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How ACG Worldwide's Karan Singh is embracing remote work

Karan Singh, managing director of ACG Worldwide on how he initiates new hires to company culture despite remote work during the pandemic, and more

Karan Singh likes to start his work day early. 
Karan Singh likes to start his work day early.  (ACG Worldwide)

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If there is one thing Karan Singh, managing director, ACG Worldwide, likes about his current work routine, it’s the fact that it’s remote in nature. While he realises that some conversations need face to face interaction, overall, Singh believes his productivity has increased and he gets more time to spend with his three children. 

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Mumbai-based Singh took the helm of his family business, one of the largest manufacturers of solid dosage products and services like capsules, in 2012. Alongside managing the company, which caters to 138 countries, Singh also invests in startups in his personal capacity.  

In this interview with Lounge, Singh talks about why he pays keen attention to organisational culture, the new productivity hacks that have helped him, and honing his cooking skills. Edited excerpts:

Who do you consider your mentor and why?

It would be my professors from Harvard University, particularly Professor Boris Groysberg. I also learnt a great deal about building successful partnerships and choosing the right business opportunities from Prof Deepak Malhotra. Those lessons have refined me as a leader

One major insight you implemented/worked on with our mentor's guidance?

The emphasis on building strong organizational culture was drilled into me by Professor Boris Groysberg. He helped me understand the value of culture in building a future ready organization. 

This brought us result-driven outcomes and a reputation of being partners to the pharma industry. Since the pandemic, we have been learning how we can include new hires in embracing our culture. For instance, I hired four senior leaders during the last two years. To ensure they understood and experienced our culture, I would set up separate daily and monthly meetings with them, ensure these were with cameras on, so that I could see their reactions, and invite them to visit our manufacturing units once a month, so that they get a feel of how the products and manufactured and meet the people on ground. 

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

I consider myself as an unorthodox leader – consultative, invoke questions and give my mentees guidance to let them take ownership of their decisions. Effective leaders develop flexible communications and management style that is appropriate to the situation. I am completely informal and honest with my mentees – whether it is with harsh feedback or appraisal, transparency is of utmost importance.

What your morning routine?

I am up by 5.30 am, spend some time staring into the sea from my balcony with a cup of coffee. Then, I get some uninterrupted time with my daughter and two sons before the hustle-bustle of the day. By 7.30 am, I am in my home office. For the next one hour, I clear my mails and plan on for the day, the tasks that need to be done, etc. Soon after, the meetings of the day start. 

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

I ensure the meetings are extremely focused and agenda-driven keeping in mind everyone’s struggle to balance family duties and work. Saving time on travel, the virtual world approach has made me efficient in balancing work with plenty time to spend with family and on my health and wellness.

A productivity hack you rely upon?

Earlier my secretary would schedule my meetings but now I do it myself. I like to plan the frequency of these meetings and manage my time better. Another thing I have started doing is sending the notes I jot down during the meeting to my team members on Whatsapp immediately after. I have a customized work desk with a glass top on which I note down my thoughts or some critical action points. I take the photo of this and send it. It saves on time. 

How do you unwind? Is there a hobby you have picked up?

I have always been interested in cooking but didn’t find time earlier. Now since I am working from home, I take the lead on our meals. So, I instruct the cook on what to make, help with the prep work and have been trying different exotic ingredients. My wife loves it. 

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

I have returned to the audio books in the last one year. I would recommend A Promised Land by Barrack Obama. His leadership skills gave me insights on collective wisdom, recognizing strengths and harnessing them, and so on. 

Another favourite is the docuseries The Last Dance on the basketball legend Michael Jordon. It’s truly inspirational as it taught me how to fight against all odds and never give up on something we are passionate about. 

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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