Working out, hitting the gym, going for a run are all great forms of exercise that work wonders, psychologically as well as physically. While many have their workout routines and regimes planned, exercises set, a lot of people struggle with finding out what works best for them. And here is when a fitness brand jumps in, offering apps that cater to your body type and fitness goals, communities that spread awareness and bring people together and even apparel and accessories to make working out comfortable and fun. 

HRX (Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan’s fashion and lifestyle brand) is the name that pops up when you think about such a brand. To decode the success behind one of India’s leading fitness brands, TC46 connected with HRX’s Marketing & Operations Head, Pallavi Barman. Here she shares her journey towards fitness, how women are climbing the corporate ladder with hard work and the importance of cultivating the right culture around yourself.

1. What’s your educational and professional background?

I am a University topper and a gold medallist Engineer in IT and following the tradition of dual degrees which was prevalent a decade ago, I pursued an MBA in Brand and Communications Management. Soon after having started off as a programmer/coder I migrated to the world of Sales and Marketing. The transition was easier once I was armoured with a formal education in Management. But academia doesn’t always decide or charter out one’s career course right? So, things happened and I got opportunities to work on brands and businesses in industries ranging from telecom, to retail/fashion/luxury, to consumer goods and somewhere along the journey also grappled with my own little venture in brand consulting for SMEs. I worked hard to sustain the same but alas! failure was destined there. In the series of maverick items from my professional journey, the ones I rarely miss are, a reality show, a full time job with an NGO for satiating my philanthropic endeavours, training as a teacher and teaching in government schools and attempting to be a designer. A lot of these were hobbies pursued out of passion and with smaller commercial intent, but they added huge value to my personality and professional knowhow.

In my current role at HRX, I have specialised in brand building around celebrities and have been working very closely with the talent management arm of the business. 

2. What prompted you to join HRX?

HRX – there is an emotional answer to the question and there is a factual one.

Well, the factual one first. I was very starstruck and I still am. And Bollywood has always fascinated me. With absolutely no intention of being at the core, forefronting the glamour scenes, I have always wanted to be a part of revolutionising this otherwise unstructured and somewhat fragmented industry. So when the opportunity knocked on the door, every inch of me seamlessly fell in line with the core of the business (homegrown celebrity fitness brand) without an iota of doubt. The keywords are key because every work is true in spirit and comes alive every day in my work. So as they Love what you do and do what you love and you will never have to work a single day in life – the adage came true for me.

Now the emotional one. As a professional and a mother and a homemaker, priorities are straight in life. I need to be surrounded by people who believe in me and empower me and work with a value creation mindset. There is no time and room for validation or for proving oneself time and again. So once I found this genius set of believers, I didn’t need to seek out. I am attached to a place and more than the place, people who have supported me like a family and truly enabled me to work or rather enabled me to deliver work while functioning within the limitations and constraints I come with.

3. How does HRX’s corporate culture reflect the strong female leadership that helms the company?

For starters, it is a place that doesn’t just speak of gender non-bias but also abides by it in every possible aspect. The day I first took charge and got inducted into my role, I was informed that there will be questions (accountability), but there won’t be any interference. Since that day I have run HRX like my own and grown in every aspect of my personality as an individual and a professional. Be it pursuing a career dream or an individual passion, be it preparing and nurturing a team of intelligent and able individuals or improving myself as a leader, I have received immense support and unequivocal guidance in areas where reason reigned supreme.

Often times I have been the only woman in the board room surrounded by powerful men, impact leaders and game changers and I have felt heard, not merely listened to. So, a function or a skill set or an opportunity here is gender agnostic. If there are merit and keenness to excel and lead, it’s a hold-no-bars policy.

4. As the Marketing Head, what’s your advice for women who are climbing the corporate ladder?

There is absolutely no substitute for hard work.

Work so hard that your energy becomes infectious and it starts rubbing off on your teammates and colleagues till it becomes a part of the value system of the organisation and gets ingrained in the culture. 

This emanates from the attribute of honesty and being honest comes naturally to us women, since we beget children and nurture families and there is no playing truants in any of our roles. Own your work, own the spirit of what you do and work won’t be burdensome. 

Cut down the noise (at least in your own head) around preferential treatment and gender-driven privileges and you will be able to focus with clear energy.

Since time is a valuable currency, please plan. Planning comes with practice and superior order of intelligence. Invest in improving your planning skills and results will follow.

5. Which networking groups or events have helped you widen your network and generate collaboration opportunities?

I have been fortunate to have access to some of the mightiest brains in the country and globally too. The pool of partners at HRX have added a lot to my knowledge and learning. This club of entrepreneurs and change and thought leadership has instilled a sense of oneness and ownership in me and once I started feeling one with a larger cause, the goals that I set out for myself are not limited anymore. I have learned to think big and feel empowered through this network.

Secondly staying connected to one’s Alma mater is always beneficial for one’s perpetual growth. I value my MICA connections, might not be most active but, it’s a valuable network of multi-talented, cross-cultural, versatile professionals who can be reached for ideas and propositions and help. 

Lastly, the good old fashioned book club or knowledge available through podcasts remains unparalleled in the kind of wisdom it holds in its folds. Currently, I am reading The Attributes by Rich Diviney. While there is no education like an on-field one, there are some great authors with great published work which can enrich one’s understanding of leadership and people in general. 

6. Are there any offline/online courses you recommend for growth and career enhancement?

Several platforms like Coursera, Upgrad offer short duration, self-learning courses for knowledge enhancement and the major universities like Harvard and Stanford have distance learning programmes too which can add value to one’s evolution as a professional. 

But academia is one thing and experience is another and I rate experience higher over academia. I mean the best businesses are owned and run by college dropouts isn’t it? Without discrediting the importance of education though, here are some tips. Try getting deeper into what interests you, over getting wider across “trendy” topics. Choose a mentor and use a mentor as a sounding board every now and then to get a validation of the ideas.

7. What are some tips you can share with working moms about fulfilling career and entrepreneurial aspirations?

Kids complete us but they don’t define us. While motherhood is intrinsic to our being humanness and womanhood is primordial- we can’t change or influence that. And fulfilment is quintessential for a happy existence. So don’t restrict yourself from doing things which you love. Cultivate a culture around yourself where things are no more impossible. More often than not the difficulty just persists in our own minds. For example, I take my children to work. It took me a while before I could convince myself and free myself from embarrassment, guilt, non-productivity related thoughts but soon I realised that people around me have accepted me as a package and I can be attentive and productive in a board room even with kids around. In short, once you decide to do something, the demons vanish and it all becomes doable.

Work smart for the while when you can’t work hard but don’t stop or give up. Seek out help, delegate but keep doing and thinking. It’s all available and people are ready to reach out for help. Choose your battles and prioritise. It’s impossible to do everything and be everywhere at the same time. So seek out opportunities where your presence and involvement will add value proportional to the time invested.

Think you’re a Self-Starter or know someone who is? Drop us an email to be featured on The Channel 46 at [email protected]

About Self-Starters

We spotlight inspiring women who are entrepreneurs or have skill-based passion projects and are willing to share knowledge, advice and tips about getting started in the space. Each Self-Starter’s story will be highlighted in a prime slot on the Homepage for a whole week, after which their story will appear under the ‘Work’ category on The Channel 46.

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