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Home > Relationships> It's Complicated > Why Shankar Prasad, CEO of Plum, finds mentoring fulfilling

Why Shankar Prasad, CEO of Plum, finds mentoring fulfilling

The founder and CEO of Plum, the vegan beauty brand, talks about his favourite workplace teachers and his idea of a mentor-mentee relationship

Since the pandemic, Plum's Shankar Prasad has greater appreciation for face-to-face interactions. 
Since the pandemic, Plum's Shankar Prasad has greater appreciation for face-to-face interactions.  (Plum)

Plum, the online vegan and non-toxic beauty brand, opened their first retail store in Mumbai last month. The company is known for skincare, haircare, personal care, and makeup for both women and men. The founder and CEO Shankar Prasad, is an IIT Bombay alumnus, and had worked with McKinsey & Company, Everstone Capital, and Hindustan Unilever before foraying into entrepreneurship. In this interview, Prasad talks about the people who shaped him as a leader, and his current mentorship style.

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Who do you consider your mentor and why?

There are many wonderful people who've helped shaped me into who I am today, but I consider my ex-McKinsey colleague (and manager) Venkatesh Srinivasan (Venky) my mentor. Besides being one of the most methodical problem-solvers I've worked with, he understands my strengths and my motivations really well. So, when I go to him with a problem, his answers always are keeping in mind me as an individual, and now the business as an entity, rather than broad guidance. Besides, our value systems and sense of humour overlap strongly and that makes for really enjoyable conversations too. 

While Venky is my problem-solving helpline, my manager just before I turned entrepreneur, Jaspal Singh Sabharwal is my favourite workplace teacher. The sheer amount of learning I got while working with him cannot be described easily and I'm truly grateful for that. 

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

When I was confused between two ideas to start up (and starting up wasn't as popular back in 2013), Venky made me choose the tougher option – a B2C beauty brand. He gave me the confidence that I had it in me to pull it off, and I am ever grateful for that.

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

Mentoring is one of the most satisfying things I do at work. It gives a deep sense of fulfillment which is along a very different dimension vis-a-vis business achievements. I see the mentor-mentee relationship as a two-way street, and the success of that relationship depends on the intent, openness, and trust on both sides.

My favourite way of mentoring people is to give them larger tasks with a high level of independence – that's the best way to learn. When explaining things, I also like to give them analogies that (hopefully, mostly) drive the point home and help them take better decisions. Lastly, creating a "no judgement, all learning" atmosphere is important to help people learn, give their best and gain satisfaction from their work.

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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'm a late sleeper and late riser, although I've forever wanted to be a 5 am person. I wake up around 7 am and try to practise yoga at least twice a week and get some other form of exercise on a couple of other days. I check mails, messages and everything else within the first 10 minutes of waking up, and so my mind switches on to work fairly early. Not sure if that's good or bad, but that's how it is!

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

Valuing face-to-face interactions and finding the time to have them.

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

Go Kiss the World: Life Lessons for the Young Professional by Subroto Bagchi, The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki and Stay Hungry Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal are a few books that I find deeply inspirational, practical and full of learnings. I would recommend these to anyone who is looking to excel at their workplace, regardless of entrepreneurial ambitions.

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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