backend processes. We realised that a lot of what we do currently can be replaced by automation. There is a need to reskill most of the team to ensure they don't become redundant.You can read stories about other Virtual Leaders here.