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Kalpesh Parmar of Mars Wrigley on authentic mentorship

Kalpesh Parmar, country general manager of Mars Wrigley India, on being excited about plant-based meat, and why a leader is an organisaiton's mood setter 

Parmar has been learning golf for he last one year. 
Parmar has been learning golf for he last one year.  (Mars Wrigley)

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“I sell chocolates for a living, and I get paid for it. Can you imagine!” says Kalpesh R. Parmar, country general manager, Mars Wrigley, India, with a smile. Parmar joined Mars Wrigley in 2020 and loves his job so much so that he carries samples of chocolates with him all the time. When he meets someone on a flight or even a cab driver, he offers the sample. It serves double purpose, not only does he get to sample his brand, it also brings happiness to people. 

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Prior to joining Mars Wrigley, Parmar was with Unilever, where he worked in various global markets in the course of over 12 years. He has also worked in Gillette India and Marico. 

Based in Gurugram, Parmar, 47, discusses why he believes he’s also the “chief energy officer” of his organization, on keeping the relationship with mentee authentic and a food innovation he’s excited about. Edited excerpts:

Who do you consider your mentor and why?

I consider Umesh Shah, currently CEO, Unilever International, as my mentor. Umesh is a highly energetic leader, who has done roles in finance, supply, general management over three decades. The positive energy he exudes is contagious. Also, when you are so well connected across functions and know how they work, you can smell growth, cost efficiency, profits (and do a good job of achieving them). I have seen him demonstrating that over the three years I worked with him. At the same time, he trusts his team, supports and empowers them, and so the team also would do anything for him.                                           

One major insight you implemented with your mentor's guidance?

Umesh would say create belief in people about possibilities. Make it contagious. It can work wonders. Along with that it’s important to know and be connected to all departments—supply chain, research and development, and quality, so that one has a holistic view of the organisation. This helps in not only making the right but also a balanced decision. 

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

Relationship with a mentor has to be authentic. The mentor-mentee should trust each other to have open conversations. With my colleagues at work, most of the time it is just about reassuring them, and giving them the confidence that I would back them up in their journey. It’s also about guidance, sharing of experiences and having a regular dialogue on career progression, development, and personal health and wellbeing. I thrive on reverse mentoring too, where I can learn something for the mentee. 

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What's your morning schedule after waking up?

I wake up at around 6.30 am. I start my day by spending time with my two boys before they leave for school. I pursue a fitness regime comprising of yoga, badminton, weight training, etc, at least six days a week. Physical exercise helps me recharge and show up with energy to work. I believe that a CEO is also the chief energy officer of the organization, the mood setter, and it is important to show up at work, healthy and with a lot of positive energy.

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

During the pandemic, I made significant adjustments to my calendar – reduced screen time, cut down calls by half in a day. I invested more on connecting with people and in deepening my understanding of the happenings on the ground. It definitely gives me an edge in making better business decisions. The pandemic also strengthened my focus on personal health and well-being.

A productivity tool that you rely on

I am a big fan of Fitbit. We collect data for everything at work but what about one’s own health? We usually check weight alone. Smartwear devices give data on sleep quality, number of hours I slept, my resting heart rate. I have been keeping track of the data for last six years. It helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

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

My favourite podcast is The Look & Sound of Leadership by Tom Henschel. He’s an American stage actor who is now a full-time leadership coach. His monthly podcast of 8-12 minutes comprises stories revolving around real work instances, so it’s not listening to theory but listening to real corporate stories. I listen to it regularly. It has been a great guide in helping me navigate through certain work challenges. His podcasts are as good having a personal coach.

A food-tech innovation you are excited about.

Last year, I visited Anuga Foodtec, a trade fair in Germany where all food categories across industries come to present. The most crowded area in the fair was the (one with) plant-based meat. I ended up trying a lot of these products and I think that the journey what these companies are making is very exciting. Of course, (there's still a long way to go) but the way the developed world is experiencing these products—I am pretty impressed. Some of the  white meat and seafood items are creating quite a disruption. For red meat items, they will have to work harder.

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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