‘There Is A Lot Of Sport In My Life’, Says PUMA India & SEA MD
In a brief chat with BW Businessworld, Abhishek Ganguly (MD, PUMA India and Southeast Asia) speaks on the importance of sports and fitness in life. He also recounts a meeting with ace Indian batsman Virat Kohli before signing him on as a PUMA ambassador
A recent PUMA-Nielsen survey revealed that only 20 per cent of adults in urban India meet the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended index of a minimum of 150-300 minutes of physical exercise per week. Among Adults that exercised in the last 12 months, more females (42 per cent) participated in sports and fitness-related activities on a daily basis than males (36 per cent).
The survey also found that adults with high sports participation were likely to exhibit more positive emotions than adults in general by 21 per cent. But they listed ‘Lack of Time’ as the primary barrier to participating in sports and physical activities, followed by other challenges such as lack of facilities and high cost.
BW Businessworld caught up with Abhishek Ganguly (MD, PUMA India and Southeast Asia) on the sidelines of PUMA’s ‘Let There Be Sport’ event in Bengaluru to know more about how he puts an onus on his wellness, fitness and sports activities – despite leading a company which registered Rs 2,980 crore in revenue during FY22 and out-maneuvered major competitors such as Adidas, Nike and Reebok in India.
“Honestly, I have not trained for the last 13 days. But I know the number, which is good. Last one month, I have not been consistent and I can feel it,” confessed Ganguly. “There is, of course – always time, but there are months where my priorities differ. But ideally, I should prioritise training.”
Virat Kohli’s Mindset
Since the ‘Let There Be Sport’ event was headlined by ace Indian batsman Virat Kohli and India’s Football Team Captain Sunil Chhetri, we asked the PUMA India MD about the discipline showcased by these stalwarts of India’s sporting space.
“Let me tell you a story about Virat (Kohli) before we had signed him. I met him at the Trident’s (Mumbai) gym after he had scored a double-hundred at the Wankhede. It was 7.15 pm. And he was there before me, lifting weights and working out, after playing the whole day. Not to mention, he had the next day too,” recollected Ganguly.
“Earlier in the day, I had watched him from the stands as a spectator – score all those runs and he still made it to the gym earlier than me!”
Ganguly naturally asked the legendary batsman, “Didn’t you just bat the whole day?” Kohli responded by saying that because he had batted the whole day, he needed to hit the gym to take care of his muscles and manage his strength levels.
“So, it’s a mindset,” Ganguly explained, emphasising how busy schedules don’t deter great sportspeople. “All of us do not have that mindset. Even if we had 5 per cent of Kohli’s mindset, we would find time for fitness and sports.”
Prioritising Sports & Wellness
In the same sports study by PUMA-Nielsen, it was observed that Yoga (37 per cent), Jogging (29 per cent), Running (28 per cent) and Cricket (28 per cent) were the most actively participated sports and fitness-related activities by adults, in the last 12 months, with 54 per cent adults preferring self-guided workouts post-pandemic.
We asked Ganguly how he looks at sports and fitness when he cannot prioritise these aspects all the time. “I spoke about the negative part – which is one month. But I do prioritise fitness. I train and have a gym at my place and the society I live in,” he said.
Ganguly elaborated that he also trained at the PUMA office. “We have a fitness group and we tag each other for challenges. For example, if you have trained for 30 minutes a day – you give yourself a point. Besides this, if you have had clean food, good, nutritious, clean food – you get a point and if you’ve walked 10,000 steps, you get a point as well. And if you have done all three on the same day, you give yourself a bonus point. So, we compare scores in a 21-day cycle and we run challenges like this to promote fitness and wellness between each other.”
He also shared that PUMA has an internal sports league, PUMA Sports League, where every month there is a sporting activity. Different squads/teams from within the company compete with each other in various sports and fitness activities. “And that's something that I have been a part of for the last seven to eight years,” Ganguly added.
The PUMA India MD shared that he has leaned into sports a lot more since he joined the company. “Now, I play a lot of sports myself. I play basketball, badminton and a bit of tennis too. But I do run middle distance (five to ten kilometres) and I train at the gym.”
He added that like every Indian, he likes to play cricket as well.
“So, there is a lot of sport in my life – not just for myself and my wellness – but also to build a good connection with my team,” he emphasised.
According to McKinsey, ‘Wellness’ is now a USD 1.5 trillion market globally and it is growing at a rate of 5 to 10 per cent every year. The research from McKinsey shows that consumers are most interested in six wellness categories including health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep and mindfulness.
But what’s wellness to the Managing Director of a leading sports brand in India? “It is a lot about the mind,” Ganguly said.
“Every time I have woken up at 5 am, went to a pitch/ground/turf/court, I have come back feeling fantastic. So, wellness for me is a lot about feeling good.”
But is it possible for a business leader to keep a schedule for sports and fitness with meetings at odd hours, lots of travel and other engagements? “Very much, unless you are catching a redeye from Europe or elsewhere and you have to go on meetings immediately,” he said. “But I don’t see official travel to be a good excuse for not training.”
When BW Businessworld asked Ganguly about his advice on sports, wellness and fitness for leaders in the business circuit, he said everyone needed to prioritise these things in life. And he extended the thought to everyone.
“For those who have kids or younger siblings, I would urge them to promote sports and fitness in their lives. Because the realisation on the importance of this strikes very late in India.”
He said that most of the Indian demography only takes fitness and wellness seriously when they are up against a lifestyle disease after getting a grave diagnosis at the doctor’s. “And then, when the doctor says ‘you have to walk four kilometres every day.’ That is when everybody becomes active.”
Ganguly advises simple things such as doing 25 pushups at any instant of the day, and walking around while talking on the phone and emphasises on making simple lifestyle changes for overall wellness.
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