What’s your story?
I was born in Chennai, India. My parents, both doctors, migrated to Australia when I was a baby. Schooled in Melbourne, my university degree in Law and Commerce paved the way for me to enter the world of commercial marketing of sports.
I have always had a keen interest in sports and fitness, so once I decided to turn entrepreneur, starting Stepathlon was a natural progression.
Stepathlon is a unique mass participation corporate initiative that motivates individuals to take 10,000 steps a day. This philosophy dates back to 1960s Japan where this was prescribed as the minimum amount of physical activity required for an active and healthy life. This has since been backed by various global health authorities like the WHO and the American Heart Foundation.
I thought the concept was highly relevant given the increasing pace of urbanisation and the fact that our lifestyles today are minimising movement, we need to increase both incidental and focused movement to improve overall fitness.
What does corporate health mean to you?
The World Economic Forum has listed health as one of the top 10 global concerns for 2015. This highlights a burning need to establish a fourth bottom line as a business objective, in addition to the triple bottom line (environmental, HR and financial) approach already followed by many companies. Employee health and wellbeing is becoming a key parameter that will define the success of an organisation.
Personally, it is also important to recognise that we spend too much time working, commuting and dealing with office matters after hours. Therefore it is critical that employees take more responsibility for the health of their employees. This will deliver better bottom lines and happier human beings.
How can poor corporate health be detrimental to the growth of the company?
There are many studies and reports that show us exactly how much of an impact poor employee health has on a company’s bottom line. Human Capital is a company’s biggest asset/resource and a healthy workforce is an integral part of running a productive and profitable business. A Global survey conducted by Wolters Kluwer reported that unplanned, or unscheduled, absence costs employers 8.7% of their payroll. Organisations with highly effective wellness programmes reportedly displayed significantly lower voluntary attrition than those who do not have similar initiatives which have in turn impacted health care costs, company morale, leadership and overall productivity – both quantitative and qualitative.
Are companies today doing enough to promote corporate health among employees?
I think many companies simply ‘box tick’. For example, I often hear them say, “We have a gym”. There’s a study that found that corporate gyms have only 2-3% usage! Companies need to first address the 3 As – Assessment, Awareness and Action. The last one is very important. If we don’t catalyse sustainable, behavioural change, then nothing changes.
Should HR be the primary function responsible to initiate for initiating such corporate wellness programmes?
While HR plays an extremely important role in initiating and administrating a programme like ours, we believe that the decision to get active needs to permeate from the top leadership down throughout the entire organisation.
Stepathlon has had 290 CEOs and 594 CXOs participate in our employee wellness program. The involvement of the leadership is imperative in ensuring the success of a programme like ours. They, along with the corporate communications team, can drive the message of wellbeing within the organisation. This way the movement can be lead from the front and easily becomes a part of the culture of the company.
What role can the upper management play to improve corporate health in the long run?
Senior management can build real bridges that allow for deep, meaningful programmes to be run. They can get involved themselves in order to set an example for the company and its employees. By leading the “Movement for Movement”, it becomes easy to inculcate a culture of wellbeing and positivity within the organisation that ultimately leads to employees feeling valued and well take care of.
What excites you most about your industry?
The fact that we can ‘do good by doing good’ is a major motivator – that Stepathlon is a ‘virtual race’ which goes beyond boundaries allows us to positively impact lives across the globe. The wellness industry needs to create relevant, effective, sustainable solutions. Understanding the challenges that people face, the answers we can provide, the various tangible, qualitative and quantitative benefits, these are all motivators.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Sometimes you are better off being smart rather than being right.
What have you learnt that blew you away?
That Warren Buffett made 99% of his wealth after he turned 50!!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have become an entrepreneur in my mid-30s rather than in the mid-40s.
Who inspires you?
Anand Mahindra, the Chairman and MD of the Mahindra Group
How do you motivate yourself?
One of the ways to keep myself motivated it to set myself goals. These goal setting strategies apply to my health and well-being, my work, as a father and generally as a person. I think we need to have goals in order to achieve our potential. We also need to reward ourselves along the way and recognise when we do something positive. We need to realise that sometimes we don’t always achieve our goals and we need to reset and refocus. I also find the motivation from people – my favourite athletes, corporates and my colleagues who inspire me every day. If you have a positive outlook you can find motivation in many places. One person who motivates me daily is my daughter who provides me with great purposes both specific to her and symbolically as a symbol of our future.
How do you unwind?
Swimming, working out, walking and reading.
How do you maintain the balance between your personal life and working life?
Balance is something that comes through awareness and it is something that I constantly try to achieve in my work and personal life. As an entrepreneur, especially for an organisation that is in the early stages, it is sometimes hard to maintain this balance as there is constant pressure to keep working to make your business succeed.
Having said that, I am a firm advocate of the belief that we need to take frequent breaks to re-energise, strategise and refocus in order to achieve dynamic work and personal goals. In my personal life, I try and maintain balance in what I eat, with respect to exercise and also with respect to sleep. Each one of these aspects is critical in keeping me in shape to achieve my professional and personal goals. Spending time with loved ones is also essential to nurturing relationships and a great way to nourish the soul and to gain perspective. Spending quality time with my daughter is my greatest stress buster.
What are the main benefits of participating in a programme like Stepathlon?
Time-saving and time-wasting technologies have led to a decline in physical activity. The resulting sedentary lifestyles have been shown to contribute to 35 chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stress and depression.
Stepathlon is a WIN – WIN initiative for both the employers and the employees regardless of age, gender, designation, location, fitness levels or physical abilities.
It is a simple, fun and relevant solution to maintain and establish a healthier and happier life, by mitigating time, space and money constraints. There is no need for a costly gym membership or equipment, expensive special clothes or shoes. You can simply incorporate incidental movement into your daily life in the form of running, cycling, dancing, playing with your kids or even walking your dog (pets are great stress busters).
In addition to being provided with a pedometer, Stepathletes also receive weekly tips and recipes on healthy eating and overall wellbeing. We have created a holistic ecosystem that encourages them to make small changes to their habits and diet. This way Stepathletes are not only improving their own lives but they are educating their family members and friends as well.
What makes Stepathlon different from other fitness programs?
Stepathlon is a game changer that is inspiring and empowering people to live fitter, healthier, and more productive lives. We are disrupting the way people perceive wellbeing. The simple, fun and relevant model helps mitigate the time, space and money excuses that people give not to be active making it a win-win solution for both employers and employees. It leads to higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, better health and a happier community.