Friendship of the 'executive' kind


By Papri Das

Our memories of ‘friendship’ mostly takes us back to our school and college days, when we could share a carefree laugh, confide our secrets, or fight and make up quite easily with friends. That concept of friendship most definitely fades away as we grow older and enter the mad race to success. Gradually the endearing term ‘friend’ takes a back seat and politely makes way for terms like ‘colleague’, ‘associate’, ‘business partner’, and ‘client’, especially in the corporate world.

The situation is bleaker for the ones who do succeed. Apart from responsibility and power, executives and top honchos in business are also given a position that keeps them away from most -- a very revered but isolated position indeed. In the cold harsh world of number crunching, boardroom politics and competition, is there any room left for friendship to flourish?

Indeed there is, say several top media executives, whom Exec Lifestyle approached on the eve of Friendship Day, which falls on 2 August.

To the grand old man of Indian media, Madison World chairman Sam Balsara, friends are critical for survival. He simply can’t do without them. “I value and cherish my friends from outside and within the industry alike, and can’t imagine my life without them,” says Balsara, who enjoys friends amongst a wide circle. “Some of them started off as colleagues, clients or business associates and eventually got closer over the years. From casual professional greetings, you start exchanging meaningful conversations, which may trail off from work. There is no reason why I can’t call them my friends. They are very important to me.”

When asked about how he maintains friendship with his competitors Balsara calmly replies, “We are all mature. We may compete in the marketplace but we know how to keep our personal and professional ties separate. Competition never gets in the way.”

Madison Media and Madison OOH CEO Vikram Sakhuja opines, “There is no reason why executives from the same industry can’t be friends. In fact, it is quite easy to get along with each other due to common interests and the comfort zone of understanding each other. One keeps bumping into each other at industry events and it's strange if you can’t find a single one with whom you can strike a chord. Now, one can’t compare this friendship with childhood friends; it's a different ball game altogether.”

Without naming names, Sakhuja says that while he has plenty of friends in the industry especially old colleagues, times of conflict have tested and strengthened his bond with them.

Viacom18 executive vice president Anuj Poddar couldn’t agree more. “You spend more than nine hours a day in office, and sometimes even more. Therefore naturally your colleagues are the ones you are closest to. I am friends with not just my immediate colleagues, but colleagues of yesteryears as well. Just because you stop working together doesn’t mean you stop being friends,” he adds with a chuckle.

“Take my friend Ashish Patil from Yash Raj Films for example. We have never worked together directly, but over the last ten years of knowing him, I have grown to like him as a person and we became good friends. Very recently, he conducted a training session for my creative team. He is just someone I can count on without hesitating,” shares Poddar, adding that he would do the same for Patil.

Echoing the same sentiments, Patil, who is Y-Films, brand partnerships and talent management vice president, says, “Anuj is someone I wouldn’t say no to provided I am free and the topic is of my interest, and he understands that well.” Revealing that he isn’t much of a social person, Patil says, “Over the years, I have made many associations. I have come to learn a lot from them and even approach them for help and vice versa, and this association goes beyond petty profit and loss.”

Another great example of how business partners can also be good friends are Fazila Allana and Kamna Nirula Menezes - the duo who founded and run Sol Production Pvt. Ltd. From boss and subordinate, to business partners and now family, their relationship has molded into many shapes over the years. However, none of it has affected their friendship.

“Kamna and I met over fifteen years ago, when I was working in UTV. I used to be her boss at that time and now she is part of the family,” reminisces Sol Production Pvt. Ltd co-founder and managing director Fazila Allana. When queried as to whether being business partners had ever come in the way of their friendship, Allana says, ”So far (touch wood), we have never faced any challenges maintaining our friendship. It’s because our value systems have been compatible to begin with. We trust each other’s judgment. When it comes to business, difference in point of view is actually a good thing, especially amongst those who respect each other’s opinion. Be it friendship or partnership in business, respecting the other’s opinion and understanding them is crucial.”

Exec Lifestyle further implored how Allana spends time with her long time friend Kamna; whether they go to spa together or shopping? To which, she says, “We spend a lot of time together. I am more of the spa person than Kamna. We mostly go watch movies together, and dinners... the usual things friends do.”

In this fickle era of backstabbing, dishonesty, cut-throat competition and money mindedness, all is perhaps not lost in the wake of some true blue friendships that have weathered numerous storms of time.

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