The view from Sandeep Singhal and Anjali Bansal’s 33rd-floor apartment is nothing short of spectacular. You can see a panoramic view of Haji Ali and Mahalaxmi Race Course from the living room of their tastefully done up home filled with beautiful paintings and artifacts. It didn’t take very long for the couple, who just celebrated their twentieth anniversary some months back, to figure out that they would be together when they first met towards the end of 1993.Almost six months after they met, they were married. After being in the US for 17 years and working at McKinsey New York for five years, they returned to India in 2000 and have gone on to build remarkably successful careers. The couple acknowledge that they couldn’t have taken the risks that they have without each other’s support.Despite their success, it is remarkable how grounded they both are.
The pressure that comes with their high-profile jobs does not come in the way of spending time with the kids — two boys aged 13 and 11. Whenever they are in town, dinner is always with the kids. The boys also get to pick their favourite restaurant in turns for a dinner out during the weekends. They also love traveling together and make time for at least three to four breaks a year with the kids, with Anjali and the kids picking the location and Sandeep doing all the planning. It is clear that this family loves to spend time together and if there is that one thing that binds a family together, for the Singhals, that one thing is ice cream at any time of the day. Now how’s that for a cool family.
When and where did you meet?
Anjali: A common friend introduced us. Sandeep was studying in the US and was home during the holiday break. We got married almost six months after we met, in May 1994.
What were the qualities that brought you closer?
Sandeep: We came from similar family backgrounds and realised that we have the same value system and wanted the same things in life.
Anjali: We were very driven as individuals as far as our careers were concerned and that is something that we continue to admire about each other.
Sandeep: She gave up the civil services for me, so she must have seen something better in me! (chuckles)
How do you complement each other?
Sandeep: Anjali is more organised and disciplined. She likes it when things are on a schedule.
Anjali: Sandeep is more comfortable dealing with ambiguity. Given what he does at work, it is no wonder he can deal with it better! But he is a little more impromptu and goes with the flow. So, I guess that we balance each other out very well.
What do you admire the most in each other?
Anjali: He is one of the smartest people I know. He is always ready to help people out in whatever way he can, without expecting anything in return. He genuinely means well. And despite everything he has achieved, he is one of the most grounded people I have ever come across.
Sandeep: She is very bright, methodical and disciplined. She is able to connect with people and, more often, is a better judge of them.
What, according to you, is the key to success of a relationship?
Sandeep: Setting and managing expectations early on. I remember right after we got married and were travelling from Pathankot to Dalhousie and visiting from the US, where credit cards and ATM machines are common, I was not used to carrying cash. We found out that if we took the cab to Pathankot, we wouldn’t have enough to pay for accommodation. So we ended up taking the state transport bus instead. So, as far setting expectations go, things could only get better after that bus ride.
Anjali: So, in a way, I knew what I was getting into. And on a more serious note, I think we know we have each other’s back at all times. Sometimes when one of us travels extensively, the kids tend to miss us and the other one makes sure to communicate to the children on why it is important that we need to do this. Having a spouse who is as committed to professional excellence as you are means they also understand the challenges that come with that commitment.
How do you motivate each other during tough times at work?
Sandeep: I have always had an entrepreneurial streak. I would have never been able to pursue my dreams if it wasn’t for her support. She understood how important it was to me and told me that I should not worry about managing the family and that I should pursue my dream. That’s why I was able to take the risks I took.
Anjali: When I was offered the chance to build Spencer Stuart’s India business, my second son was just a year-and-a-half-old, so I was a little apprehensive about how I could manage it all. Sandeep gave me the much-needed push, saying I had his support and that he had no doubts that I would do well.
How was it working together for McKinsey in New York?
Sandeep: While we worked in the same office, we never worked on the same projects. But discovering New York on our own — that was a lot of fun.
Anjali: But we didn’t mind the long hours. We were happy to order dinner and work late nights. Our team members used to joke, “You guys get to see each other all the time but some of us need to go home!” But one thing I clearly remember was that whether our fridge was stocked with food or not, Sandeep always used to make sure we never ran out of Ben & Jerry’s [an ice cream brand].
What is the one thing that you have always wanted to change in your spouse that has not happened yet?
Sandeep: I would like her to take more time out for herself.
Anjali: I know it will be hard for him, but if he can stop ice cream treats at night with the kids, that would be healthier for everyone.
What is the best gift you have received from each other?
Sandeep: We just celebrated our twentieth anniversary and let’s say my jeweller friends are a very happy lot now.
Anjali: Actually, for someone who is not the social planner and hardly organises any events, Sandeep planned a surprise for my 40th birthday.
What areas do you concur on?
Anjali: I think that though we are different as individuals, we agree on the major issue of how to bring up the children and the value system we should instil in them.
Do you have any common interests or hobbies?
Anjali: Sandeep loves photography and I love to read. Together, we love watching TV shows, particularly sci-fi and crime shows.
How you manage the work-life balance?
Sandeep: Since we both have hectic travel schedules, we try and make sure one of us is with the kids at all times. But at times when travel is unavoidable, we rely on support from our families and help at home.
How do you manage to find time for each other? How do you unwind?
Sandeep: We enjoy our hour-long evening walk when we can catch up on the day’s events, work and family issues. Whenever we are in town, dinner is always at home with the children. During the weekend, we like to go out for dinner as our kids are at an age when they like to experiment with different cuisines.
How many holidays do you take?
Anjali: Three to four times a year. Sandeep does all the vacation planning. It is not easy, given our work schedules and our kids’ school schedule. Luckily, they go to the same school so the holidays are at the same time and it is easier.
Do you discuss work at home and does your spouse often act as your sounding board?
Anjali: Yes, but given the sensitive nature of my work, I always make sure I maintain client confidentiality. But, like I said, he is one of the smartest people I know, so I definitely get his advice on strategic issues and that is the advantage of having an equal partner — they not only understand the work pressures but also are able to give some valuable insights.
What were some of the memorable moments from your journey together?
Sandeep: The births of our children definitely top the list. We have had a great time on our holidays together, especially to Italy in 1997 and Ladakh in 2009. Even the last holiday we took with the kids for our 20th anniversary to Scotland was memorable.