Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Masters of Intuition: How expertise drives innovative business choices

In a candid dialogue with Rashi Narang (Heads Up For Tails), Jash Shah (Get A Whey), Ghazal Alagh (Mamaearth), Hiren Gor (Levi Strauss & Co.) and Deepali Goenka (Welspun)

Published: Dec 22, 2023 02:00:00 PM IST
Updated: Dec 23, 2023 03:13:27 PM IST

Masters of Intuition: How expertise drives innovative business choices

Spontaneity often leads to some of our most cherished memories, whether it's a last-minute trip with friends or an impromptu shopping spree, where the thrill and excitement are unparalleled. Embracing such moments, we push our boundaries and open ourselves to new challenges and experiences, all thanks to the trust we place in our instincts. Levi's 'For Now, For A Lifetime' campaign celebrates these unforgettable instances that leave an indelible mark on our lives, shaping our very essence.

Forbes India is spotlighting entrepreneurs who, driven by instincts, demonstrate resilience, determination, and relentless innovation. These stories showcase the tenacity of entrepreneurs who, trusting their instincts, defy the odds and profoundly impact the business landscape.

Can you share a specific instance where your instinct or intuition played a significant role in making a critical business decision that ultimately led to a major success or uncovered a valuable opportunity? What factors influenced your intuition in that situation?

Ghazal: Launching Mamaearth was a natural decision stemming from the struggle of finding safe, toxin-free products for our first child in India. Faced with the impracticality and high costs of importing such items from the West, we questioned the absence of a local solution. Extensive research revealed the feasibility, yet the initiative was lacking. This realization became the catalyst for our entrepreneurial journey with Mamaearth.

Rashi: I declined a million-dollar investment from an investor intent on redefining our company. Though disappointing initially, this decision was pivotal. Over time, we attracted supportive like-minded individuals and venture capitalists who believed in our vision. My intuition to reject the initial offer was guided by three key questions: "Who," focusing on values alignment; "When," assessing my readiness for business growth; and "Why," delving into the purpose behind raising funds beyond mere expansion.

Jash: My entrepreneurial instinct significantly shaped my business decision in the ice cream industry. Ice cream is a universally loved treat, spanning from children to seniors, but its reputation for being unhealthy limits its accessibility. Recognizing this, I consciously decided to delve into the ice cream business to make it a healthier option. This choice led to the creation of Getaway as a brand, and it played a pivotal role in our business success.

Hiren: In business, instincts and data, akin to the heart and mind, respectively, are pivotal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of opting for consolidation, I relied on instincts and identified a unique market opportunity with Levi's. Advocating for expansion amidst uncertainty, this instinct-driven decision, supported by leadership, resulted in transformative changes, heightened productivity, and substantial profitability. Post-COVID, our strategic move not only strengthened our position but also established us as a leading brand in lifestyle retail.

How do you balance data-driven decision-making with relying on your instincts or intuition? Can you provide an example of a time when you combined data and intuition to make a strategic decision that yielded exceptional results?

Jash: Intuitive hunches are typically not backed by data; they often arise through pondering and stumbling upon ideas, leading to choices that feel right. In contrast, a thoroughly informed decision is typically clear and supported by substantial data, which I believe is a significant differentiator.

Ghazal: Intuition is a powerful motivator, but relying solely on it in business or organizational decisions is impractical. Transparency and rationality are essential, especially with diverse stakeholders. As leaders, we must ensure decisions are well-reasoned. I firmly advocate integrating data to support our intuitive insights, as it provides objectivity and unifies the team toward common objectives. This harmonious blend of intuition and data drives success.

Deepali: My journey has honed my instincts through diverse experiences, facilitating quick assessments. While intuition drives me, I emphasize the importance of data-backed decisions. At Welspun Living, as one of the largest US exporters accredited by OTEXA, our consumer-centric approach and innovative products like air-purifying bedsheets fuel our success, blending intuition with evidence.

Some leaders are cautious about relying too heavily on gut feelings due to the inherent risks. How do you manage the risks associated with intuitive decision-making while still leveraging it as a valuable tool in your leadership toolkit?

Deepali: In the dynamic business environment, my exceptional team and I make data-driven decisions aligned with a shared vision. Our diverse talents contribute to a reliable decision-making process, blending instincts honed through shared experiences. Sustainability is integral to Welspun Living, guiding decisions that benefit our brand and consumers while minimizing environmental impact.

Rashi: Trusting intuition requires effective ego management. It's crucial to balance gut feelings with data, stakeholder input, and past experiences. While my business initiation wasn't solely data-driven, incorporating intuition alongside courage and a safety net can lead to valuable leaps of faith.

Ghazal: As I mentioned, our approach to decision-making prioritizes data-driven choices. In our organization, ensuring alignment toward a common goal is imperative, and that's why we emphasize the importance of data-backed strategies. 

Instinct and intuition often come from years of experience and domain knowledge. Can you discuss how your professional journey and accumulated expertise have sharpened your ability to make intuitive decisions that have positively impacted your organization's growth and innovation?

Rashi: In business, intuition is valuable when balanced with humility. While trusting your instincts is crucial, it must align with data, stakeholder perspectives, and past experiences. Although my business launch didn't rely solely on market data, there are moments when intuition, coupled with courage and a safety net, justifies taking a leap of faith.

Hiren: Personally, I believe that making numerous decisions over time necessitates periodic reflection on the quality of those decisions. Assessing the thought process, considering factors, and gaining insights from both successes and failures shape a robust perspective. Accumulated learning offers valuable insights into potential outcomes, making the learning process pivotal.

Deepali: My professional journey has been shaped by challenges that have been excellent teachers, sharpening my instincts. We've also harnessed customer feedback to drive innovation, resulting in over 35 patents at Welspun Living. My earlier role as a homemaker gave me insights into women's buying behavior, aligning with my intuitive understanding of our customers' needs, which proved to be a game changer for our business.

In today's rapidly changing business landscape, there is a growing emphasis on adaptability and agility. How has your ability to trust your instincts and make quick decisions contributed to your organization's ability to seize emerging opportunities and stay ahead of the competition?

Hiren: To keep our brand ahead in retail trends, I analyze consumer behavior data, extract insights, and set actionable goals. Prioritizing consumer connections, I've observed their evolving preferences and openness to new experiences. Recognizing the significance of technology in trend exploration, we improved our e-commerce platform,, targeting urban consumers. Simultaneously, we expanded retail stores in smaller cities to foster a deeper brand connection nationwide.

Jash: Navigating the mid-growth phase, transitioning from a startup to an established company, is a unique challenge. You must seize immediate opportunities while crafting a long-term vision. Achieving this balance requires instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in your team and enhancing their skills for streamlined decision-making. While appealing, immediate opportunities can monopolize resources and divert your team from the long-term vision, hindering progress toward your goals.

Deepali: In our organization, we prioritize adaptability, data-driven decisions, and effective communication for alignment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we adapted swiftly by optimizing offerings, expanding into medical necessities, and launching a new manufacturing plant for advanced textiles, highlighting the balance between seizing immediate opportunities and maintaining a long-term vision.

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