VC Sanjay Swamy and BigBasket’s TN Hari on how to make a crisis work for you and other life lessons

In this episode of 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Sanjay Swami, Managing Partner, Prime Venture Partners, and TN Hari, Chief People Officer, BigBasket, talk about their new book on managing crisis, how crises can be a great opportunity for innovation, and other life lessons.
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“Some of the crises that we have dealt with are far worse than the pandemic.”

The courage to make such statements means no one can question the person’s challenges and struggles. And in time, their journey and learnings become inspiration and motivation for others.

TN Hari, Chief People Officer at BigBasket, and Sanjay Swami, Managing Partner at Prime Venture Partners, recently published their first book, Sailing Through a Storm: Making a Crisis Work for You, which encapsulates these learnings and more.

Sanjay and Hari have known each other since their primary school days. “We grew up in a small town during those years in Orissa. Sanjay moved to Bengaluru after Class 5, and I stayed there. We met again after we turned 50 years old. At some point of time, we decided to do something together,” Hari said.

Their book talks about a crisis: it could be in personal life, in organisational life, or any other. The authors offer multiple examples and situations from their own lives and the lessons they learned from them.

“I think we are trained as human beings to think or try and appear positive, and sort of almost train ourselves and our brains to say that things are going well. So we thought this was an opportunity to share because people from the outset may not realize what others have gone through.

“In some ways that will give strength to people. When they read this, they will okay, you know, what I’m going through now isn’t half as bad as what people have been through. And hopefully, that gives people confidence,” added Sanjay.

Sail through the storm

They further write about leadership traits one needs to sail through the storm. Hari emphasises that one of the important ones is the difference between acting and knowing, and that’s “really the difference between character and intellect”.

Dealing with a crisis also needs one to have a balance of masculine and feminine leadership traits.

“For example, being collaborative, demonstrating warmth and vulnerability, seeking help - those are pretty much considered feminine traits. Whereas ambition, achievement, orientation, greed...these are typically masculine traits.”

Hari believes a lot of crises in this world have been created by unbridled masculine traits. “I think if you can bring in feminine traits in all of us, if we embody a combination of these two, I think crises will not happen as frequently as they do. And, when a crisis does erupt, we’ll all be able to deal with it in a much more mature way,” he says.

Importance of decision making

Sanjay, on the other hand, feels decision making is the most crucial characteristic of leaders. 

“Ultimately, we are taking risks in life. The best that can happen had better be so amazing that it’s worth taking the risk. The worst that can happen has got to be something that you’re willing to live with. The combination of these, from a leadership perspective and a decision-making perspective, will equip you well,” Sanjay says.

In the recent episode of 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, a series featuring founders, venture capitalists, and angel investors, Sanjay Swami and TN Hari spoke to Siddhartha Ahluwalia on their book, personal experiences, and lessons learned. 

Listen to the podcast here.

Time-stamps from the conversation

00:31 – Intro of Sanjay and Hari

01:52 – The backstory of their friendship

03:28 – Idea of writing a book together

06:43 – “Socially, nobody likes to talks about things that are not going well” – Sanjay Swamy

07:31 – Biggest crisis faced in personal lives

24:07 – Experiences/lessons from the crises

37:49 – Leadership traits a person must possess to make a crisis work

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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