Everything about the Woodland headquarter in West Delhi shouts that it had another life before it came to be the footwear brand’s corporate office. Harkirat Singh, the managing director of Aero Club, which owns the popular brands Woodland and Woods, confirms that it used to be their factory till the late 1980s. It was in the early 1990s that the space was repurposed. The 55-year-old loves collecting watches and breaks into a smile when asked about his Rolex Datejust with a fluted bezel. In fact, he enthusiastically discusses timepieces before coming back to the topic at hand.
Singh enjoys golf, cycling and morning walks in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens and rues the fact that his busy work schedule leaves him with little time for these activities. “I used to drive my son to the golf course, and instead of just sitting and looking at him I also started taking lessons and got hooked. One of the best experiences was playing with Anirban Lahiri at an invitational corporate event in Japan. It’s always good to play with people better than you,” he says.
From personally going through customer emails to interacting with floor staff whenever he visits a company showroom to adapting to the rise of D2C, he has his hands full. One of the most fun and educative experiences for Singh happened while he was doing a design innovation course at Stanford 10 years ago. At the age of 45, he was sent with his rather young classmates to the Los Angeles airport, one of the busiest in the US, to interview flyers and find out how their experience could be improved. “It was such a great exercise. I found myself walking up to complete strangers and talking to them, trying to complete my assignment,” reminisces Singh.
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He speaks to Lounge further about drawing inspiration from Ratan Tata, the new hybrid model of retail, and what the pandemic taught him about working remotely.
Who do you consider your mentor?
I admire Ratan Tata for doing business with social responsibility. He inspires me so much because of his simplicity and humility, and the way he (and the entire group under his guidance) has contributed to the world in so many ways.
One major insight you worked on with your mentor's guidance?
Invest in teamwork and believe in your team.
Describe your morning schedule?
I’m an early riser and enjoy morning walks along with some cycling and yoga. Staying fit is a passion and exercise rejuvenates me.
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What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
Like any corporate, we also believe in dedicated work while in office. However, this pandemic taught us that work and timely deliveries can happen even while working from home.
Any book/podcast you would recommend about mentorship and growth?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has inspired me to follow my dreams and my inner voice. The book also talks about trusting one’s intuition and inherent desires and using them to realise one’s potential. I would suggest people read it. The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman and Steve Jobs’ autobiography are my other favourites that I would like to pass on to people.
How do you unwind? Do you pursue any serious hobbies?
My favourite pastime is golf. It’s a great stress-buster. Also, I love to spend time with my sons. I believe there is always something you can learn from the current generation, which also happens to be the core target group for lifestyle brands like ours.
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What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have improved your professional and personal lives?
You need to enjoy whatever work you are doing to be successful at it. I enjoy my work thoroughly, from developing new strategies to execution. They are equally important and interesting to me. This helps me both professionally and personally.
What works better for your customers: online D2C or actual showroom?
Online D2C is very important for a footwear brand since post-pandemic consumers have increasingly started to look into online sites for their footwear needs. Moreover, D2C brands in footwear cater to a consumer directly and thus, can better understand their requirements to offer them the most suitable product or solution. It also enables brands to directly fulfil demand without a huge network of distributors and retailers and benefit from higher margins.
I’m leading a lifestyle brand and also run a website selling my products. Being aware of the domain and having confidence that the platform has evolved in over a decade of presence, I would not shy away from making an online purchase though being a serious buyer, I would be cautious in my selections. I would read a thorough review, spend time on selecting the right colour, size and other specs so that I am confident of making the right choice.
Is “dressing for success” still relevant?
Dressing plays a crucial part in our professional lives and one must follow a dress code since it gives the confidence to lead a meeting, a job, a profile. However, one is, and should be, free to wear any comfortable clothes in their personal lives.
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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