Living her own exciting adventure

Living her own exciting adventure

standing out

Living her own exciting adventure

It is quite gratifying, and at the same time, somewhat intimidating to be in times where you meet women who are proud to be flaunting their nerdery. But as for the bearer of the trait, Anuradha Vaidyanathan, triathlete and CEO of an intellectual property consulting firm, there are far many important priorities — running a business, running marathons and raising a child, to name a few.

Having been raised in Bengaluru, Anu, as she likes to be called, moved to Purdue University for college. She recollects her teenage years being lonely and difficult, not to mention the academic rigours that came along, with the potential to cause a burnout. “But what stayed with me was the adventure. I had to survive on my own wits, at the same time I was fortunate to run into people who made life better for me,” she recalls.

This was also around the time Anu would be initiated to sports, albeit in a rudimentary way. “I was not someone who could exercise to save my life,” this computer science engineer concedes. “I was in a tough programme with immense pressure to graduate. This was when I bumped into some Indian graduate students who introduced me to running. It was a great coping mechanism. That was where it all started.”

She went on to pursue her Masters, and subsequently a PhD, before leaving it half way through and coming back home. This was when her mother spoke to her about the problem of searching databases that had not yet been solved in the field of Intellectual Property Rights. So, Anu thought she would give entrepreneurship a chance. But then, she was quite pragmatic about it. She decided she would give herself a timeframe of two years, and if she failed, she would move on.

Speaking from experience

At this juncture, she has some advice to spell out: “Kids often come up to me with stars in their eyes and say they want to take the leap into entrepreneurship. To which, I want to hold them and say, ‘Do it, but have a time limit’. It’s not about being practical or realistic, but it’s all about differentiating yourself in the marketplace. Having a job is integral to your identity. If you lose your way while you’re young, it’s hard to get back on track. So take it with a grain of salt.”

Of course, the advice is entirely empirical. Her firm took off well, even though it took a while to register profits. Also, her professional experience worked well in her favour, as she went back to complete her PhD in a little over two years. Anu believes it was her clarity and her advisor, who contributed a great deal to her achievement in this short time period. And even during that time, she did not give up on running. Did it conflict with her schedule? Sure. But, never once did she feel rushed or like she was going
to fail.

She also does not shy away from calling the first few years of entrepreneurship daunting. She was well aware that understanding the market required a skill that could not be taught in college and she knew better than to take comfort in her American education.
 Anu is also someone who does not like to play the gender card, but she admits that it does entail being treated differently. That said, she clarifies that for her, entrepreneurship is about bringing one’s discipline to the table and not one’s gender.
No compromise

It was somewhere around this time that she found running to be a constructive outlet to channel what she calls her ‘mental spaghetti’. She asserts that she is not the kind to spend time in a coffee shop or resort to retail therapy for boredom. With no playtime or quality entertainment for leisure, she sought solace in sports. “And that is something that is here to stay for as long as I live,” she says emphatically. “But I am not someone who tries to be fantastic while outsourcing childcare. I wouldn’t compromise on family time
because I am aware that it is one part that’ll never come back.”

For someone who fits being a CEO between two workout sessions, Anu believes fitting in exercise is the biggest challenge for working professionals these days. “After a day’s work, all one wants to do is slump on the couch with a bucket of ice cream. It takes conscious effort to put yourself on the serious fitness track, she says. And she has her own stories of pain to share: “You can’t just start running barefoot one day when you’re 25. That is what will lead to injures. And the best way to prevent them would be to manage your pain. I would never recommend exercise if you are feeling pain more than 6 on a scale of 10.”

And she has learnt this the hard way. Anu did a 750-km bike ride six weeks after she gave birth. “It was the whole sitting for nine months not having done much physical activity thing that drove me crazy,” she explains, “my ego was hurt and after five km in the race, I just wanted to crawl up and stop.” But she did pull through it and got into a structured training programme under a professional. And now she is slowly inching her way back to sports, even amidst tight schedules, constant travels and incessant phone calls.

“It (she points to her phone) is going to kill us. It is the apocalypse. So, having an office is a good thing — you can lock your door and leave your computer behind; but that requires negotiating.”

This is also when she qualifies that she does not believe in counselling other people. “No two lives are same. My advice can never scale to your life. But here in India, we have this huge culture of wanting mentors, which I don’t think is good. Do your own thing and write your own story. Kill the TV and phone, and really listen to other people talk,” she maintains.