The first part of the interview can be read here.
What is the S in the Rahul S Verghese? I believe it’s Salim. Is there a story there?
My middle name is Salim – as mentioned on the cover of my book – Running And Living. My parents decided to symbolise the diversity of our wonderful country 🙂
Your TEDX video tells us a lot about your journey and the founding of Running and Living. Anything you’d like to add?
As in one of the TEDx videos’s, this is a journey of passion and that has fewer business plans but is more about like minded people connecting – whether as customers, or as partners. We constantly seek out people with passion, and that’s what drives us.
R & L organize 30 races over 10 states in a year. Most of these destinations are exotic such as Sikkim, Rishikesh etc. What’s the thinking behind choosing these kind of destinations? What are the kind of stories that runners bring to these races? Where are they from? What do they do?
People come from across the country and from varied backgrounds and with the intermingling, apart from the fun, we all learn a little more about life, and some aspect of our planet. Birdwatchers, photographers, environmentalists, explorers, trekkers, come to life as we all step out of our work clothes – and they come from across India – from all walks of life and varied professions.The country is vast and varied and has so much to offer and we are increasingly stuck in our air-conditioned offices. Our runs are about an immersion into the environment, whether near or far from home, and falling in love with it, and in an oblique way, getting people more engaged about ecology and sustainability.
Mumbai appears to suffer in comparison to the other races organized by R & L. The race at Aarey hardly stands out from the other races in Mumbai. The race organized at Borivali National Park is more scenic. Any comments? Would you recommend the Alibaug run instead?
Don’t agree with you at all that Mumbai suffers in comparison. Aarey is a lovely green space with leafy paths and is accessible and provides the additional toughness and the twist in the tale. A run on a beach is a different experience, and that’s what we strive to provide – different experiences – across the country.
Which race amongst the R & L ones, in your opinion, has the toughest course?
The Aarey run in June, the Aravalli run in July, Shimla in Sept are tough, but the Rishikesh 25k is the most challenging.
You call yourself a marketing company, not a running company. Why?
A marketing company with a passion for running and where running is the fun platform to connect. Thats how we strive to make our experiences sustainable.
You talk to corporates about “enhancing productivity, shaving off 10-15% of total employee cost to company, Building a high performance team”. Is that an easy sell?
Nothing path breaking is easy to sell. If it is, its not path breaking 🙂
You have a co-founder/partner Anita Bhargava whom your site lists as Chief Running Enthusiast. Can you tell us more about her? Is she the ‘yin’ to your marketing ‘yang’?
Anita is now more of a mentor at this point of time and is engaged in a variety of other activities.
Your father B. G . Verghese was a renowned journalist and a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award. What are your best memories of him and what inspiration do you draw from him?
Straightness of character, standing firm if you feel you are correct even when in the minority, and being ever optimistic are a few of the things I draw from my memories of my father.
You quit your job at Motorola in the States to pursue your passion for running. You were a director there. How easy or difficult was it for you to uproot yourself?
If you think of it as ‘uprooting‘ anything is tough, if you think of it as a transition of fusing 25 years of marketing experience with 7 years of running experience, it is not. Any transition has its challenges and entrepreneurship provides its thrills, tests and rewards. And I thrive on challenge and adventure.
You studied at IIM Ahmedabad from 1980 to 1982. The IIMs are facing competition from several management schools both private and foreign. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
I think the IIM’s are poor marketing and business organisations, and the huge governmental control does not help their case. They need to shake out and do case studies on themselves and get their students – freshers, mid managers and senior managers to ideate on different strategies and get their management teams to go out and build an exciting vision and move forward.
How would you define yourself now?
A passionate adventurer, keen to live life to the fullest, who wants to get millions of others to do the same.
Final word for the readers-
The most critical thing about running for you is to enjoy it rather than it being a chore, or being stressed out about some aspect of it, or being too caught up with distance or speed or form etc. There is a time and place for each one of them, but the backbone has to be enjoyment. Have fun.
Rahul Verghese is the founder of Running and Living.
Disclosure: The interview was facilitated via email. Answers are published after running spell-check.