Vineeta Singh, 39, is extremely versatile, effortlessly switching between suits and athleisure, swapping her business heels for a pair of running shoes at will. Just days after the second season of Shark Tank India launched and memes featuring her started flooding social media, Singh ran the full marathon at Tata Mumbai Marathon in 4 hours 26 minutes.
Also read: Why Anam Zubair of WeddingWire India considers her team her mentor
Anyone who runs, or knows someone who does, knows how much discipline, training and rigour it involves. She did all this while shooting the second season of Shark Tank India, bringing up her two kids, making several promotional appearances and giving interviews, and most importantly, running SUGAR Cosmetics, the brand she co-founded with her husband, Kaushik Mukherjee.
To give you an idea of how busy 2023 is going to be on the business side, SUGAR Cosmetics has a huge launch calendar with several multitasking products with sunblock, hydration etc on the cards while the target is to double their nett revenue to ₹500 crores.
Singh, who grew up in South Delhi near AIIMS and studied at DPS, RK Puram, is an IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad alumnus. She fell in love with running after someone at IIM asked her to run the full marathon in Mumbai in 2007 and she hasn’t stopped since, even running a half marathon while pregnant. She has even overcome her fear of open-water swimming and has completed the gruelling Ironman triathlon race.
Singh, who lives in Mumbai and runs SUGAR Cosmetics from a WeWork facility, speaks to Lounge about learning the art of thinking big and being ambitious from the CEO of boAt, Vivek Gambhir, keeping her meetings crisp and short, the influence of Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s bestseller Shoe Dog and why she prefers in-person meetings.
Who do you consider your mentor?
Vivek Gambhir, CEO of boAt. He has always guided me to dream bigger and push my limits. Also, Dr Sunil Lamba, an entrepreneur turned professor at IIM Ahmedabad, mentored me even before I started my entrepreneurial journey and pushed me to believe in myself.
One major insight you worked on with your mentor’s guidance?
Vivek [Gambhir] has always mentored me to think bigger and be more ambitious in everything that I do. This has helped me set the bar and goals higher than before. I have also learned to delegate better and create processes and systems that will allow the organisation to function without any Kaushik or my involvement in the decision-making at every level.
What does being a mentor mean to you?
Mentoring budding entrepreneurs and colleagues, especially women at work and those who studied at my alma mater and who reach out to me for any advice, is something I’ve realised I do with great passion and enthusiasm. It feels great to share and mentor someone, who is on the path that I was on years ago and facing similar challenges. I wouldn’t have been able to reach where I am without the guidance and inspiration that I drew from my mentors. I feel that to whom much is given, much is also expected, and it all starts with being approachable to my employees and team members, and not only guiding them but also taking the time to listen to their grievances. Seeing other women succeed is something I truly enjoy and ensuring that I mentor hundreds of young professionals, especially women, gives me an opportunity to give back.
Describe your morning schedule.
I belong to the 6 am club. I like to start my day with a strong coffee and a quick snack, followed by my daily run, cycle ride or strength training. This “me” time is a very important part of my daily routine and helps me feel refreshed and energised for the rest of the day. Post-workout, it’s time to help my kids prepare for their day and once they’re off to school, a quick shower and get ready for work.
What’s the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
Keeping meetings crisp and short. Attending hundreds of Zoom meetings during the pandemic made me realise that they tend to be to the point and are concluded very quickly, and I have tried to bring that to my daily in-person meetings as well. I feel that long meetings can tend to be unnecessary for team members, especially ones that involve a big group of people. I make sure that we adhere to the timelines blocked for each meeting.
Any book you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth?
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, a memoir by the Nike co-founder. It was one of the first books I read when I was learning about entrepreneurship. To this day, the message of the book stands true -- that if you do something you love, you can power through the challenges and hurdles that are thrown your way. Two of my favourite podcasts are The Tim Ferriss Show and The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish.
How do you unwind… any serious hobbies?
Once home, I like to unwind by spending quality time with my sons who are four and seven. While with them, I live in the moment and give them my undivided attention.
I really enjoy a good run, swimming sessions, cycle rides, or strength training; working out helps me manage my energy levels and feel refreshed. Being an Ironman and Comrades ultramarathon athlete is a big passion of mine. They are two of the toughest endurance events in the world and give me the opportunity to push my limits and learn a lot about myself. They also give me an opportunity to excel in a place that is outside of work.
What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have improved your professional and personal lives?
As a marathon runner and entrepreneur, I have learnt that no matter what challenge is thrown at you, agility matters. My personal belief is that growth is not about how fast one achieves success but how well one sustains it. My fitness journey always inspires me professionally as well, and being unfazed by adversity, and staying consistent in my approach are mantras I apply to both.
Is looking the part as important as playing it for a business leader?
Over my 15+ year journey as an entrepreneur, I have realised that looking the part is vital for first impressions, no matter the designation. I do believe that in a fast-paced environment, first impressions matter. Having said that, it always boils down to the experience and knowledge one brings to their work that makes the biggest difference. While looking the part can help you get your foot through the door and give you the benefit of doubt, you really need to prove yourself by bringing content and excellence for it to work out in the long run.
Zoom calls or in-person meetings?
Though I enjoy the flexibility and time management aspect of Zoom meetings, I personally prefer in-person meetings. Now that we’re back to work, I look forward to in-person meetings with brainstorming sessions, these meetings not only give us a chance to talk about business but also build relationships, which isn’t possible during virtual calls. Zoom meetings tend to be very transactional, which makes them a bit too cold and impersonal.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness
Also read: Artist Swagatika Sarangi: The world is my workspace