Recently when Nicobar co-founder Raul Rai celebrated his birthday, his family gifted him a book in which they compiled things that they could be grateful for as a family. “I think the happiest people are those who have shown gratitude in life.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, as business leaders across the world faced their moment of truth, Raul says that gratitude was his moment of truth. “Throughout the pandemic, people suffered so much. So, just pausing and realising how lucky we were as a family and as an organisation, and feeling a sense of gratitude for that, that's what helped me actually.”
Crises like the pandemic have a way of shaking up long-standing value systems. Would he say that his values have essentially remained unchanged? “I don’t think things are new because of COVID-19, but trends that were already in place have only come to the surface and accelerated.” He adds that values that have always been important to him, both as an individual and as an entrepreneur, include leading with empathy, kindness and compassion. “The world needs more empathy and more mindfulness. I feel fortunate that the pandemic has not changed my values. Rather, I would say the conviction in them has only deepened,” he shares.
According to him, the area of greatest change has been in how they work. “Nicobar strives to stick to its USP of being ‘a place for holistic professional and personal growth.’ With more work from home and across geographies, I see an opportunity for work to meaningfully drive greater professional-personal integration and harmony. Focusing on the holistic growth of your team is now more important than ever – the mental and emotional wellbeing of our teams is vital.”
The definition of success has also changed in a time like this, where survival was foremost on everyone’s minds. Raul believes that each organisation should define success beyond financial measures (which are no doubt important, he adds). For him, “The measures of success are using our brand to shape culture towards greater mindfulness and bringing contemporary design into everyday life.”
Why is vulnerability a strength for business leaders?
The pandemic was also a catalyst in Raul’s journey towards greater self-awareness, self-management, motivation and empathy. “Our personal purpose is to serve others, to nurture journeys – and this purpose also becomes deeper and more real in these times.”
As the co-founder of a well-known fashion and lifestyle label, Raul is very conscious of the fact that fashion is known to be a big polluter of the environment. He says that being mindful of this fact has helped him when making decisions both as an entrepreneur and in his personal life, since sustainability is a cause close to his heart.
This self-awareness has led to his acceptance of vulnerability as a character trait that is not a weakness but a strength. “According to me, vulnerability is one of the top three characteristics of leaders. Typically, leaders reach out only to people's heads, but not to their hearts. You can only inspire when you touch people's hearts.”
Good leaders should be authentic, empathetic, and curious
Raul’s definition of a true Man of Platinum comes from the following: authenticity, empathy and curiosity. “Is there synergy between what you say and what you do? That’s authenticity. I am also an incredibly curious person and love to learn more. Empathy is equally important. You need to understand the other person’s story. In addition, self-awareness and compassion are important core values that make for a good leader and a good human being. A true Man of Platinum has all these and also knows to take life as it comes, with all its chaos.”
His motto has always been to have the ‘courage of conviction and the power of perseverance’. And that comes from his background as a sportsperson. In fact, Raul says that if not an entrepreneur, he would have been a professional sportsperson or a coach. He adds, “I am extremely fortunate that I have found my purpose in life.”
Discovering a lightness to being in uncertain times
He credits wife Simran with transforming him and calls her his role model. “Simran has had the greatest impact on my life. She triggered a spiritual quest within me, a ‘private equity type’ banker, and introduced me to Vedanta, she inspired me to take the ‘Search Inside Yourself’ course, and to consciously bring more creativity into my life.”
When asked what keeps him going in uncertain times, Raul quotes the Navy Seals motto, ‘deal with it’. “They don't have time for excuses, justifications or rationalisations.”
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