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Conscious travel helps WeWork’s Karan Virwani be productive

Karan Virwani, CEO of WeWork India, talks about how he mentors his team, and why he does not view setbacks as failures

Virwani likes to do outdoor activities like hiking or horse riding to destress.
Virwani likes to do outdoor activities like hiking or horse riding to destress. (WeWork India)

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For Karan Virwani, CEO, WeWork India, Maldives represents the ideal "work from anywhere" destination. Leader of the New York-headquartered co-working company, Virwani believes the island nation has a relaxed vibe where one could spend quality time with friends and family, away from the bustling city life, and also get their work done. 

Also Read: Neeraj Bahl on how simplicity can help productivity

Virwani, 30, started his career in the hospitality industry before moving to the real-estate business by joining Embassy Group in 2014. In 2016, as WeWork geared up to enter India with its partnership with Embassy, Virwani moved to help the co-working brand grow. 

Bengaluru-based Virwani speaks with Lounge about the business lessons he learnt from his first landlord, how he mentors his team and why he’s cut down on unnecessary travel. 

Who do you consider your mentor? 

I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some great leaders who also doubled as my mentors. I especially look up to Akash Bhansali, director, of Enam Group, who was also one of our first landlords, as my mentor. He has always given me sound advice.

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

Akash has been a continuous learning source for me, and one of the insights that I have learnt from him is to focus on cash flow and avoid expensive capital. I have applied this philosophy while making every important decision for the company thus, leading to profitability. This has also helped us stay ahead of the curve by offering innovative and customisable solutions for businesses to embrace work models that complement their requirements.

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

Being a mentor is a huge responsibility.  You need to be a sounding board for your team, a trusted advisor and sometimes a close confidante, who can guide them through their journey towards success. To be able to work hard together and build a trusting team is truly invaluable for any leader. 

The most effective way in which I mentor my colleagues is by creating a culture of connection and collaboration, along with building a community of people who not only share a workspace but also knowledge and ideas to empower each other and rise together. For me, an inspired workforce is fostered through a support system that nurtures their talents and goals for growth. All professionals — young or seasoned — must be empowered to continuously reinvent themselves professionally and personally.

What's your morning routine like?

My routine is quite simple. I usually wake up around 6 am, and spend a good hour by myself and my dog, while having my morning coffee. After that, I catch up on emails or the morning paper, spend some time listening to a podcast, or some videos on YouTube video, and browse through social media. I then head to the gym where I dedicate an hour to workout and leave for work by 8.45 am.

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

One of the most positive and practical changes that I have adopted during the pandemic is to travel only when it is necessary. It has not only helped elevate my productivity levels but has also been beneficial in this evolving hybrid work scenario.

Also Read: Siddharth Banerjee of Pearson on unconventional choices

What are some of the productivity principles you follow? 

One of the principles that I keenly follow is focusing on having few rules and believing that everything happens for the best. I don’t perceive setbacks as a failure or a mistake; it’s part and parcel of life. These precepts have made me stronger and encouraged me to march ahead towards achieving my goals. I only worry about things that are in my control and focus on resolving them in the best manner possible. 

I also believe in taking a break and giving enough time to the business as well as to myself and my family. This is something I consider important. I have always benefitted in some manner through my time away from the business because it allows me to think and step away from a tactical approach to life.

Any book/ podcast you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? Why?

I recently read The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel and highly recommend it. Irrespective of one’s occupation or the current stage of life they are in they will find the book useful. I am also an avid follower of The All-In Podcast by Chamath, Jason, Sacks and Friedberg, and listen to it almost every week. It offers great insights into the macro environment of the world.

How do you unwind?

I am an outdoors person and unwind by going for a hike or horse riding. I also spend time with my friends playing sports. Besides this, my wife and I enjoy watching movies and TV shows together. I love to bring out my inner chef and cook for my wife or friends as much as possible.

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.

Also Read: Prioritise ruthlessly, says Shopify's Bharati Balakrishnan


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