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From The CEO’s Desk: 5 Years And Learnings While Saying Organic

April 11, 2017 at 1:30 PM  •  Posted in From the CEO's Desk by  •  0 Comments

This month marked the 5th birthday of I Say Organic. We’re still young, as is the market for organic and wellness in India, but 5 also starts seeming old! I’m finding it hard to believe that it was 6 years back that I began a pilot on a small farm in eastern UP to test how a village would react to organic farming. But it really has been that long! As I was reflecting, it occurred to me that I must take some time out to deeply think of what I’ve learnt over the years of building the company, that I wouldn’t have, had it not been for this journey.

Before getting to the list, I want to say that learning evolve everyday, and at a future point I might have a completely different perspective on some things. There is also a big gap between knowing something, practicing it, and then it becoming a part of you, your nature, so that it gets practiced without conscious attempt. My learning from 5 years are largely on the first stage, i.e. knowing or feeling. I’m trying to consciously do a lot of these, but the final stage is yet to happen. In the next 5 years, I hope to be on the other end.

  1. To be really fulfilled, just doing things you believe in, you value, is not enough. Are you good at it? If it’s not an innate strength, chances are you’ll frustrate yourself. Likewise, if you’re excellent at it, but don’t value it, or are interested in it, you’ll never love what you do. Be selfish, mold your company in a way that it first and foremost achieves both of these for you.
  2. Be patient, with people and with results. This was learnt from all the times I was impatient, and let emotions get the better of me, and got the opposite of what I badly desired.
  3. Do not chase goals. Focus on the process, and what’s being done, and how to keep making it better. If the now is telling you a goal needs to change, or approached differently, change it without any hesitation.
  4. Have a vision, for yourself and your company. But act today based on what today needs, not how you imagine being in future when that vision is achieved. At the same time, always keep the vision alive & feel you are moving towards it, or better, like you’ve already achieved it. This feeling gives you the energy and zeal to perform today. The journey is hard, but this feeling makes it fun. I got demotivated for periods because what I imagined was so far from where we were, but this amazing approach emerged from these periods, and through numerous conversations with friends and advisers.
  5. Before expecting of people, deeply listen and understand them. This learning wouldn’t have been possible, had it not been for the employees, customers, and partners, who we just weren’t able to get along with.
  6. Someone who doesn’t want to learn can’t be trained. This is a very important learning, and it’s funny but I have to thank people I’ve worked with in the past with whom things just didn’t work out for this reason. Had it not been for them, I wouldn’t be so clear on what kind of people I wanted to workwith, and it’s only because of this learning that we have the committed team we do now.
  7. Someone who doesn’t act with responsibility will have his/her reasons, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do anymore. Accept this and move on. If they used to be responsible, reflect on what happened, and what you could have done differently, to avoid this situation in future.
  8. Sensing a learner from a pretender is an art. A pretender can fool you, and a learner can test your patience, and during this period you don’t know for sure what they are. Experience is to cultivate this sense and shorten the time. I’ve gotten better, thanks to all the learners and pretenders I encountered, but need to get a lot better and faster!
  9. How to, and knowing when to assert is also an art. Done impulsively, it serves no purpose. But you need to assert! This one took a while to figure out, and a lot of times when I was left pondering what I could have done differently, and without these incidents, I would still be clueless.
  10. Always communicate what’s on your mind. The time and setting has to be right, but don’t delay more than it can wait. Also, no matter what the feeling you need to express, express it very politely. By nature I’m not very expressive, but I’ve been forced to change this, as I have seen it work to my disadvantage many times, and this now benefits me in my life outside work as well. You’re ten times lighter when you express.
  11. You are your company’s culture. Your company is a mirror image of the person you are at work. Look inside, if there’s something in the culture you don’t like.
  12. An organization is nothing but it’s people.
  13. People fight. That’s ok. In many cases it’s needed, and is good. Refrain from taking sides. Convey your opinion, only if needed or asked for, in an extremely urgent situation. Be unbiased, as much as possible, and just listen and ask questions. All involved in the disagreement are right, from their points of view. Sharing your opinion is not the solution. Facilitating those involved to see things from each other’s point of view is. They might not agree, but even if they can agree to disagree and move on, without any baggage, the purpose is achieved. Again, be careful here and develop a sense of differentiating a learner/genuine intention, from a pretender. Pretenders don’t have room in the company. To all the awkward situations and fights I’ve had the pleasure of intervening in!
  14. Learn from the past but don’t get bothered by it. Look ahead. Move. Learn more along the way. To the numerous times I just couldn’t move ahead because I was busy regretting past decisions, and the people who kept nudging me to forget about those.
  15. Bottom-up is the only way of cultivating ownership. To the countless hours spent in isolation trying to make plans and targets that were never met. To ineffective planning meetings. All very nice to say, but still figuring out how we can get better at this!
  16. When feeling low, do whatever you need to, to snap out of it. Forget about work if you need to. The longer you stay in this zone, the longer progress will stagnate. Nothing is higher priority than snapping out of it. Until your vision excites you, you are capable of snapping out of it. To vacations, spending time in nature, and reading, for making me realize how important it is for me to make time for these.
  17. Welcome competition, learn from them, but know what it is that no one can do better than you, because of who you are. Focus on that. That is your USP.
  18. Accept reality, and how things are right now. Relook at this point when time machines are real and you can afford one. But perhaps not even then. If the past has taught you something, nothing else can substitute. If it still hasn’t, that’s fine too. You just need a few more kicks before the realizations set in. Or just a nudge to reflect.
  19. Do anything that makes you feel alive and happy. Try not to give in to things you know you’ll regret later. This is in context of both, work life and life outside work.
  20. Do not give any less importance to life outside work.
  21. Numbers and charts alone are not indicators of progress. How to measure progress varies case-by-case, situation-by-situation, and you know intuitively whether or not you’ve made progress. And if you feel like you have, then regardless of whether the graph is going up or down, you have.
  22. Time is the best teacher. It gives you experiences, successes, mistakes, and learnings.
  23. Publicity is worthless and a waste of time, if it’s not converting anyone to a customer.
  24. Customers aren’t only people who buy from you. Make your own definition!
  25. If someone has a different value system, for example doesn’t resonate with what comes through in these learnings – they’re not wrong, but you can’t work together, no matter what their accomplishments or even having a shared vision. You can be friends but not colleagues. Values also change with time and experience, but as of today, you can’t work together.
  26. Read a lot. Listen to inspirational talks. Reflect and question, and form your own opinion. All topics teach you and are relevant, not just non-fiction/business books.
  27. Spend time by yourself, everyday. Best stress reliever. In this time, do whatever you feel like doing then. Make a routine, but don’t be tied to it. Be spontaneous.
  28. Generally in life, be spontaneous. Your intuition will get better with time. As your intuition develops more, decision making becomes easier and easier. Be spontaneous, but not impulsive. Pay attention to discern one from the other.
  29. Figure out how to not let your mornings be rushed. You’re so much more productive, and less drowsy during the day, when you get to work relaxed.
  30. Silence the chatter in your mind, while listening to others. If you can’t at a given point, tell them you should talk later.
  31. If you don’t have the right answer, say so, but don’t take pressure. It’s ok to not know. If that is something now feel you ought to, start finding the answer.
  32. Eat well. Stay active. Be at ease.
  33. The best ideas come unplanned, impromptu. Be open.
  34. Don’t be tied to ideas. Reject them or modify them when they start seeming ineffective or irrelevant, regardless of how long you’ve been working on them. If you’ve lost faith in it, if you don’t feel it anymore, there’s no chance that idea will succeed.
  35. While writing these, I imagined me talking to myself. The intent was purely reflection. This might not seem so because of the way the points are written, but I decided not to change the language, to let these stay in their original form, because that for me achieved the purpose to reflect. And this is the concluding learning on the list – Continue having conversations with yourself.


This list would be incomplete without also including some learning that my colleagues have shared.

  • Grow every day
  • Support and encourage your team, they’ll work with ease
  • Vision transforms into actions and eventually takes form of policies.
  • Take on all sorts of varied opportunities that present themselves, without thinking of department, and balanced growth in your career
  • If you want to create a workplace where people aspiring to learn and grow work, then give them a chance to speak their hearts, and always hear them
  • Only someone who is responsible and punctual can serve customers well
  • Learnt the value of trust and authenticity, which also gave me the confidence to take a stand for it
  • Importance of attention to details in everything from emails, reports, processes and people
  • The importance of delivering a great customer experience
  • Crisis Management and not to getting discouraged when problems arise
  • Self-Awareness, humility and openness to learning
  • Realization that the storm is not our surroundings but is within us all. To walk right through it, fix the problem and take ownership of what seems to be going wrong.

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