Because of the transferable nature of his father’s service in the armed forces, Aneesh Bhasin has been to 14 schools – from Kashmir to Bengaluru. Once he was done with high school, Bhasin simply started working as an assistant to photographers instead of going to college.
“Back then my only options were medicine and engineering. I never liked academics. I flunked in Chemistry in Class 12. My father was supportive of my decision to quit studies and that was that,” recalls the 37-year-old founder of Svami while adjusting his cap over a video call on a sketchy internet connection. “I would have loved to study the arts but I didn’t know any better,” adds Bhasin, who went on to work as a photographer and whose pictures have appeared in this publication too. “My education came from personal reading and following the works of photographers.”
It was through photography assignments with wine and spirits clients that the Mumbai-based Bhasin got interested in alcohol and launched his first venture, Hipcask. For the directory of Indian wines with home-delivery options, Bhasin developed backend technology and piqued the interest of Diageo India among others.
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However, when the interest did not convert into an investment, he and his co-founders decided to try their luck with premium mixers in a market where the only tonic water available was Schweppes. Svami was launched in 2018. “We knew plenty of local artisanal gins were going to be launched in India and there would be a demand for premium tonics. So, it was a calculated move,” says Bhasin, who is friends with the people behind both Greater Than and Stranger & Sons.
Bhasin, who loves collecting budget watches (he has 40 HMTs), speaks to Lounge about drawing inspiration from his father, the value of time, no rigid work timings, starting his own podcast and why investing in watches tarnishes his love of collecting them.
Who do you consider your mentor?
I do not have too many mentors. But I have to mention my father here because he’s a very strong mentor not only to me but hundreds of people. It’s not only mentorship but also the inspiration that for me is important.
One major insight you worked on with your mentor's guidance?
Understanding the value of time, especially realising that a lot of times having free time is mistaken for not having work or enough work.
What does being a mentor mean to you?
You always want good people in your workspace. Good people will be with you, stay with you and work well for you if they see long-term value going beyond a CTC (cost to company). As a founder, mentorship will always happen in some way or the other and I would focus on long-term growth of my colleagues.
Describe your morning schedule.
I am not a morning person. I wake up around 8am and usually get to work by 10:30am. Before that I like my time to read, browse and see what’s happening before getting into calls and meetings. My first cup of coffee is around noon, which is a ritual.
What’s the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
A stronger belief that if work gets done on time, it doesn’t matter if someone works from 9am to 5pm or at night.
Any book/podcast you would recommend about mentorship and growth?
There’s not much analysis paralysis in the mentorship, entrepreneurial, startup space when it comes to YouTube and podcasts. For me there is a lot of knowledge to be acquired and implied from other podcasts like Lex Fridman, a Russian-American computer scientist and AI researcher. To give you an example, on one of his episodes where he interviews Jack Barsky, a former KGB spy. That conversation has incredible learnings about discipline and trust.
How do you unwind? Do you pursue any serious hobbies?
Hobbies are crucial and I have quite a few. I am very passionate about wine, vinyl and music and cigars. My podcast is also in the same realm and helps me unwind.
What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have improved your professional and personal lives?
Couple of things… if you work with good focus, all you need is three hours of work in a day to usually get done with all tasks. Second, take notes, journal and write. It’s such a simple thing but surprisingly it’s not as common as one would expect.
Has the premium mixers market in India become congested very quickly?
It’s like any other industry. When people see some movement and excitement, a lot of brands mushroom quickly. For example most of our competition is made by the same factory in Rajasthan and it’s that easy to start a mixer brand… what would everyone’s trajectory be is the question. Non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages consumption in India is growing and we see a lot of potential for premiumisation.
Would watches ever be an investment option for you?
Not for me. I think that watches as investment kind of ruins the entire watch hobby angle and ecosystem because it brings in artificial scarcity and encourages flipping.
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.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness