Pursuit of Happiness

Putt-ing things in perspective

CMS Info Systems CEO, Rajiv Kaul on the de-stressing effect of golf

Rajiv Kaul found golf completely by accident. When he was moving from India to USA while working for Microsoft, he was gifted a golf set by his colleagues. He started playing the game then, around 10 years ago. “I had never tried the game before. I believe the message that came along with the first set of clubs was ‘Please get a life.’ I tried to give it to my father, who had been playing it for some years. He couldn’t use the set as it didn’t suit him. I had this white elephant in my house that I had no idea what to do with. I signed up for some classes at the DLF course in Delhi and started playing sporadically initially and have become very regular only in the last three to four years,” says Kaul.

In the US, he was travelling a lot so he couldn’t play as often and indulged in the game only once in every three to four months. When he moved to London, he couldn't putt much because of the weather. But the putting green would soon beckon him often after he would move to India in 2008. Says Kaul, “When I joined CMS, it was a fairly intensive turnaround. We would work without a break for 15-20 days. So, I started playing golf to relax. When the turnaround efforts started bearing fruit, I realised I had time to play more golf than I used to.” He also realised that he was playing to cool off. He says, “I have noticed that when there is very high stress, that is when I end up on the golf course. I have noticed a correlation between my high stress levels and the need to play golf or just physically work out.”

Though he wasn’t very good initially, he realised that seeking his father’s help was a way out. Kaul says, “He was very supportive of whatever I did on the course the first few times, and I think that sort of gives you the confidence to figure out how to conduct yourself.” His time on the course with his father is also something he shares with his son. In fact, there are times when there are three generations playing on the golf course at the same time. Of this, he says, “While, my father is still the better player of all of us, it just feels nice to have that time with him and my son. Whether it is the caddies or the workers at the golf course, they all enjoy their time with us.”

He also draws a parallel between his professional life and his time on the course. He explains, “How you conduct yourself on the golf course is how you conduct yourself in life. You spend time with a person on the golf course; you will be able to tell more about a person than any number of interviews or interactions will be able to tell you.” Even when it applies to projects, the game and its philosophy help him a lot. He says, “Golf is one of the few sports where how you finish is most important. A lot of projects, too, start off really well and slowly peter down. Also, there is no referee on the course. So, it needs a lot of honesty and discipline to play the game. While it is easy to cheat, as is the case in companies as well, keeping governance in your head and mind is critical here.”