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What IAF pilots taught Arisetty of MyGate about business

Vijay Kumar Arisetty, CEO and co-founder of MyGate, on finding inspiration from Gen Z teammates, and the benefits of meticulous planning  

Running helps Vijay Arisetty in deep thinking.
Running helps Vijay Arisetty in deep thinking. (MyGate)

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Vijay Kumar Arisetty set up MyGate, a security and community management solution catering to gated communities, with two other co founders. Before becoming an entrepeneur, Arisetty was a helicopter pilot in the Indian Air Force (from 1999 to 2010) and was bestowed with Shaurya Chakra in 2004 for rescue work during tsunami. He also worked with Bank of America and Goldman Sachs before starting MyGate in 2016. 

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Unlike many entrepreneurs, the Bengaluru-based entrepeneur tries to maintain a strict work-life harmony. “Once I am home in the evening, I don’t think of work. Even when I was working with Goldman Sachs, I would not check my emails (after coming back home). If there was something urgent people could call me,” says Arisetty, who has been working from MyGate’s office after the second wave of Covid-19.                                                                             

Arisetty talks about how he puts to use the lessons he’s learnt spending a decade as Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, how remote work has made him more respectful of others’ time, and his favourite podcast. Edited excerpts:

Who do you consider your mentor and why?

I don't have one specific mentor. I learn by observing people's behaviour to situations and the qualities they exhibit at the time. Every interaction I am part of, or witness to, is an opportunity to pick up a new behaviour or trait. For example, in my field, I frequently interact with people who organise their day very well and get things done. I try to incorporate their behaviour into my day. 

On the other hand, when I see a person micromanaging another person on his or her team, I assess if I do the same and make deliberate movements in the opposite direction if needed. So it’s a constant process of learning. Every interaction is a mentoring session for me. I also learn from my young team of Gen Z. I feel they are very sorted and invest on themselves in terms of their future and career. 

One major insight you implemented with the guidance of someone you looked up to?

I have always been very interested in the concept of airmanship. A pilot must be aware of everything that’s going on in the air, keep reading his instruments and make changes according to the situation or anticipated level of risk. During my early years in the air force, I interacted with many senior pilots to gain from their rich experience. It was an implicit mentorship, you could say. 

The lessons I learnt were on the need for action, the ability to stay focused in high pressure situations, which have served me well ever since. This has been particularly useful when planning on expanding the business. The chances of success are 50:50. However, with proper planning, like in the series Money Heist, you can increase it by creating by doing a five degree planning – having a Plan B of Plan B of Plan B. Basically, figure out all the eventualities.  

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

To me, being a mentor is impacting people’s lives positively. It may be in a professional sense or a personal one. When colleagues ask me for advice, I aim to provide sufficient inputs, via experiences or stories that would help them make a choice for themselves.

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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 wake up at sunrise around 6 am. It’s ingrained in me. I check my messages and respond to mails for next one hour as it’s the most productive time of the day, free from distractions. I then exercise and spend time with my family before logging into work by 10.30-11 am.

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

The pandemic has helped me to be mindful of others’ time. Earlier, if I wanted some information or query, I would directly walk up to the person and interrupt their work to get the answers. I realise now that I would just barge in and then get out; it may have broken their flow of thought and work. With remote work, I coordinate with them and set up a call at a mutually convenient time. 

What’s your productivity hack?

I do a lot of deep thinking while I run on my treadmill. It helps me gain insights on problems that we as a team may be grappling with. I have also created a personal Whatsapp group. I am the only member on it. I put random thoughts and to do lists on it for reminders. 

Your idea of unwinding?

Running is  a stress buster for me. But apart from that I am making it a point to attend all family events since the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I missed a lot of them as I was busy growing the business. Once a month, I take my daughter for horse riding, which also becomes an outing for us. 

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

This would definitely be Reid Hoffman’s podcast Masters of Scale. It’s an important resource for any entrepreneur to learn how to grow a startup or nurture an organisation for scale. 

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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