Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, co founder and director, Wakefit, has been one of the pioneers in injecting energy into the mattress industry by taking it online. The company has now evolved into a sleep and home solutions venture. Lounge asked him about his thoughts on mentors and the process of mentoring.
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
Given the number of industry, sector, role and country changes I have had in my career, I did not end up having a person as a mentor. I also came to believe that it might be better to pick the best things from many individuals that I admire, rather than have a single mentor. And my sources were books, interviews and podcasts. For example, I learnt that compounding (skills, expertise, money) is a highly underappreciated trait from Warren Buffett; that integrity pays off big time from Azim Premji; Steve Jobs taught me that maniacal focus really transforms companies, and so on.
One major insight/change you implemented/worked on with our mentor's guidance?
Reading Jeff Bezos' letters to Amazon shareholders as well as books about how Amazon was built really seeded how we treat customers at Wakefit. There is this insanely obsessive streak of doing right by the customers, in everything that they have done. More importantly, they have taken a very long-term view of building the company. Their decisions are led by decades-long horizons. When you compare that to competitors who are led by quarterly results, it is clear that they are competing against themselves, in a bid to get better and better. That is so exciting as a founder.
What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
My management style is to find really smart people with the right attitude, and then back them completely. As founders, it is easy to fall into the trap of saying "I know this" and to "give advice" even when you don't have any deep expertise in that area. To avoid this, I invariably take the first principles approach and ask the right questions. When the hard questions are asked, my team members usually figure out the solutions that are right for the company and our customers.
What time do you wake up and what's the first thing you do after waking up?
As a founder, there is a lot of uncertainty in how the day pans out. So the initial few minutes after waking up help set the cadence for the rest of the day. I try to keep this routine the same irrespective of where I am or whether I am traveling. It involves thanking the universe, doing my morning ablutions and then meditation and some form of physical exercise. I make it a point not to look at messages or emails till I have showered and am ready to eat breakfast.
What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
It wasn't so much about developing a new work routine as much as it was safeguarding what was already there. With the impact on business, risk to your family, friends and team, deaths around you, it was very easy to go off narrative and mess up work, food and sleep routines. I guess, I fought to retain the same routines that had worked before pandemic, even during the covid times.
For example, ensuring that you are showered, dressed and in front of your laptop at the start of the working day, eating meals at the right time, getting into the bedtime routine of unwinding, no screen time and reading a book— just doing all of these religiously gave me a strong sense of normalcy irrespective of external circumstances.
Any book/podcast/app/videos you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? Why?
In books, I would pick Deep Work by Cal Newport to really unlock your mental potential to create work that you are proud of. Quiet by Susan Cain, to understand how the world is divided between introverts and extroverts, and how you can manage both types of people.
The Rework Podcast by the founders of Basecamp, on how you can excel as a company, while also having a fulfilling personal life. The Minimalists, a documentary about two people who radically simplified their lives and shared that experience with the world as a way of life.
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.