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FreshToHome's Shan Kadavil on creating mini CEOs in the firm

The founder of meat, seafood and fresh produce ecommerce platform on what he's learnt from his mentor, and promoting toxin-free food

Shan Kadavil likes to set aside his ‘me time’ early morning. 
Shan Kadavil likes to set aside his ‘me time’ early morning.  (FreshToHome)

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Much before pandemic forced everyone to work remotely, FreshToHome, the meat, seafood and fresh produce e-tailer had embraced the flexi-work model. “I can no longer boast about it since most organisations have embraced it now,” says Shan Kadavil, the company’s founder. The model has worked well for him considering he lives “out of a suitcase right now” – Kadavil has been flitting between the company’s headquarters in Bengaluru and its office in Dubai.

Also Read: Uber’s Prabhjeet Singh on treating mentors as board members

In an interview, Kadavil speaks to Lounge about measuring passion, encouraging team leads to become entrepreneurial,  and his experiments with plant based meat. Edited excerpts:

Who do you consider your mentor and why? 

I am strongly influenced by the vision of Mark Pincus, a popular entrepreneur in Silicon valley, and founder of a number of large companies such as Zynga. He was also my former boss and is a mentor and investor of FreshToHome. Mark is a visionary and his belief in the capabilities of human beings is exceptional. He sincerely believed anyone who dared to dream big will be successful if he/ she is passionate about chasing their dreams without micro-managing them or limiting their potential.   

One major insight you implemented with your mentor's guidance 

A key principle that Mark taught me was to be your own CEO; treat employees as family members and enable them to act as a CEO of their own function since they know it better than anyone else would. So, each team runs like a mini startup with the manager being the CEO and FreshToHome acting like a VC. It’s the only way you can grow rapidly. 

We have adopted policies that give importance to passion and performance over rules and rigid workplace practices. Passion is measured by how outlandish you set your goal and how you go about achieving it. I am passionate about encouraging each employee to take ownership and deliver performance that exceeds their own expectations. For instance, in 2018, the Bengaluru team took up the challenge of venturing into sourcing fish through fish farming. We had never thought of it before. Today, we are doing 1,000 tonne contract farming on our platform. We are the largest organised farmers in the country. It was something out of the ordinary. 

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

I believe that a mentor is someone who motivates his/her team to harness their potential and encourages them to discover their strengths and leadership skills. When I am mentoring, I encourage my colleagues to learn from their experiences and make decisions. This instills confidence in their abilities, and motivates them to excel. Passion and perseverance often go hand-in-hand, when there’s motivation.  I also teach them its okay to fail so long as they fail fast and learn from their failures. 

What's your morning schedule after waking up?

I wake up at 6 am and set aside some ‘me time’. I meditate, pray, and exercise during this time. I consider these my “magic hours” because there’s a lot of silence around, and I get ample time to engineer my thoughts, actions and plans towards my targets. A lot of reflection, contemplation, and self-absorption also happen during these hours. I enjoy good food and it often lifts my mood. So, I usually start my day with a wholesome breakfast with my family. Following this, I start my work day by 8 am with meetings. 

Also Read: How pandemic helped Heads Up For Tails' Narang to schedule her day

Tell us about your productivity hacks

I believe in the power of human capital and, therefore, I delegate quite efficiently. You may not get exact perfection as you like to have but it’s alright. Over a period of time I have come to terms with that. Initially I would take everything upon myself to the point of breaking. I have also realised that there are people who are high achievers and then those who may not get high levels of outcome, but are reliable. And you need both. You need balance of both these category of people in an organisation. 

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

I have always believed in consuming toxin free food for the positive impact it has on our body and mind. During the pandemic, I got an opportunity to encourage my team to align their eating habits with that of the vision of the organization. I have advocated the benefits of consuming preservative-free food, and now many of us are practicing what we believe.   

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

I would recommend Blitzscaling by Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman, Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder and Alchemy by Rory Sutherland. These books are unique in their message and are highly inspiring for young entrepreneurs. The key takeaways from these books are imperative when you aspire to build a sustainable business model and a dynamic workplace valuing people for their hidden potential. 

An innovation you are looking forward to in the food tech space 

I have been following innovation in meatless space for quite some time, and have been amazed at the number of breakthroughs. I have really liked Impossible Food’s products. It’s close to the original, especially prawns. We too are experimenting, and have launched some products in our UAE portal. 

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.

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