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Why Adhil Shetty starts his day with statements of aspiration and ambition

BankBazaar's Adhil Shetty on how much there is to learn from his role model Nandan Nilekani, how he enjoys making his own coffee in the morning, and more

Adhil Shetty, 43, CEO and Co-founder,
Adhil Shetty, 43, CEO and Co-founder, (Courtesy

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Adhil Shetty was working as a management consultant with Deloitte in New York City in 2007. This was just after things were settling down in India after the big Dotcom bust. It was around this time that the idea of was first discussed. Despite the warning signs from the Dotcom doom of early 2000s, Shetty says, “I thought the idea was exciting and had potential. So, we took the leap of faith and incorporated the start-up in 2008 and by the middle of that year we launched the first variant of" 

Back then the product was mainly personal finance content and how to choose from the products on the market. Unlike today when digital KYC is the norm, when they started out their operations had a digital as well as physical aspect to it. “While our products were sold online the KYC had be done physically. Someone actually had to meet the customer and have the documents signed and verified,” Shetty recalls.

Shetty considers Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, his role model, after he met him during a lecture being delivered by one of his professors and the two stay in touch.  Nilekani even commented on Shetty's just published book The Bee, The Beetle and The Money Bug, which he co-wrote with BankBazaar’s communications head and former sports journalist AR Hemant.     

Also Read: On the power of creating an emotional connection with customers

Shetty, who holds a masters in international relations from Columbia University, tells Lounge how much there is to learn from Nilekani, how he enjoys making his own coffee in the morning,  and why starting his day by stating his aspiration and ambition helps him being productive.

Who do you consider your mentor? 

Nandan Nilekani is my role model. There is so much that I can learn from him in terms of how he has contributed to society as an entrepreneur and a policy-maker on Aadhaar. He mentioned me in his book talking about BankBazaar’s work in digital KYC. He also recently commented on my new book, The Bee, The Beetle and The Money Bug.  

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

I learned from [Nandan] Nilekani that there is more to a full life than personal achievement. One can contribute to the world as an entrepreneur doing innovative work, as a policy-maker enabling an entire digital eco-system and by helping others.

What does being a mentor mean to you?

A mentor is someone who shares from their own failures and successes which can help others to face challenges. At work, mentoring is actively listening and sharing my own ups and downs which can potentially offer guidance to my colleagues to overcome their obstacles.

Describe your morning schedule?

I wake at 7:15 am to get my daughter ready for school. We start by playing the song Let It Go while she gets ready as she loves Elsa [from Frozen]. Once she leaves I do a 45-minute workout. Then I make myself a hand-crafted cappuccino — grind the beans and extract an espresso — over breakfast and then get to work.

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

I re-started daily meditation. It helps me stay calmer during stressful situations. It helps me control the constant chatter we have in our mind by helping me realise that the 50,000 thoughts we have per day do not need to crowd out our mind space and take our focus away from our ambition and aspiration. 

Also Read: Why IKEA India's Susanne Pulverer believes in the power of asking questions

Any book or podcast recommendations about mentorship and workplace growth?

On the podcast Think Fast Talk Smart, I enjoyed the episode titled "Feeling nervous? How Anxiety can fuel better communication.” It starts by helping us recognise that anxiety is normal and we cannot control its onset. Instead, we need to accept this human emotion, and use the adrenalin to channel our emotions to tell our well prepared story by understanding the audience, sharing our message and the logical reasoning validating our message. 

Any serious hobbies?

My wife and I spend a lot of time reading and chatting with our four-year-old daughter. She is into Greek mythology, Mahabharata, and Disney so we make up stories involving Duryodhana, Elsa and Athena. It's a lot of fun and often turns into play acting and is our big unwind in the evening.   

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

Of late I have been working on the productivity principle that I need to start my day by stating my aspiration which does not have a due date and involves helping others, and my ambition which is time-bound and centred on achievement, and how both of these drive my actions on the day. This helps me reduce the distraction and feel that my actions are leading towards my ambition and aspiration.

What should one bear in mind while picking a personal loan?

One needs to consider the interest rate, the processing fee, and the digital convenience available in order to get the right product. It is best to live within one's means and take out a personal loan only if you need it. Borrowers take a personal loan for health insurance co-pay deductible amounts not covered by their insurance policy or for one-time expenses such as a wedding or down payment on an asset. 

Are credit cards popular in India and how should you pick one?

Credit cards are an aspirational product in India and a secure way to spend money smartly. They can offer significant benefits when dues are paid in time and in full. The features that I enjoy using on my credit cards are no-cost EMIs for electronics and accelerated cash-back rewards for weekly fuel and groceries spends. Other popular features of credit cards are airport lounge access and discounts at multiple merchant outlets which vary month on month. There is also a trend of smart conversion of credit card outstanding to EMI (easy monthly instalments) on the credit card itself via the instant conversion feature offered by leading card issuers. This is an India-specific customer service innovation. These benefits make great sense when one plans one's personal finances and use the right financial products smartly. 

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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