The pandemic reinforced Shruti Shibulal's belief that agility is the key to navigating difficult situations. The CEO and director of Tamara Leisure Experiences recalls how the agenda-driven meetings quickly turned into flexible, open dialogue sessions that addressed any particular challenges the employees faced. “It helped us adapt quickly and address our employees’ wellbeing in real time. In the end, this made the team more productive and resilient despite the volatility of those years,” Shruti says.
A alumna of Columbia Business School, Shruti took over the operations of the resort The Tamara, Coorg, in 2012. In 2008, Shruti co founded Avant Garde Hospitality in partnership with chef Abhijit Saha. The venture was behind running some of the popular restaurants like Caperberry and Fava in Bengaluru. She’s also a member of the advisory council of ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & Environment).
Shruti speaks to Lounge about how her mentor helped her become a better people-centric leader, on how being hyper-organised helps her in achieving work-life balance and a hobby she picked up during the pandemic.
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
That would be late Senthil Kumar, the former director of Tamara Leisure Experiences. He was an early and important influence on my journey as a leader. His financial acumen in particular has been foundational in informing my strategic approach. His value-based focus on long term results have helped me craft people-centric plans of action even in the wake of extenuating crises such as the recent pandemic.
One major insight you worked on with your mentor's guidance?
Our overall approach towards risk-assessment, expansion and diversification across the portfolio is very much informed by Kumar’s outlook. For instance, the diversification into Germany was informed by my mentor’s view of checks, balances and long term stability, and has been especially beneficial during times of crisis such as the pandemic. We found that properties we considered bellwethers underperformed during the market downturn while the resorts, which we might have expected to take a hit, outperformed our projections.
What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
I believe mentorship really comes down to being an objective and constructive sounding board. The action of listening, and honing ideas is integral to leadership and in this sense, mentorship is a regular part of my day.
Understanding people’s aspirations, inherent strengths and ensuring that we nurture a culture that motivates individual growth is one way I pair the qualities of mentorship with daily leadership.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake at 6 am and workout. Then, I get the kids ready for school; being a consistent part of their routine is an important part of my day. The rest of the day is largely dedicated to work. I prioritize one hour each day between 6.30-7.30 pm to simply be with family. Again, this gives my kids the stability of knowing they have at least one dedicated and relaxed hour with me every day, regardless of how busy I may be.
What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have made your professional and personal life much easier?
My calendar and the hyper-organisation that goes into scheduling my work form the backbone of a productive day. I also delegate quickly and effectively, which is possible because I have a core team of highly skilled and reliable individuals whom I do not need to micromanage.
By and large, I find being as organised as possible is the key to productivity as well as work-life balance. It allows me to dedicate time to things that I have to do, as well as things I want to do in a consistent manner.
Any book/podcast you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth?
I have really enjoyed listening to The Inside Job, a podcast about the intersection of life and work. The hosts, Nayla Bahri and Eric Johnson, speak about actionable strategies that help us work productively while sustaining a healthy and well-balanced life. Work-life balance is an ongoing challenge for many of us and I found their insights to be both enlightening and applicable.
One of my favourite books on entrepreneurship in general is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It details the compelling story of Nike’s success with a great deal of wisdom and humour. I also resonate closely with the importance of having a shared mission and resolute values, which were a driving part of Nike’s eventual triumph.
How do you unwind?
I enjoy learning new things. I began learning the piano during the pandemic as a way to relax. It has become a regular part of my life now. It is something I can enjoy for a moment by myself or with even my family — it’s a great way to inspire creativity, refuel or just step back from the day’s obligations.
Besides this, I absolutely love watching movies. I enjoy discovering hidden gems with compelling scripts and learning about the technical artistry that goes into creating visually striking films.
A luxury product/ experience that you splurged on?
We mostly splurge on travel. Recently, we took a week-long family holiday to Portugal. We do always travel comfortably and our indulgences are pretty much dedicated towards crafting great experiences and building memories. On this trip, we took on a private tour of Lisbon that was geared towards children. “Little Lisbon” was a 4 hour exploration of the city that included enjoying signature pastries at noted local restaurants and participating in a scavenger hunt that took us to quaint, beautiful corners of Lisbon.
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.