Growing up in Bombay, Ganesh Nayak spent all his free time reading the iconic Phantom comic series, fascinated by the Lee Falk-created character and the twin .45 pistols that were always strapped on to the ‘ghost who walks’. The now 59-year-old Nayak, who is the COO and executive director of pharma major Zydus Cadila, was 25 when he visited a shooting range in Mangalore and shot his first firearm, all thanks to a friend who worked in the Karnataka police department. Seventeen years later, Nayak purchased his very first gun, a Smith & Wesson .32 calibre revolver. Today, Nayak owns three firearms — a Winchester rifle, a revolver and a BA Jonas bolt action shotgun — and spends several hours every Sunday brushing up his shooting skills at the Ahmedabad rifle club. The Ahmedabad-based pharma veteran has also been hooked on to clay pigeon shooting ever since he first tried it on a business trip to the US. Now, each time Nayak travels to the US, he makes sure he completes a few rounds at a range in New Hampshire along with his son, Narain, who has also developed a liking for the sport.
“Shooting demands focus and sharp thinking, the same qualities that are required for success in the business sphere, where you need to direct your energies towards achieving your target. The sport enhances your ability to concentrate on your goal, which improves your chances of success,” says Nayak. He believes that this interest has helped him gain the determination required to climb up the corporate ladder as he went from being a medical sales representative in 1977 to the president of his organisation in 1995.
Nayak’s commitment to his passion has also led to some valuable insights. “In skeet shooting, you have to wait for the right opportunity to strike down your target. This level of alertness helps during business deals as well, as you have to be quick to spot lucrative opportunities.” This lesson came in handy for Nayak in 2009, when he first read about the swine flu epidemic and how another pharma company was working on a vaccine against the H1N1 virus. “That made me wonder why we hadn’t taken up this opportunity. We already had a dedicated vaccine centre and a team of expert scientists, so it was not like the cure was beyond our reach.” That bit of prompt thinking resulted in Zydus Cadila developing India’s first H1N1 vaccine.
Apart from skeet and clay pigeon shooting, Nayak unwinds through a few laps around the neighbourhood on his luxury bikes. “At the end of a busy day, my way of unwinding doesn’t involve attending parties. Instead, I prefer going for long drives on the Ahmedabad highway, riding on my Royal Enfield Classic 500.”
Nayak, who is known at Cadila for his 6 a.m. meetings, says dedication is the key to maintaining the right work-life balance. “If you really want to pursue something that means a lot to you, then you will have to work hard and make the time for it.” Nayak keeps up the same level of commitment even towards his fitness, always traveling on business trips with a pair of nunchucks in his luggage for a quick, unorthodox workout. After all, for this pharma sharpshooter, a healthy body and mind is the solution for most of life’s ills.