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Arjun Ranga on the importance of remaining creative at the workplace

The managing director of Cycle Pure Agarbathi and managing partner at NR Group on staying creative and how women are at the centre of the company

Arjun Ranga, managing director of Cycle Pure Agarbathi.
Arjun Ranga, managing director of Cycle Pure Agarbathi.

Growing up alongside eight cousins was an outright party, recalls Arjun Ranga. But dinner table conversations for the NR Group family usually revolved around business. It made him well aware of his roots and what his predecessors had achieved before him.

Ranga returned from the US around 2000 to Mysuru to join the family business. Over time, he was instrumental in extending the agarbathi business into spirituality and wellbeing, besides fragrances and lifestyle. The group also ventured into non-traditional businesses such as defence, aerospace, and ed tech.

“As an organisation, we were always socially conscious and believed in diversification. But it all started with the agarbathi business for us,” says Ranga, managing director of Cycle Pure Agarbathi, and managing partner at NR Group. “Today, it personifies hope and gives us the courage to dream. It’s just not a business for us, it is what our legacy stands for.”

Also read: Renault India's Venkatram Mamillapalle on patience in tough times

The market today is flooded with agarbathis. Ranga believes what makes their product stand out is their understanding of the art of fragrance and the fact that they continue to create their own. With the dexterity needed to make agarbathis, a majority of the workforce comprises women. But Ranga wants to ensure their presence even higher up the chain.

“We’ve been fairly successful, though we still have a long way to go. As an organisation, we are not empowering women, but we are empowered by women,” he says.

Ranga talks to Lounge about his father’s influence and the challenges he faces as a mentor today.

Who do you consider your mentor?

As a second generation entrepreneur, my father, RN Murty, took the business to the next level with his brothers. He played a very crucial role in my growing years. Today, my bigger mentor would be the marketplace. I learn so many new things each time I visit the market. And my frontline sales team are the ones who keep it real and keep me grounded. That’s where I understand what is happening—the pulse of the market comes from there.

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

My father always told me to never go away from your core competence. He was a perfumer and he trained me to be a perfumer, so inadvertently I needed to spend more time in the lab, honing my creative skills. That’s something I learnt from him. As long as I stay creative, everything else falls in place.

What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?

The biggest challenge is to figure out how to tell people what to do, without actually telling them what to do. And to let people make decisions and have the courage to believe that the organisation will support their decisions. People typically wait for instructions rather than make decisions. That’s the biggest challenge that I face as a mentor to inspire the next generation leaders in the organisation.

What’s your morning schedule like?

I’ve been a sportsman throughout, having captained my college in six different sports. So the morning will inevitably have tennis or golf, depending on the time available.

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

From a personal standpoint, I think time management is always a challenge. What has helped me is a start time and an end time for meetings, with a clear agenda and a discussion timeframe. And that’s happened during Covid because of all the Zoom calls that we had—there’s a start and end to a meeting and a clear agenda. It’s something I am continuing with even now.

Also read: Gynoveda's Vishal Gupta on why one mentor isn’t enough in today’s complex world

Any book or podcast you would recommend about mentorship and growth?

I like Simon Sinek and his thoughts on being focus driven.

How do you unwind? Do you pursue any serious hobbies?

Sports, wildlife and spending time in nature. I’ve been to Everest Base Camp and the last trek took me to Panwali Kantha in the Garhwal Himalaya. I just got back from Svalbard where I could photograph polar bears. I’ve gone to Amazon to shoot panthers and many jungles of India as well.

Monday Motivation is a series in which business leaders and creative individuals discuss their mentors and their work ethics.

Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based freelance writer.

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