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Satyakam Arya on why self-reflection is important in work

The MD and CEO of Daimler India says having the desire to keep learning is important

Satyakam Arya.
Satyakam Arya.

About 15 years ago, Satyakam Arya joined Daimler India Commercial Vehicles when they had just entered the Indian market. He was among the first hundred employees who had been hired to execute a plan to transform trucking in India. “We truly believed that truck owners deserved vehicles that were of better quality, high on performance and at the same time, reliable and safe,” says the Chennai-based MD and CEO of Daimler India Commercial Vehicles. “And we were aware that it would be a formidable challenge to deliver this while keeping the overall cost equation affordable.”

Daimler has continued to innovate, and have recently developed a multi-lingual simulator that provides real-time experience to train drivers for different environments. Their heavy duty trucks are also equipped with a monitoring system that can sense the alertness and fatigue levels of drivers, sending out alerts when needed. “Our intent is to not just sell trucks and buses, but also holistically contribute to the entire ecosystem. Those who’ve used our technology have recorded a 90% drop in the number of accidents,” the 50-year-old says.

Also read: Career Launcher's president on the power of daily reflection in the office

Arya talks to Lounge about the importance of self-reflection.

Who do you consider your mentor?

I have had the chance to meet and work with many people who have shaped me continuously in my journey. I believe choosing one particular mentor is limiting yourself. If we keep our mind open for learning, we get constantly shaped by the people we meet. What is important is having the attitude to learn.

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

Over the last few years, I have inculcated the daily practice of self reflection. Every morning after yoga, I take out time to reflect on how I did yesterday. And if there is any learning about my behaviour, conduct or emotions which I could change for the better going forward. I believe this practice can be useful for everyone to shape their lives. You can be your own mentor.

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

A mentor is like a mirror, someone who points out what you are overlooking and shows you the right direction. I think our job as leaders is to provide an environment where everyone can realise their potential. Every leader should strive to do this with their colleagues, where they can learn and contribute through their best efforts. The success of a business is not only built by the top performers at an organisation, but on the average performing person getting better and achieving their own potential every day.

What’s your morning schedule like?

My morning starts early at around 4 am. I spend about 1.5 hours practising yoga and meditation. This is the most precious part of my day. I have been pursuing yoga for the past few years and I truly believe that our traditional practices not only improve our physical health, but also make us well-rounded, balanced and more compassionate human beings. My office starts in the car during the 45km drive to our plant with a quick read of the latest developments from around the world. And by the time I reach office, the most urgent calls have been made and the important tasks have been organised, leading to a more productive and focussed day at the office.

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

I believe that productivity is a clear result of managing self before we start managing others and the business. It means that one is geared up physically, emotionally and energy-wise to manage all aspects and dimensions. In other words, where we are not only physically healthy, but are also able to handle multiple dimensions of our life while remaining involved and energetic throughout the day.

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

I follow a hybrid work philosophy. As far as possible, I try to bundle the meetings which can be done online on a single day, so that I can save travel time and improve my overall productivity. I believe the future of work is an intelligent blend of technology in the way we work, increasing productivity, effectiveness and engagement.

Any book or podcast you would recommend about mentorship and growth?

I recently read Hidden Potential by Adam Grant, a very profound read on getting better. It gives a completely new perspective on identifying and nurturing, not only your own potential, but also that of others.

How do you unwind? Do you pursue any serious hobbies?

Self-driving road trips are the best way to unwind. I recharge myself in nature, whether it is a jungle trail or a circuitous drive in the mountains. With my schedule today, spending time with family and friends is another way I like to unwind. When it comes to hobbies, reading books has been my passion since childhood. And I ensure that I read at least a few pages before I go to bed.

Monday Motivation is a series in which business leaders and creative individuals discuss their mentors and their work ethics.

Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based freelance writer.

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