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‘One must lead a team with influence, not authority,’ says Director-Cluster Head, Swiggy

Ankush Garg, an alumnus of Apeejay School, Pitampura sheds light on the growing work opportunities in India. In an interview, he discusses fundamental lessons and tips for a successful corporate career

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‘Find ‘Meraki’ – a task that drives you to put your soul, creativity and love into it – this is a mantra that motivates Ankush Garg, Director-Cluster Head at Swiggy. In his successful career spanning 12 years, he has worked with top-notch brands and at crucial positions of responsibility. So, what have been his learnings and experiences? Read On:

Please tell us about your educational background.

I come from a typical Delhi-based family. My schooling and higher education was completed in the city. In class 10, I topped the Board examinations at Apeejay School, Pitampura. I had keen interest towards athletics as well in school.

After my schooling, I pursued a course in Engineering and Information Technology from Bharati Vidyapeeth’s College of Engineering, Delhi. In my third year of the course, I realised that more than the technical field, people-facing, communication-centric jobs attract me. And so, I wanted to make a career in that. I then decided to pursue a degree in Management. But before I did that, I also had a small stint with Tata Consultancy Services in 2009.

After appearing for the Common Admission Test, I was selected as part of the first-ever batch at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) – Rohtak. The opportunity allowed me to experiment and seek knowledge beyond the classrooms by actively participating in clubs and committees. I, along with a few other students, set up many activities, centers and committees in college for knowledge-sharing. Overall, college turned out to be an enriching experience for me.

Can you detail out your professional journey?

My first job was as an Area Sales Head at Mother Dairy. At that time, I was very interested in the Indian FMCG sector. Then, I had a sales stint at Mapro. To get an exposure at the start-up ecosystem, I moved to working at Paytm as a Category Sales Head. After that, I joined Max Healthcare for their homecare vertical. In that role, I could work with an entrepreneurial bent of mind. Post that, I was on a lookout for something new.

And so, I joined Swiggy about 4 years ago as a Director – Cluster Head for markets in the Northern region. At present, my responsibilities include looking into profits, losses, marketing, sales, operations, growth, business development and unit economics.

How beneficial is Management education for a successful corporate career?

A knowledge of businesses and management is important for equipping a person and giving them the tools to deal with complex business problems. A course in this domain means that diverse people from across backgrounds and streams can come together to learn new things. A course in Management has more to do with peer-to-peer learning as it opens up a world of possibilities where no one answer is the right answer.

Is an entrepreneurial mindset necessary to excel at Management?

No, but it helps in the same way an analytical bent of mind would help become better at business. These days, corporates are fast-growing and want to employ people who are holistic, adaptable and quick-learners. An entrepreneurial bent of mind and a Management degree allow for that easy fitment. Things have changed over the decades in comparison to earlier times; roles are not that straight-jacketed.

In India, we are seeing a surge of new businesses over the last decade. Why so?

Ease in Government policies is the primary reason. To that extent, many people I know have left lucrative jobs overseas to join new businesses in India. There is a new passion in youth to set-up their own businesses. Ten or fifteen years ago, a 25-year-old CEO was unheard of. But currently, so many young entrepreneurs are doing great work and reaching new heights. Companies are becoming more open towards new opportunities and ideas.

Do you think that start-ups and companies are also giving employees more freedom?

Yes, many companies are prepared to give an immense amount of responsibility to a young person who has the potential and caliber for it. Now, more than ever, good ideas that are original in nature, disruptive, and can solve any real-world problem are bound to succeed.

Swiggy launched several consumer-friendly initiatives during Covid-19. Your comment?

The biggest pillar of Swiggy is their consumer-first approach. We aim to bring to India an all-in-one convenience app. That is why during Covid-19, we accelerated grocery deliveries and package delivery services, ‘Swiggy Genie.’ The idea was to reach out to our consumers in the best possible manner. The company is successful due to its employees and customer-backwards strategies.

Could you relate an anecdote from a role that was challenging for you?

There have been times when I upskilled myself to fit into certain roles. I also picked up many lessons simply by observing others around me. I had mentors and seniors whose experiences and guidance added a lot of value to my work. I have served in about five different domains – each being unrelated to the other. Some companies had markets in different cities in the same state, but may have different issues that needed to be dealt with. So, one size did not fit all. 

Your learnings at Apeejay School, Pitampura?

I joined the school in 1998 in grade 7. At that time, I felt that I had a lot to cover because the difference between me and other students was vast. I was very motivated to keep up and give it my best shot. I also was fortunate to have teachers who were very warm to me; they still are my favourite. Mr. D.K. Bedi, Ms. Vandana Arora, Mr. Chauhan, Mr. Kaushal, Ms. Smita Sharma, Ms. Babita Singh, Mr. Pankaj, Ms. Babita Kathuria – are some names that come to my mind. The school also gave me friends for life. I still cherish the environment and culture of Apeejay School, Pitampura. I am planning to enroll my children there as well.

Message for students?

It is easy to find your passion but difficult to acknowledge that what you are doing right now, isn’t your passion. That is why, we often find people stuck at a job, role or profession.

If you have identified your calling, sharpen your axe. There is a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln, the American lawyer and statesman, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” So, you must mould yourself to be prepared for the world. Become adaptable and stay curious.

Mrini Devnani is a Senior Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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