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I am Deepak Chhabra, CEO of Crocs India, And This Is How I Work

I am Deepak Chhabra, CEO of Crocs India, And This Is How I Work

S. Shanthi
Only a handful of people dare to bypass a family business to do what they truly enjoy. Deepak Chhabra, CEO of Crocs India, is one of them. Born into a family of highly successful entrepreneurs, he wanted to chop his way into a professional career while retaining the footwear category which his father specialized in. That is precisely why he went on to do post graduation in Footwear Technology and Marketing from Footwear Design and Development Institute, Noida. And today, he is undoubtedly a veteran of footwear and sportswear industry in India. Crocs India's mantra, "Find your fun", is something he swears by and this is how he works.

Location : New Delhi
Current Gig : CEO, Crocs India
One word that best describes how you work : Practical
Current mobile device : iPhone 6s
Current computer : ThinkPad

Tell us about your journey and how did you get where you have?
It has been about two decades since I started my professional journey. I must say, it has been more of a ground up journey for me rather than being there always. When I chose to do my post-graduation, I had an option of either going for a generalized MBA and then struggle my way up into product category or get into a specialized management course where I get to understand general management and gain knowledge of domain specific intricacies.

Footwear as a category was growing back then, but it didn't have professionals who could handle both - the brand and domain. That was the main reason I took it up. I actually started with a company named Phoenix and from there went on to work with various footwear and lifestyle brands including Reliance, Sketchers, Asics, Nike, Tag Heuer and Sprandi, working extensively across several markets in India.
My longest stint was with Reliance retail as Vice President where I spearheaded the expansion its operations to over 250 stores across 110 cities.

Six months ago, I moved to Crocs India. While it is quite a popular brand worldwide with more than billion dollars revenue, in India it enjoys highest loyalty among all brands, when loyalty is dwindling everywhere. Once a crocs customer remains a crocs customer. Crocs India is a strong brand and there are lots of opportunities for it to grow further. That is the reason I took it up.

What is the current project you are involved in?
Crocs India as a brand has highest loyalty. Challenge that we are facing currently is distribution to a larger part of the country. So, currently we are trying to get into larger geographic distribution. Though brand recall is quite high, we want to work on availability.

What is the one word that best describes how you work?
Practical. Rather than looking for complicated strategies, I have a practical approach to things.

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
There are a couple of them. Skype is a lifeline. It is something I cannot live without. It has made communication really easy. Also, I totally depend on WeTransfer as we have lots of files to transfer on an everyday basis. I am also heavily dependent on AirDrop to work efficiently. These tools are very important to work well now-a-days.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
Being a fitness freak, I am totally dependent on Fitbit. Also, I cannot live without something as basic as a power bank, since my business takes me to various cities and countries.

What are you currently reading? A novel, comic book, website, magazine? Or what's something you'd recommend?
I just finished reading We Are Like That Only by Rama Bijapurkar. It essentially captures how Indian consumers behave. It is a very good book for any brand to understand consumers. Most brands come in to India looking at GDP. But they falter as they fail to understand the customer behaviour here. They try to bring international strategies to Indian market and that doesn't work. This book covers how we behave and why we will be like that only and how we won't change anytime soon.

What's your workspace setup like?
I have ample space in my cabin to hold small quick meetings whenever needed. I also have a best view of the sitting, as my cabin is on the 11th floor. Also I have a picture of my sons, who inspire to me to look at the larger perspective of life. Of course I have our brand campaign logo 'find your fun', which constantly reminds me to enjoy what I do.

What's your success mantra? Are there any life hacks to succeed in a short span of time?
I spend time with people who know better than me, even if they are not in the same profession as mine. From my early age I have been doing that. I am not from a premier management college. Whatever I could achieve is by spending time with people who know more than me, rather than being with people who know less and me giving my mind to them. Every day I try to learn from such people.

How do you ensure better productivity among your employees?
We are a small organization, so we work more like family. We, as a brand, are known for fun. It's a more casual thing than a structured sort of organization. We have an open culture; anybody can walk in any time. Personally and as an organization I believe that if somebody is working for a boss, it won't work. We bring ownership by the way we are structured and operate. That keeps them charged and motivated.

What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
I have segregated hours for clearance of mails. Every morning, afternoon and evening, I keep an hour just to check mails. There will not be any distraction from anything then. Social networking, which is a nuisance, happens only after 11 or early morning. Let people drop messages whenever they want to.

What's your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early-riser?
I love my sleep. So I ensure I catch up on seven hours of sleep every day. I am also a fitness freak, so I wake up early, check social media, and spend 40 minutes minimum at gym. I club breakfast and newspaper reading to save time.

(Also read: I'm Vikram Agarwal, Director, Cornitos, And This Is How I Work)

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
During weekdays, it is usually Indian ghazals. Listening to them recharges me instantly. However, I cannot listen to music when I am in office. It distracts me. During weekends, I spend a lot of time with my family. I am a sportsman, so Badminton helps me recharge. Also I enjoy Go Karting with my elder son.

What's the best advice you've ever received and you would like to pass on to younger generation?
One of my bosses said long back that I should learn to say 'no'. I was someone who would say 'yes' to everything and then feel burdened. You cannot please everyone. Sometime you should hold on to your views. If something is incorrect, you discuss. If still you are not convinced, say 'no'.

We at Crocs India also believe in CAYA, Come As You Are. That is our latest campaign. Don't worry about people. Be what you are and do not have multiple faces. It will keep you at peace. That's the best thing anybody can appreciate you for.

To young entrepreneurs, I would want to say that they should share their ideas more. I see that a lot of them do not share ideas thinking it could be detrimental to their business plans. You should share ideas with anyone who is ready to listen. They can come up better ideas to shape up your project. If anybody has to steal ideas, you are not the only one with brains. There is no secret in this world and you are not making rockets.

(Also read: I Am Peyush Bansal, CEO Of Lenskart, And This Is How I Work)

The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Ishita.

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