I have always been someone who loved sports. I think that kept me back in school, mostly athletics and cricket,” says Deepak Dhar, CEO and MD of Endemol Shine India. For someone who has brought reality TV right into our living rooms, the entertainment business might look a battlefield, but what keeps Dhar going is his favourite sport, squash.
Though an athlete during his school days, this true-blue Mumbaikar confesses that he discovered the sport much later in his life. “Some time in the early 2000s, I started playing squash with a few friends of mine at the neighbourhood squash court. Initially I was terrible and clumsy, but got better gradually with some training and practice. I started enjoying the adrenaline rush the game gave me. Now, I have made friends with whom I play on weekends as well as some weekdays after work. It is one of the best ways to relax and de-stress,” he narrates.
Dhar considers himself a fiercely competitive player; competitive enough to still remember what he considered a crushing defeat at the hands of a 75-year-old ex-Navy cadet. He recalls, “The Navy guy was watching us play from his balcony. Later, he invited me for a game for which I readily agreed. He won that game and by a large margin too. Even today, my squash buddies tease me by saying that they will hunt him down to play me again on court.”
His strategy on the squash court centres around playing the underdog. “I have a habit of losing the first few points to see if I can come out of a situation. It is important to know how to climb out of a hole when you’re down. I use the game to understand what it is like to get up, speed up with things and do it quickly. I do this so often with my squash buddies that they’re starting to catch on to my game plan. Looks like I am going to have to switch things up a little soon,” he says with a grin.
The quick pace of the game is what keeps Dhar hooked. He seems to live off the energy that the game gives him and carries it forward even at work. “The best thing about the game is that there is very little time to react to a shot. That has taught me to think fast on my feet in any crisis, even at work. The more time you take to react to things, the more you will let it fester. You cannot always afford that,” he explains.
As the conversation draws to a close, Dhar mentions that his favourite squash partner to date has been his daughter, Anushka. “We used to play the game when she was a kid and in a way we would get some time together,” says Dhar as he gets ready to join his daughter on the badminton court. Looks like Dhar is keen on passing on a trick or two down the generation.