It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously,”said Oscar Wilde. That quote resonates well with Apurva and Sanjay Purohit, as the couple has a terrific sense of humour. She is quick-witted, while he is more deadpan with his humour. There is a lot of love as well. Apurva is convinced that (barring George Clooney) she would not have married anyone if she hadn’t met Sanjay, and ask Sanjay his most memorable moments and all of them are about Apurva. Married for 25 years, the couple, who met at IIM Bangalore have a lot going for them. He is the managing director of Levi Strauss & Co (India), while she is the CEO of Music Broadcast, which operates the FM network Radio City 91.1. Their golden rule when it came to managing their careers is that they would do what is collectively good for Purohit Inc (yes, that is the multinational touch), rather than what is good for Apurva or Sanjay.
Thanks to their son, Siddarth (21), who is studying in the US, sports also dominate the Purohit household. Apurva admits that sometimes, Sachin Tendulkar, Lionel Messi or Lewis Hamilton get more attention than she does. But it is clear that Apurva can definitely hold her own. In her book Lady, You’re not a Man!: The Adventures Of A Woman at Work, she has numerous tips on managing household and office crises through several humorous reallife anecdotes for women striving to strike a work-life balance. When they have time off their busy schedule, the couple love to travel with their son. They are just back from a trip to New Zealand, where Sanjay and Siddarth went bungee jumping at Kawaru Bridge, while Apurva had a mild heart attack watching them take a leap of faith.
Where did you first meet?
Sanjay: We met at IIM Bangalore, where Apurva was one year my junior. We got married immediately after she graduated in 1989. Both of us felt that long-distance relationships don’t work.
What was it that attracted you to each other?
Sanjay:She was incredibly charming. We got along really well and she had a calming influence on me.
Apurva: Until then, I had led a very protected life. Unlike most guys in college, who were careless and brash, Sanjay was grounded, sensible and sensitive to other’s feelings. He was mature beyond his years and that’s what drew me to him.
As a professional, what are the qualities you admire in your spouse?
Sanjay: As a person, Apurva has the incredible ability to cut through all the chaos and complexity and get right to the heart of an issue. Her clarity of thinking has always astounded me. She is very driven and I believe that she can achieve anything she puts her mind to. She wrote her book in four months, which I thought was incredible.
Apurva: I have learnt to be a better manager from him. He gets into the details and puts the finer side of a product in focus by bringing a sense of aesthetics to it. For me, it was all about meeting KRAs when it came to my team but he taught me to go beyond work with them. He has taught me to be more patient and I am less cranky and more social because of him.
Do you discuss work at home?
Sanjay: She is my biggest sounding board. We don’t give each other unwanted advice. We listen to each other and offer advice when asked. I bounce off any interpersonal issues I may face and with her clarity of thinking, she gets to the core of it.
Where do you concur and where do you differ from each other?
Sanjay: She is much calmer than me. I tend to be a little high-strung. She is a little more reserved than I am. I believe that for a couple to get along, their differences must not get in the way. We differ when it comes to the smaller things, like what we want to read and what we like to watch on television. She hates going into the kitchen, whereas I don’t mind cooking. We love to travel. In bringing up our son, we have been very complementary.
Apurva: We have grown up because of each other. Our value systems are similar. In our early days, when I was in advertising, I would see a lot of people trying to impress others by spending money to appear cool. We never fell into that trap and have never felt the need to impress anyone. We stayed in the suburbs, didn’t spend beyond our means. That grounding early on in life has helped us a great deal. Even now, we have a few friends who we hang out with, but most of the time, the three of us are more comfortable hanging out with each other.
How do you handle a work-life balance and challenges in a dynamic work environment?
Sanjay: We manage our careers in a way that is good for Purohit Inc, rather than what’s good for Apurva or Sanjay. That has meant that while I worked for 15-odd years with multinationals, I always wanted to work in because otherwise MNCs are happy to push you out. There is no point moving to Singapore and San Francisco if Apurva has nothing to do there or if she doesn’t move. What is good for both of us is good for either of us.
Apurva: I am very efficient and am very conscious about my time, so no long-drawn meetings for me. He has been my constant cheerleader and has always made me believe that I could do anything. When you have such unwavering support at home, you not only feel good but you start to believe that you can truly do anything you set your mind to.
When do you spend time with each other? How do you unwind?
Sanjay: Weekends are always at home. We travel every week or once every two weeks but, whatever happens, we are at home by Friday night. We co-ordinate our travel time together. She is very efficient in her work and has never ever kept late nights, except maybe early in her advertising career. I loathe coming to office on weekends, so if there is work, I tend to finish it from home. We have managed our time a lot better in the past couple of years.
What is the best gift you received from each other?
Sanjay: I think we gift each other holidays. While I was courting her, I bought her a dress that she found rather abominable and, since then, I don’t think either of us has surprised the other with a birthday or anniversary gift. Both of us are finicky so we ask each other what we want and get that rather than trying our hand at surprises. But if she is buying jewellery or something important then we always go together. She did surprise me with a nice party for my 40th birthday.
Apurva: I know! Poor thing; he spent three hours walking up and down Linking Road in Bandra trying to find something. And for my 40th birthday, he took me on a surprise holiday to London, two years later, which is one of my favourite places to visit.
Any memorable holidays?
Sanjay: She is our travel organiser and does all the research on which place to go to, which place we should rent and what are the neighbouring attractions. Bookings and maybe getting the food arranged are my tasks.
Apurva: We don’t like to do run-of-the-mill stuff on holidays. We rent our own place, do our own cooking and basically chill out on holidays. A memorable holiday was when we went to Norway, where we found a house that was on the edge of a cliff in a small village. There were only 30 people in the village. It was summer and I still remember sipping wine and eating Pongal (thanks to one of the readymade mixes we always carry) and taking in the spectacular view.