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‘Women achievers have the will to break barriers’: Syska Group's Jyotsna Uttamchandani

The 31-year-old executive director on how it's different working in the US, and why she looks up to two strong women

Jyotsna Uttamchandani, executive director of the Syska Group.

By Shrenik Avlani

LAST PUBLISHED 05.06.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

Jyotsna Uttamchandani displays a calm and understanding beyond her 31 years as I grapple with connectivity issues and AirPods on low battery during our video meeting. As soon as we are back on, she takes the focus off my technological shortcomings saying, “I still prefer wired headphones." 

Uttamchandani, an executive director in the Syska Group who heads the family-run holding’s mobile accessories business, had started working for Microsoft after completing her bachelor’s in computer science and information technology from Purdue in 2015. She started as a consultant in Chicago before moving to their Seattle office as a success manager. She then worked at Microsoft for three years before her health forced her to move back to India in 2018. It was then that she found herself in two minds about joining the family business, Syska Group, which is now into LED lights, cables, wires, grooming products, mobile accessories, speakers and smart watches.

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“Joining Syska meant working with my dad and the family’s first generation that started all of this. It meant work always comes home and my dad being my boss. My father also clarified at the very outset that I’d be working 24x7 here," she recalls.

She finally joined Syska in 2018 and says she has not only learned new things from the old guard, but has also managed to hold her own and teach them a thing or two about working in today’s reality. “I am not here at the Syska Group to fit into my father’s shoes. I am here to fit into my very own pair. I have met Syska’s first generation halfway," says the Pune-based businesswoman. With work always coming home and often even reaching the dining table, she is aware that there is no clear work-life boundary with her job. Bearing that in mind, she says looking after her mental health is even more important. So, the other talk she has had with the first generation is about mental health. “I am aware of the risk of a burnout because we really do not have any time to chill out. We can take a break to care for our mental health whenever we need it," she says. 

Also read: FC Goa chief Akshay Tandon on why he thinks Indian sports is in its infancy

 

Uttamchandani talks to Lounge about why perseverance pays off, the importance of a “mental break," and why she starts her day off by saying something positive to herself.       

Who do you consider your mentor?

It has to be between Suneeta Reddy, the MD of Apollo Hospitals, and Flt Lt Shivangi Singh, the first woman to fly a Rafale jet. Women achievers often have something in common — the passion and will to break barriers and stereotypes. In achieving their respective professional goals, they have both excelled. Reddy's desire to carry on her father's vision while adding her own soul to it is impressive. Singh always wanted to touch the skies and has spoken her mind on equal opportunity being the new norm. Both had to tune out the noise along the way to the top. Women are trying to get out there and perform. Such leaders are acting as real catalysts to build the platform and provide opportunities directly and indirectly.

One major insight you worked on with your mentor’s guidance?

“The key is to never stop," Shivangi Singh once said in an interview. It is vital to believe in yourself even when you have no one by your side. Although working for the family business as a second generation offers many opportunities, we sometimes overlook the expectations and baggage that come with it. It is one thing to scale up a new business, but quite another to do so after it has already reached a point where there is serious pressure. We are expected to work harder than the first generation and outperform them. Not only that, it's also a constant struggle as you try to gain credibility and trust within the company. You will encounter times when you are not supported, but you must persevere.

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What does being a mentor mean to you?

The growth of a person as a whole must be the goal of a mentor, who goes beyond simply offering advice or encouragement. I would like to mentor someone such that they excel both in their profession and all aspects of life. That way, at the end of the day, you can look back and see what you accomplished—what you did for others as well as for yourself, perhaps even out of selflessness. I only use one phrase while communicating with my team, “Let me help you help me." Only if they grow, I do.

Describe your morning schedule?

I am usually up by 7.30-8am. The first thing I do is tell myself something positive like “You got this" or “Today you will shine." I usually avoid touching my phone as soon as I wake up. It's key to let your mind run you through the day's tasks without your gadget. Then I workout for an hour before heading off to work. 

What’s the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?

The pandemic gave us a lot of insight into who we are. After self-reflection, I learned that I often tend to get burnt out because I don't take time to rejuvenate. I also realised how crucial exercise was to my daily regimen. Therefore, if I want to take a mental day off because I've had a tough week, I do so. There will always be work, but I cannot stress enough the importance of staying healthy and taking breaks.

Also read: Why Pearson's Giovanni Giovannelli is a strong advocate of reverse mentoring

 

Any book or podcast recommendations about mentorship and workplace growth?

The Go-Giver Leader by Bob Burg and John David Mann’s, and the story of James Dyson, how he built the brand Dyson.  

Any serious hobbies?

Fitness is my way to unwind. Apart from that, I love spending time with my family. I feel so much comfort when my dad and I have had a long day at work and we come back to have dinner with my mother together.

What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have improved your professional and personal life?

In a family business, you can never leave work behind, it always comes home with you. The important thing is to never let your work impair your relationships. It's critical to surround yourself with the right people at all times if you want to grow both personally and professionally. It is important to close tasks to move forward.

What is the biggest difference between working in a US tech giant and a family business?

I believe the biggest difference is that you never stop working. The pressures are different when you take a pay cheque versus being the one signing the pay cheque.  

How are US consumer demands and needs different from those in India?

The major differences are knowledge and budget. Customers outside India, especially in the US, put emphasis on quality, convenience and how their ROI would come out on the purchase. Indian customers focus a lot on budgeting, personal relationships and convenience. 

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor, and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness

Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.