Leaders Who Thrive//

I See This Time as an Opportunity for a Fresh Start

Meet Jai Vaswani, Founder & CEO of Pink Foods Hospitality Pvt Ltd, who has more to him than mere business acumen as he unwinds with Thrive Global about life in the pandemic and beyond.

Photo courtesy The J
Photo courtesy The J

Years ago, on a trip to the UK, Jai Vaswani was intrigued by the manner in which fries were served in a cone. Inspired, he developed a business plan and after plenty of R&D, set up The J in Mumbai’s Churchgate in 2012. Today, with nearly 40 outlets across 10 cities, Vaswani is a businessman by day and DJ by night. The Founder and CEO of Pink Foods Hospitality Pvt Ltd has a B Com from HR College, Mumbai, and followed it up with a Master’s in Hotel Management at the University of Surrey. 

Passionate about music (he has been DJing since he was 15) , he also signed up for a Music Production course at the Point Blank Music School, London. At 19, he set up a computer LAN gaming café in Mumbai and ran it successfully for four years.

“The hospitality industry in India today is a tough place to be in,” says Vaswani, adding, “but also the most exciting. You never know what comes next! Spending power has gone down. Rents and salaries have gone up and so has competition. Deep discounting by aggregators has slashed our margins. More government regulations are underway which will make operating in this industry even harder. I hope that we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel before we run out of gas! (or electricity!)”

When not busy formulating new business ideas, Vaswani enjoys making pizza from scratch, reading up on Warren Buffet, dipping his feet into the stock market pool and DJing at popular hotspots across the country where he goes by the name ‘Nanok’. 

A  Thriver in the true spirit, Vaswani has been conscious of the role of sleep in keeping productivity and energy levels up. “I always get enough sleep. When I sleep late, I wake up late. I think this has always been because of my workouts! If I don’t sleep enough, I can’t exercise which is unacceptable because it is a balancing factor in my life.”

Speaking to Thrive Global India, he shares how technology detox has helped him: “In June 2019, I went on a holiday and for the first time ever, I went five days without using my phone (except to take pictures/videos). All notifications were disabled and my phone was on flight mode the entire time. This was life-changing for me. I felt like that was the first holiday I took in years (even though my wife and I travel a lot). I highly recommend this to everyone. You will never go back!” Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Thrive Global India: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Jai Vaswani: The first thing that you do in the morning is really important as it sets the tone of the day. I start with stretches and planning my day. Helps me break the day in smaller tasks and achieve them further.

TGI: How do you incorporate well-being in your life in these troubled times?

JV: I love working out and have been practising at home since years. I have a bunch of dumbbells and a bench at home so I alternate between weights and yoga (following a class on YouTube). This keeps me going in these tough times

TGI: How do you motivate and generate positivity?

JV: To be honest it is really tough for me right now, keeping the current scenario in mind as the business is going through a lot of stress. But then I am seeing this as an opportunity for a fresh start and focus on new ideas. Testing new recipes, creating new menus, restructuring the brand and more. Looking at things which I didn’t have the time to look at. 

TGI: How do you unplug and recharge?

JV: I try to stay away from my phone. Social media distancing is the key. Working out, reading, learning a new skill (currently Python) or even playing FIFA  are my ways to unplug and recharge.

TGI: What’s your favourite well-being tip?

JV: Keep things basic. It is so easy to get lost amidst all the information available to us today. Additionally, social media tends to make people feel very insecure about themselves. You are your only competition!

TGI: Tell us about your relationship with your phone.

JV: Ah! My phone for me is a gift and a curse. Maximum Efficiency with Maximum Anxiety!

TGI: How do you deal with negativity on social media? 

JV: I stay away from social media as much as possible. If I didn’t need it to promote myself or my business, I don’t think I would use it too often.

The J’s Jai Vaswani sets the tone in his ‘Nanok’ avatar as his passion for music takes over. Photo courtesy The J

TGI: Are crazy schedules and lack of work-life balance inevitable for an entrepreneur, or can these be managed?

JV: Schedules work very differently for everyone. I don’t think I can speak for every entrepreneur. But it depends on what stage of the curve you’re on. When starting up and growing, it is hard to maintain a balance. Eventually, you find that pattern to strike a balance between the both.

TGI: When was the last time you felt burned out?

JV: Around April 2019. I do not wish to feel like that again. 

TGI: How do you combat self-defeating thoughts and stay positive?

JV: Communicate—Talk and let it out. And I am grateful to my wife for helping me get through this each and every time 🙂

TGI: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your sleep.

JV: I recently started putting my phone on DND at about 8 pm. I don’t look at it till the next day. I have also started a no-phone Sunday which is fantastic! 

TGI: If you unexpectedly find 15 minutes in a day, what would you do?

JV: Meditate. More often than not I get an anxiety attack because I’d feel I’m not being productive. So the best way to combat that is to meditate, works best.

TGI: Your favourite work-related philosophy is:

JV: “In times of uncertainty, inaction is the best action.”

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