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7 Questions on Leadership with Vinay Gautam

Name: Vinay Gautam

Title: CEO

Organisation: Nandinandan Breed & Seeds India Pvt. Ltd.

I stared my work as an social change fellow in TGT Group and CEO at Nandinandan Breeds & Seeds, with over 10 years of experience in livestock trading and marketing. Dedicated to empowering rural youth and creating sustainable livelihoods.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Vinay's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a social entrepreneur & leader, I've encountered various challenges, but one that stands out is striking a balance between pursuing ambitious goals and ensuring the well-being of my team and organization.

The most challenging aspect is managing the delicate equilibrium between pushing for growth, innovation, and achieving results, while also providing a nurturing and supportive environment for my team members. It can be demanding to set high expectations and simultaneously ensure that my team feels valued and motivated.

Additionally, as we've scaled our operations, adapting to change and managing the inherent complexities has been another significant challenge. Staying agile and innovative while maintaining operational efficiency can be quite demanding.

Ultimately, leadership is about guiding individuals and teams towards a common goal while addressing their individual needs and concerns. Finding the right balance between these aspects has proven to be an ongoing challenge, but one that I find incredibly rewarding.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I once declared, 'I want to be a witness of a miracle,' during my introduction at a freshman party, and, naturally, my unconventional thinking garnered some laughter. Back then, I didn't have a logical explanation to prove my statement. However, after two years of living in Greater Noida and working in the banking industry for one of those years, I was determined to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. I decided to leave my job and relocated to Jawaharlal Nehru University with my brother-in-law & focus on the government jobs studies.

The turning point in my journey occurred when I decided to move away from the common mindset of pursuing a government job. Fueled by compassion, I embarked on my first business venture involving rabbit and mushroom farming. After exploring various farming activities, I found my niche in goat farming in my hometown of Varanasi, Utter Pradesh U.P. My direct involvement with traders in Varanasi's main meat market and a growing demand during Bakra Eid led me to enter the goat trading business.

I always inspired by action research, I ventured into rooftop goat farming with a 50 goats and later expanded this model to more than 10 households with small unit of 5 goats. It was during this time that I gained recognition and more importantly, the satisfaction of making a difference. My life took a significant turn when one personal named Melissa Williams consultant of World Bank, she introduced me to The Goat Trust and I met Sanjeev Kumar Sir.

Nurturing the concept and witnessing the process of establishing ourselves from a mere seed was a remarkable experience. Working with goats, I observed the circle of life unfold daily. This is the power of mentorship, a life vision that my mentor has instilled in me. The Goat Trust became my second home, and I realized that just like people, goats need love, care, and appreciation.

In my role as a social change fellow, I've been associated with The Goat Trust since 2016. I've been dedicated to creating opportunities for rural youth to become social entrepreneurs, fostering my enduring dream to organize the small livestock market and generate sustainable livelihoods in rural areas.

With a master's degree in marketing, an executive program in strategic management from IIM-Lucknow, and over eight years of experience in livestock trading and marketing, I've facilitated technology-based trading activities and ensured fair pricing for goats and bucks throughout TGT Group Social Venture's project locations.

I am currently serving as the CEO at Nandinandan Breeds & Seeds India Pvt Ltd.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My typical workday follows a structured routine that allows me to maintain focus and productivity. I begin my day by waking up in the morning, although not exceptionally early. After waking up, the first thing I do is spend a few minutes looking at my vision board, which I've placed in front of my bed. This helps me reaffirm my goals and set a positive tone for the day.

I then proceed to complete my morning chores and engage in a yoga session before taking a refreshing bath. Following this, I have my breakfast around 8:30 am. Starting from official hour from home from 9:00 am for daily morning meeting on zoom.

Upon arriving at the office in-between 10:00 to 10:15, I allocate the first 30 minutes to make a to-do list and prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, following the Eisenhower Matrix. I always plan my week in advance and schedule my meetings accordingly to maximize my work hours and efficiency.

At 2:00 pm, I break for a 30-minute lunch, and from 2:30 pm to 3:00 pm, I take a brief break to meet with the staff at the head office for a quick chat. My day typically continues with meetings and tasks, and I reserve time to interact with my mentor between 6:00 pm and 6:30 pm to discuss important matters.

After work, around 6:30 pm, I head to the market to purchase vegetables and groceries, following my wife's list shared on WhatsApp. Then, from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm, I enjoy quality family time for conversations and relaxation.

In the evening, I usually prefer a light dinner, and sometimes I skip dinner altogether. Before retiring to bed, I read a few pages from a book and revisit my vision board to reinforce my goals and aspirations. This routine allows me to structure my days efficiently, balancing work, family, and personal growth

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A recent leadership lesson that has been reinforced for me is the significance of active listening. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that as a leader, one should always have the answers and solutions. However, sometimes the most valuable insights come from the team members themselves.

I was reminded that as a leader, it's vital to actively listen to my team's ideas, concerns, and feedback. This not only fosters a culture of open communication but also often leads to innovative solutions and a stronger sense of belonging among team members. It's a lesson in humility and the acknowledgment that the best leadership is often collaborative and receptive. So, I've been placing a greater emphasis on being a more attentive and empathetic listener, which has led to a more engaged and motivated team.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Two books have profoundly impacted my leadership journey. The first is "I Too Had a Dream" by Dr. Verghese Kurien. This book, authored by the father of the White Revolution in India, Dr. Kurien, tells the inspiring story of his work in the dairy industry. His dedication to empowering farmers and transforming the milk industry taught me the power of visionary leadership and the importance of standing up for what you believe in, even in the face of adversity. Dr. Kurien's story of building the iconic Amul brand and its cooperative model has been a guiding light in my journey to create positive change in the livestock sector.

The second book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey, has been instrumental in shaping my leadership philosophy. Covey's timeless principles of personal and professional effectiveness, such as "Begin with the end in mind" and "Seek first to understand, then to be understood," have been invaluable. This book reinforced the importance of integrity, empathy, and proactive decision-making in leadership. It helped me structure my approach to leadership, fostering a mindset focused on collaboration, innovation, and long-term vision. These two books have not only influenced my leadership style but have also guided me in my mission to transform the traditional goat market through

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

If I could offer one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be this: Never stop learning and growing. Embrace every opportunity to gain knowledge, skills, and experiences. Leadership is a continuous journey, and your ability to adapt and evolve is essential. Seek out mentors and diverse perspectives, stay curious, and be open to new ideas. Remember that failures are part of the learning process, and they often provide the most valuable lessons. Stay true to your vision and values, and lead with empathy and integrity. And, most importantly, believe in yourself and your ability to make a positive impact. With dedication, a growth mindset, and unwavering determination, you can achieve your goals and inspire others along the way.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One meaningful story from my time as a leader that stands out involves a young woman named Noor Jahan from a rural community who joined our organization. She had limited access to education and resources but had a deep passion for goat farming.

Over time, she actively participated in our training programs and embraced every opportunity to learn. Her dedication was inspiring. She started with just a few goats and gradually expanded her small venture. We provided her with guidance, mentorship, and support, and she took on the challenge of nurturing her goats with enthusiasm.

As the months went by, her hard work paid off. She not only improved her livelihood but also became a role model in her community. Her success story had a ripple effect, motivating other young individuals to pursue goat farming as a means of sustainable income.

This story reminds me that leadership isn't just about personal achievements; it's about empowering others to reach their full potential. It highlights the transformative power of providing opportunities and mentorship to those with determination and a willingness to learn. It's a testament to the incredible impact that individuals can have when they are given the tools and support to thrive.

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