Pursuit of Happiness

Nature Beckons

When not busy at work, Naivedya Agarwal, co-founder and CEO of manufacturing start-up Runaya, indulges in activities that keep him close to nature, like wildlife photography, safaris, flying and holidays at beaches and the hills 

As a corporate leader, it is important to switch off, says Naivedya Agarwal, co-founder and chief executive of Runaya, a manufacturing start-up. If you are not able to switch off, you will not be able to give your 100%, he believes.

Agarwal has a diverse list of activities that he turns to when he wants to take time off work. Attending concerts is one. A nature lover, he enjoys safaris and wildlife photography. His first safari was in South Africa at the age of nine. However, while he has been on quite a few of them, it was only during the Covid-19 pandemic that he discovered wildlife parks in India, he says.

The young entrepreneur finds the oceans, hills and the skies as alluring as the dense forests. He fondly recalls family holidays to Goa, sometimes twice a year, as well as his flights in a four-seater aircraft with his cousins to Ambi Valley and around Mumbai. “I love the sense of freedom that comes from flying…the freedom of just being up there in the air and having the ability to go where you want to go,” he says.

Agarwal loves spending time with family and catching up with friends. An avid reader, he says he cannot sleep unless he has read for an hour every day, preferring to read biographies and autobiographies. One such book is tennis star Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open. “It is an inspirational story of mind over body, how you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” he says.

While on the discussion on lessons that he got from books, Agarwal talks about an advice he has for aspiring leaders. “Leaders should have strong operational people and CEOs. You can focus on the larger issues around growth, around the product, customer experience, etc. while you have a strong leader who is focused on the actual operations,” he explains.

“A lot of founders make the mistake of hanging on not to power but to the feeling that they need to be the one in control for a long period of time. As a result, they do not surround themselves with the best team,” Agarwal observes. According to him, it is important to have the right team and senior leaders in place “as early as you can afford, because that is the only way that you can grow sustainably”.

Agarwal believes in empowering his team to make decisions. “I tell them that the only mistake you can make is to not make a decision and to not act on something that you believe is right.” Quoting James Dimon, the CEO of banking behemoth JPMorgan Chase, he says, “It is important to do 10 things and get eight right than do five things and get all five correct. It is better to make those two mistakes. We were very clear that we do not want to wait for 100% information when getting into a business. If you wait for 100% clarity, you will never grow.” 

Success on the work side, to him, means to have a happy and engaged workforce and customer base, “because the two main stakeholders in any business are your employees and your customers”. If they are unhappy, you could never be happy, he avers.

Happiness is a journey, says Agarwal, adding, “I do not think you can ever be happy. The growth journey is always there. We do not set milestone aside, but there are always places to grow.”