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Vijayaraghavan Venugopal: Mentoring comes naturally to me

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, CEO of Aeronutrix Sports Products Pvt Ltd that owns the popular sports nutrition brand Fast&Up, on how work and hobby merge

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal takes his running just as seriously as his work.
Vijayaraghavan Venugopal takes his running just as seriously as his work. (Courtesy Aeronutrix Sports Products Pvt Ltd)

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In 2008 when Beijing hosted the Olympics Vijayaraghavan Venugopal was the country head of Lupin in China. He was able to watch the Jamaican relay team featuring Usain Bolt in action there. Looking back, the 47-year-old co-founder and CEO of Aeronutrix Sports Products Pvt Ltd, which owns the popular sports nutrition brand Fast&Up, it was a seminal moment in his life and career because four years later he took up running seriously and a few years down the line co-founded the sports nutrition company that he now runs. 

Venugopal, a mechanical engineer who has a master’s in international business from IIFT, New Delhi, takes his running just as seriously as his work; he wants to run as many marathons under three hours as he can before ageing slows him down and has run eight sub-3 marathons till date.

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Bengaluru-based Venugopal speaks to Lounge about not getting into peer comparisons, why it’s important to adopt technology at work, how his work and hobby merge in running, and what is the one thing he cannot travel without.

Who do you consider your mentor?

I have had a few mentors I could reach out to in various phases of my life… typically seniors at school, college or work place. Mentors have been people, who apart from wishing well for me, have also had a respect for my values and outlook and vice-versa.

One major insight you worked on with your mentor's guidance?

There have been multiple insights or inputs I have derived while watching my mentors at play or work. While working in the pharmaceutical industry, I derived the power of thinking global or aspiring for a global play in businesses where we are involved. Having supreme confidence in yourself and not getting into peer comparisons is something I inherited quite early while at school watching some of my seniors. The list can be endless since there are traits you keep absorbing knowingly or unknowingly.

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

I love the concept of mentoring as against being a coach or a teacher. I think the latter requires aptitude and skill apart from time and comes with more responsibility. Mentoring comes naturally to me since it gives an opportunity to share your experiences on aspects which you feel can make a difference. The final execution is done by the mentee.

Mentoring colleagues at work requires you to be approachable first. It is vital to make your colleagues comfortable enough for interaction and taking guidance. Most times, it is to do with the professional side of things, where my inputs help them to get better over a period of time. In some cases, there is mentoring on personal aspects too, since it could relate to final output at work. Finally, it is very important for the mentor to let go of their mentees as they progress and move into new universes.

What's your morning schedule like?

I usually wake up around 5am and have a filter coffee. Then I head out for a run. This remains consistent even during travels.

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

Having worked in pharmaceuticals, which is an old economy sector, we were not a big user of technology for work. The pandemic made us adapt, irrespective of age, to new tools like Zoom calls in a positive way. These tools can be used in sync with traditional ways to evolve an efficient and powerful way of working.

What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have made your professional and personal life much easier?

Focus. Having a single minded focus on whatever we do has helped immensely.

Discipline. For most people, success requires hard work and discipline. This is the same in regular life, and the idea has always been to turn up day after day at the right time.

Simplifying problems. This has been key to being efficient.

What is the one nutrition rule you have developed?

I always travel with electrolytes. It is a very simple yet powerful product to have with you.

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Where do you think sports nutrition is headed in India?

Sports in India is set for bigger things. Apart from cricket today, there are multiple sports eyeing for attention. We have entered an era where kids are aspiring to dream about being world champions. This requires suitable infrastructure, and one of the key cogs in the wheel is nutrition. How long can a country be dependent on imports? Today, sports nutrition in India is at a place where it will get better, more quality focused and innovative.

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

I have a high affinity towards books around sports and fitness. Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Endure by Alex Hutchinson and The Sports Gene by David Epstein. Currently I am reading Do Hard Things by Steve Magness. All these books have a lot of sporting relevance, but they give so many important lessons for growth and perseverance at the workplace.

How do you unwind? Do you pursue any serious hobbies?

The concept of winding and unwinding has become a bit redundant since the beginning of my current journey with Fast&Up. My work is in the sweet intersection of things I like – business, healthcare and fitness.

Being a competitive marathon runner is a serious hobby and I dedicate a decent amount of time to it every day. As I edge towards 50, the idea would be to stay fit and fast.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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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