August marked the month when Deepika Warrier had taken up the reins of chief marketing officer at Bajaj Auto. With discussions today currently focused on ‘70 hour a week’ followed by equal stress on burnout and workplace toxicity, Warrier approaches it with three different lenses.
Storyboard18 caught up with Warrier who touched upon the concept of ‘hustle culture’, marketing content she consumes, the books she is reading and a lot more.
What does your workday at Bajaj Auto Ltd look like?
The day starts with a peaceful 20-minute commute through the bustling yet leafy green Pune Roads. This is followed with some checking out of 2-wheelers on the road to the sprawling, green Bajaj Auto campus in Akurdi, with a giant globe that proclaims "The world's favourite Indian" and showcases the more than 90 countries where we sell our brands.
We operate out of a refurbished factory site, and therefore, all of us wear a "uniform" of black Bajaj T-shirts and blue jeans. It's honestly very liberating not to have to think about what to wear every day. It's great that everyone looks the same and that the focus is on what you are saying, feeling and thinking, not what you are wearing.
The day is a good mix of insight, brand strategy and communication development across the funnel across our different segments and brands. Currently, I'm focused on our electric 2-wheeler (the iconic Chetak), a modern classic premium bike brand, our racing and performance bikes (the KTM range), how to scale the electric 3-wheeler into more cities, and of course, the iconic Bajaj Pulsar range, the OG sports bike.
We also huddle with our business unit teams to solve specific issues, activation, and tactics focusing on the quarter. As a marketing leadership team, we also spend time discussing talent and capability-building.
The vibe is intense yet fun. The team has a good mix of experience and youth and is super-charged, focused and grounded. It's great to be back in an office after more than two years of remote and hybrid working in my previous stint.
What marketing-related content do you consume in your free time?
I consume culture - read books, blogs, online magazines, listen to podcasts, and scroll and follow social media influencers of various definitions – architects, designers, culinary, pop culture, sports, sustainability, automobiles, travel and news.
I also have subscriptions to The Ken, The Economist, Fast Company, The Wired, HBR, Ad Age, Conde Nast Traveller and the games section of the New York Times, among others.
My favourite podcasts include Finshots Daily (so snippily informative), The CMO podcast by Jim Stengel, The WARC podcast and the Next Big Idea by Rufus Griscom, The Journal by the WSJ, Babbage from the Economist, and others.
There's a lot of talk about burnout, workplace toxicity, hustle culture, etc. What steps have you taken to avoid the adverse impact of the always-on culture on yourself and your colleagues? What advice would you give to your peers, colleagues, and next-gen marketers on this?
I approach stress at work via a couple of lenses.
Self: A sense of gratitude, self-awareness, self-care (both physical and mental), and ensuring that you have an active and symbiotic ecosystem (take care of people who take care of you).
Work: Ensure you're learning, have moments of flow, and are feeling respected and valued for what you bring to the table.
Others: Empathy (walk-in others' shoes), assume best intent, have a positive attitude and focus on what you can influence vs. cribbing about what's not, and work on finding your purpose (whatever makes you feel fulfilled and good about coming to work).
Above all, by not taking yourself too seriously, developing a strong sense of work humour, taking the opportunity to see your colleagues as humans with their own lives and compulsions, and ensuring that you interact with them as such.
However, managing your mind at work and beyond isn't easy; it takes a lot of maturity and wisdom, and I firmly believe that as organisations, we must invest in creating psychologically safe workplaces where people can be themselves, have fun, build bonds, and have life coaches and work buddies that they could let out steam with.
Is there any sport or fitness routine you practice during the week to steal a few minutes of 'me time' for yourself and keep the momentum on?
I love walking my dog, or rather, he walks me several times a day. I also love walking and listening to podcasts on my AirPods. I practice yoga over the weekends and try to take the stairs every time. I am very mindful of what and when I eat.
What does your weekend look like?
I love to chill with my Mum at home, take my dog for a swim, call and speak at length with my sons who are away from home, enjoy my yoga and meditation classes, watch content, walk, read, and catch up on my sleep. I still need to establish a social life in Pune, but I like my weekends to be reflective, leisurely and slow.
Share one work hack and one life hack you swear by.
I am at my best when I genuinely care about the people I work with and can get under the skin of the brands in my portfolio. It is essential to care deeply for and enjoy your work to do well at it.
However, I care even more deeply for my family and have always balanced my family and work priorities at every life and career stage, sometimes at the expense of rapid career advancement.
A simple work-life balance hack I follow is to put my work and home priorities on my Outlook calendar so that I keep sight of both.
What are you watching/streaming this weekend?
I am watching a funny show called "American Auto" at Peacock on Jio Cinema, "Unforgotten" on BBC Player at Amazon Prime, and "Kaala Paani " on Netflix.
What are you reading? Any recommendations?
I like to read a couple of books at the same time. I am reading "The Covenant of Water” by Abraham Varghese & "Power Play; Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century" by Tim Higgins.
I have no specific recommendations except to read - it's like meditation for the brain and centres you. Despite being a lifelong reader, nowadays I find it extremely difficult to focus on my book, but I read for 15-30 minutes every night.
A piece of wisdom you would like to share with our readers.
Manage your career in life stages and leave when you stop learning or aren't passionate about what you do. Life is too short to only go through the motions.