Viren Rasquinha is a former captain of India’s national field hockey team. He quit international hockey to pursue an MBA at ISB and since 2009, he has been the CEO of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) - a Not for Profit company dedicated towards helping Indian athletes win Olympic Gold medals. They have played a key role in 5 out of the 8 medals India won in 2012 and 2016 Olympics. We spoke about his reflections from his personal journey and from his experiences around spotting and grooming potential at OGQ. For more details on Viren, please visit - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viren_Rasquinha
This conversation was published around April 2017.
In this nugget, Viren describes the OGQ model – what they do, the sports they are involved with and the athletes that they are working with. Their youngest athlete is 8 years old and they have committed to working with that athlete for the next 8-12 years to win an Olympic Gold medal. In a world that is running faster and faster and 1 year plans are hard to execute, it was refreshing to hear an organization that describes their 2020 plan as a short-term plan.
Getting into professional sport can be a “low odds” decision often. If one doesn’t have the financial buffer, it is often tempting to go towards the safer option to pursue education and get a job. Viren talks candidly about how he comes from a family with no prior sports background and how he navigated some of these questions during the points of inflection when he had to take a call.
Viren talks about his journey from being a player to a captain including some of the non-game elements that are required to move from being a successful player to an effective captain. He discusses how important it is for the captain to lead by example. He also talks about how one has to use different approaches to motivate and develop different players with varying personalities.
Judging potential can be a very tricky thing to do in companies. While outcomes are very visible but markers of potential are often buried deep within and one has to look for them with a keen eye. OGQ’s youngest athlete is 8 years old, an indication of how much they are betting on future potential. Viren talks about how they use a combination of metrics and elements of judgment to figure out which athletes to back.
We often find ourselves in situations where the circumstances at work and on the personal front have changed significantly over time and there is a need to move onto the next innings. These are uncomfortable phases where there are no easy answers or approaches. Viren talks about how he took stock of life when he was playing hockey for India and the circumstances which led him to pursue an MBA at ISB.
Viren shares his insights around how he joined OGQ after ISB. When I graduated from IIMA, a lot of us including me, didn’t have a clear framework to make a considered choice in terms of direction. Viren talks about the role of serendipity in how he ended up joining OGQ. He actually talks about how he almost ended up joining a corporate role before he joined OGQ. He also talks about how he has “taken the plunge” at crucial junctures in his life.
Viren talks about where he (and some of the athletes OGQ works with) gets his strength during difficult times. There is enough and more research (if interested, please look up Angela Duckworth’s book Grit) on the role of Grit and performance. He specifically alludes to the need for having clarity of why people do what they do in the context of building that muscle.
Picking a coach for a leader can be challenging. There are several variables at play and given what is at stake, it is critical to ensure that this is done thoughtfully. Viren uses the example of Mary Kom to talk about how they went about selecting Charles Atkinson to train Mary Kom. Some of the insights from the nugget are arguably highly relevant in the corporate world in the context of how leaders and companies think about their leadership development and coaching programmes.
In summary, Viren talks about how OGQ is all about selecting and grooming athletes and helping them play to their potential at the highest stage. He also talks about the opportunity that all of us have to support some of these supremely talented sportsmen who may not have the financial resources to pursue their dreams. If you are interested in contributing, please visit http://www.olympicgoldquest.in. It might be a great opportunity for us to invest in a Mutual Fund that carefully picks the human capital and helps them appreciate over time and could make us and the nation proud.