Pursuit of Happiness

Benetton India CEO falls into a happy trance few minutes into his morning run

Over the years, Sundeep Chugh has learnt how the early bird catches the worm

For the CEO of Benetton India, every run provides a life lesson. Running has helped him cultivate discipline and patience, and has led him to meet interesting people. One of the memorable experiences was when he was running in the holy town of Rudraprayag (Uttarakhand) along the Mandakini valley. Sundeep Chugh recalls how he chanced upon a Maggi vendor on the street when he flipped out his phone to take a picture of the charming forest. “We started chatting and he told me how his son was studying in a school away from the village, in the nearest town, so that he could become something in the future,” says Chugh, who was so warmed by his story that the same evening, he brought his sons along the trail and introduced them to the vendor while chomping on a hot bowl of Maggi.


Another day, as they were trekking uphill, the trail was crowded with students, some of who would have to walk miles to get home. “My sons realised that they have it easy when there are children who have to trek everyday! So now they don’t take things for granted,” he says. Chugh enjoys this part of the run, of observing people — be it in his neighbourhood in Gurugram or on one of the sandy beaches in Malaysia.  


His passion for running was jogged early in life. Being an overweight child, he was trained to appreciate fitness, both mental and physical. When he was nine years old, he started imbibing his father’s habits. Within a year and a half, Chugh’s mornings were incomplete without a long run. “Back when we didn’t have big parks dedicated to running in Secunderabad, so I would run around the temple. It was like doing my parikrama,” he laughs.


These days he has no dearth of options — from his residential society in Gurugram to the Golf Course Road a few kilometres away. For anyone, the same path every day inside a gated community might get old, but Chugh enjoys the 700 metres circumference in the green complex of The Palms in South City 1. “Running is like meditating. I haven’t yet needed the company of music because after a couple of minutes, everything else fades away and I fall into a trance,” says the 47-year-old fitness enthusiast.


Starting his day early, he finishes his 90-minute regime before 7:30 am with a mix of running and other cardio or strength exercises. Even during the lockdown, Chugh has made his workout sessions fun. From lifting laundry bags and empty cylinders to running from one corner of the house to the other, the father of two is not letting the lockdown lock his routine down. But unfortunately, he is unsure if the Millennium City Marathon that he enjoyed last year in December will take place this year. After completing two of the 14K challenging Trail-A-Thons, Chugh is looking forward to participating in more marathons. He has also participated in several Airtel Delhi Half Marathons, but confesses the thrill of running in the rocky terrains of Aravali Range for Trail-A-Thon is the most fun.


For now, he is glad that his sons are also physically active and that he has passed on his father’s teachings. They participate in everything from badminton and tennis to cricket and running. “Being fit helps you deal with challenges and meet everything with optimism and positivity,” Chugh says and adds that his next goal is to make his sons realise that mornings are the most important time of the day. He keeps an advice from his friend and mentor, head of LG Electronics – Asia Pacific, KR Kim, close to his heart: “Throughout the day, you may have several commitments — work, parties or family — but the mornings are yours, earlier the better. That’s when you do your best work.”