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What a calculus prof taught Hopscotch's CEO about mentoring

CEO and founder of the kids wear brand, Rahul Anand talks about the importance of team communication, and the merits of having a strict morning ritual

Anand considers Harvard Business School's Nancy Koehn as one of his mentors. 
Anand considers Harvard Business School's Nancy Koehn as one of his mentors.  (Hopscotch)

Rahul Anand started Hopscotch, an online baby and children’s wear brand, in 2012. Although headquartered in Mumbai, the company has teams in Bangalore and Shenzhen, China. The brand sells through various e-commerce sites, the latest being Flipkart. An alumnus of Harvard Business School, Anand started his career as analyst with Dell. His last corporate stint was with Quidsi Inc, a subsidiary of Amazon, where he headed the diaper business before foraying into entrepreneurship. Anand talks how his mentor helped him through the pandemic, and about his own mentorship style. Edited excerpts:

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Who do you consider your mentor? 

Nancy Koehn, the James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School has been a great career coach. She’s spent the last 30 years studying and working with great leaders and visionaries. Her advice has enabled Hopscotch to emerge stronger post the covid-19 pandemic. She suggested that I get in front of people and confront their fears. We began doing all hands meetings on Zoom daily, and continue this ritual on a weekly basis now. 

We also scrapped our annual plans, rejigged goals, and navigated our teams through the crisis by focusing point to point. This proved extremely useful when national lockdowns were introduced, lifted, and then re-introduced across states. Nancy's advice single handedly enabled me to be a strong leader in a crisis. 

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

Nancy shares pertinent materials with me from time to time as I confront different challenges in the business. One such article was a Harvard Business Review piece written by A.G Lafley, former CEO of P&G, titled ‘The Role of the CEO’. As a first time CEO, it is tempting to deliver every single goal possible in 12-18 months. This is a grave mistake. It drives an organization to chase short-term goals and starves longer-term investment areas. It’s, therefore, crucial to have the right portfolio of short and long term investments to build a great company that continues to stand resilient 10 years from now.

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

I constantly encourage people in my team to take advantage of the exposure they gain at Hopscotch to figure out what they like and what they don’t like, and understand areas of latent passion and interest. I say to them exactly what a Calculus professor taught me early in my career: “find what you want in life, and then chase it with a vengeance”. While many of us may take time or never find what we truly want in life, the pursuit is the journey. This is the essence of life.

What time do you wake up and what's the first thing you do after waking up? Basically, what's your morning schedule after waking up? 

I follow a strict morning ritual six days a week. It starts at 6 am with journaling followed by yoga. I avoid reaching for my phone before 9 am, which is when I start my work day.

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

My three hour morning ritual has helped me think clearly, separate my goals from deeper fears or anxieties, and articulate myself succinctly. Clear thinking is more than half the battle, and has helped me emerge a strong leader.  

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

Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, Halee Fischer-Wright, and John King is great for insights that can help build a strong workplace culture. As management thinker Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is perhaps even better. It focuses on the history of life, humanity, and the world we live in, and finding inner happiness.

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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