How meditation and brain dumps help Pilgrim boss Anurag Kedia work smarter
Anurag Kedia (L) is the co-founder of Pilgrim, a direct-to-consumer online beauty brand that has taken the Indian market by storm. With over 15 years of experience in the wellness space, Kedia is a veteran entrepreneur with plenty of tricks up his sleeve for getting things done. Here, he explains why he never skips his daily 45-minute meditation practice, and the “work hack” that is helping him optimise his schedule. Plus, he shares his business heroes and career highlights. Inside Ret
de Retail: Tell me about your career journey. How did you get into the industry, what are some of the different roles you’ve held along the way?
Anurag Kedia: I have been an entrepreneur in the beauty and wellness space for more than 15 years now. So setting up my venture Pilgrim, a digital beauty brand, in 2019 happened very organically – a result of the experience I had been gathering in the beauty industry for many years.
Prior to Pilgrim, I, along with a few friends, built pan-India brands like Four Fountains De-Stress Spas, NuAyurveda Clinics and Jazz up Salons, which offered luxurious yet affordable beauty and wellness experiences to consumers.
I have also been a director at Richfeel Hair & Scalp Clinics, which specialises in hair and scalp care treatments.
This gave me first-hand experience in understanding haircare issues. My earliest corporate experience, after graduating from IIT Bombay and IIM Ahmedabad, was at Tata Administrative Services and KPMG where I learnt a lot about strategic management and team building.
IR: What are some of your career highlights so far?
AK: Winning the hearts of two million consumers with our Pilgrim products within 27 months of our launch. It is extremely thrilling and humbling to build a consumer brand that people are falling in love with.
A lot of things will happen in your life – sometimes, you will feel that you are planning for one thing, but something else occurs. But it all leads to something bigger than you may have envisioned.
The fact that I have spent over 18 years in different kinds of beauty and wellness businesses has led to the birth of Pilgrim. I couldn’t have planned this in the first 15 years of my career journey
IR: What are some of the key leadership lessons you’ve picked up over the course of your career?
AK: A key leadership lesson that I have learnt is to connect with every individual in the organisation at a human level. Connecting with your employees on a personal level may not seem crucial, but if you want to build and retain top talent, it’s an area, as a leader, that you must focus on.
Going beyond ‘how are you’ to understanding them, their likes and dislikes, their goals and a little bit about their family when possible. You’ll be able to have a better understanding of what they want their future to look like and how the company could synergise with it.
I feel it’s very important that we are able to relate to people who are working with us as humans, and not just as colleagues and employees.
IR: Do you have any business heroes?
AK: In the global context, I would say Sam Walton who built Walmart. I love his philosophy of staying close to consumers and how he would visit Walmart stores, meet customers, store managers and check out the competition even when the brand had become a retail phenomenon.
In terms of innovation and design thinking, it would be Steve Jobs. He was always ahead of the market and willing to put money where his mind was in terms of offering consumers something unique and differentiated!
Closer to home, the Tata Group is so ethically and morally grounded. They don’t take shortcuts and stay true to the spirit of what they are trying to achieve.
IR: What does a typical day look like for you?
AK: As a start-up founder, people expect my typical day to look like we are in a war! Honestly, it’s less glamorous than you would imagine. The one thing I don’t start my day without is my 45-minute meditation as it sets the intention for the day ahead and helps me become more focused and productive.
Typically, I begin work at 9am and the first couple of hours is my quiet time when I complete my own to-do list – replying to emails, catching up on news and preparing for upcoming important meetings.
From 11am to 7-8 pm is when I am in meetings, either with the team, with business partners, or networking. My work day can spill a little longer sometimes into dinner meetings.
IR: Do you have any “work hacks” for getting things done?
AK: One of the most effective work hacks for me has been “brain dumping”. Basically, you dump the ideas in your brain on paper, which provides perspective and allows you to declutter your mind.
Brain dumping has helped me become less reactive and more intentional at the workplace. I constantly have a flow of ideas for my own execution and for the team, and previously, I would want to take action on it immediately.
The temptation would be to reach out to the concerned team member and share the thought because you are very excited. You feel it will change the world! What I realised is that the discussion can always wait for a day or two, and you may also be disturbing the other person.
Instead, I’ve started noting everything down and structuring the discussion before I call for a meeting or execute it myself. This work hack has really helped me optimise my own schedule.
IR: What’s your approach to work-life balance?
AK: For me, it has been meditation. My daily 45-minute meditation helps me destress and declutter my mind. I also go for a run or indulge in a sports activity during the week.
Family time is also very important to me and I typically block time for family activities and family events, just like I do for work so that I can enjoy myself without any stress.
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