Shashank Srivastava, senior executive officer, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki
hashank Srivastava, senior executive officer, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki believes in setting clear boundaries to strike a perfect work-life balance. He is of the opinion that the majority are unable to do so, which paves the way for burnout.
“At Maruti Suzuki, we have a culture of open communication. Which means, we must not only do something individually, but also as a group, and have an open and honest dialogue about workload and stress, because these are real things,” he says.
In a conversation with Storyboard18, he touched upon the influencer content he follows, the books he reads, his reading recommendations, and a lot more.
Edited excerptsQ. The creator economy has taken the world by storm. So, which influencers and trends are you following currently?
The creator economy has indeed taken the world by storm, and that's captured the attention and admiration of most marketers. When we witness these content creators, influencers, and digital entrepreneurs, they have sort of transformed the traditional industries. Within this space, the storytelling format has evolved into something very captivating.
From an automobile perspective, what is really interesting is the way they tell the story around the car, where it’s not just about the machine. It's not about the size of the car or the horsepower, but the story of the car, which is about innovation and design philosophy.
From a marketing perspective, I follow some podcasts. One of my favourites is the CMO podcast by Jim Stengel (an American businessman). I am also looking at the startup culture and have started following ‘The Barber Shop’ podcast by Shantanu Deshpande on YouTube.Q. What marketing-related content do you consume in your free time?
In order to improve my knowledge for both personal and professional growth, I follow a lot of marketing-related content. We are a customer-centric organisation, and I always make it a point to review the customer feedback and all the market research reports.
This is because we do a lot of research, both internally and through third parties. That helps understand consumer sentiment, their preferences, their needs, and in some cases, this becomes the foundation for the strategies we follow at Maruti Suzuki.
I also consume marketing-related content on social media platforms. I follow influential marketers, industry experts, participate in discussions, exchange ideas, and get updates about the industry. Also, it is a very good way of networking.
Marketing blogs and thought leadership is also something I follow in my free time.Also read: Consistency is a visionary marketer's paramount quality: Yatin Balyan, Omnicom Media GroupQ. There is a lot of talk about burnout, workplace toxicity, and the hustle culture. What steps have you taken to avoid the adverse impact of the always-on culture on yourself and your colleagues? What advice would you give to your peers, colleagues, and next-gen marketers?
Some of the steps we are undertaking at the moment to maintain work-life balance is to set clear boundaries between work and personal life. We encourage each other and our colleagues to do the same.
There has to be some time when you disconnect from work outside of office hours, and a lot of people are unable to do that. I believe that contributes to burnout. So better to disconnect from work, and pursue some hobbies. If each one of us has some hobby or the other, there are ways by which one can relax outside of work.
Within the office, we have a culture of open communication. Which means, we must not only do something individually but also as a group, and have an open and honest dialogue about workload and stress, because these are real things.
There's no point not discussing them because it's something that affects each of us. So open communication is important. We also have a flexible approach in terms of work arrangements, like remote working or flexible hours.
Although it's a little difficult to have flexible hours in the factory, we do allow it in the office, and that can sort of reduce the toxicity which comes from the always-on culture.
I believe it's very important to recognise and celebrate achievements, because they foster a positive work environment. I think it boosts morale and helps cope with workplace toxicity, which is easy to develop in modern organisations.Q. Is there any sport or fitness routine you practice?
It's largely walking. I get up quite early in the morning and do one hour of brisk walking. That's the way to relax and also to plan out what to do during the day. During the weekend, sometimes I play badminton or table tennis with friends and family members. It's not a sports routine, but it does keep your mind and body fit.Q. What does your weekend look like?
It's largely family and friends time, because during the week, with all the travelling, it's difficult to get quality time with family members. So, we have meals or go out together. My hobby is chess, and I make it a point to keep up with latest trends in the game.
It not only helps me focus on something other than work, but also, chess is a great game which involves a lot of planning. It involves a lot of discipline. That’s pretty much what we do during weekends. Sunday evenings are a time for reflection and planning what you need to do for the next week.Q. Anything you are watching or streaming this weekend?
I am not much into streaming, but yes I do love to read. Reading is something I do almost every day.Q. What are you reading? Any book recommendations for the readers?
You will be surprised, because it's not about management or marketing. I read books on science, especially quantum physics. I am a fan of Roger Penrose, who is a British scientist and a Nobel Prize winner. He writes on physics, on the origin of the universe. Right now, I am reading his book 'Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe.'
Fashion and faith can affect one’s choices and outlook towards different things in life. But, this book goes a step further because he is a physicist and a mathematician, which is all very objective and, well, mathematical.
But, he says, even physicists and scientists can pursue theories which are actually affected by faith, fantasies, and fashion. Here is an example. String theory is basically marrying the wave and the particle theory. He says that's a theory which says there are six dimensions. It was quite fashionable for a long time and still is.
Hence, he says that maybe we are pursuing something which is guided more by fashion and fantasy rather than by actual objectives. That's something we see in marketing as well, where consumer choices might be affected by fashion and / or faith. You have to have a balance of objectivity and subjectivity if you are marketing products. I would recommend this book.
For anybody who is interested in mentorship or workplace growth, I would recommend ‘Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know’, by John C. Maxwell.Also read: The best marketers aren't obsessed with marketing: Arun Iyer, SpringQ. Any work or life hack you swear by?
In terms of work hack, time boxing is a very powerful productive technique. What you do is you schedule specific blocks of time for different tasks. That's something which optimises efficiency.
For a life hack, I would say, practice gratitude. It significantly improves one's overall well-being. If one is grateful for what you have, big or small, it helps you appreciate the good things, and makes you feel better.Q. A piece of wisdom you would like to share?
Given the pace of change that's happening in the society today in terms of technology, and in the work, economic, and social environment, I think, we also must keep changing. There is one quote which I have kept in my diary, and that says, ‘When you are finished changing, you are finished.’