It’s an incredibly difficult time for everyone, and these aren’t normal circumstances. The world is dealing with both a financial and health crisis, which has forced businesses, governments, and people to make some incredibly difficult decisions. COVID-19 has also put to the test humanity, societies, and our value system. Yet, you’re right, there are some extremely compelling reasons to be hopeful
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Asheesh Mehra.
Asheesh Mehra is the co-founder and Group CEO of AntWorks™, a global leader in AI and Robotics. He believes humane, responsible AI is the future, and is excited by its limitless applications to solve for issues that impact business, our lives and the planet we inhabit. His experience over twenty years has also spanned across leadership roles in large ITeS organizations, such as Mphasis, TCS and WNS, having worked extensively across the UK and the United States.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
After having spent 20 plus years with a steady and reliable job in the corporate world, I decided to go out on my own and take the massive risk of building my own dream, and not somebody else’s.
In 2015, my co-founder and I set out to disrupt the traditional Robotics Process Automation (RPA) industry by creating a whole new technology, introducing to the market the industry’s first Integrated Automation Platform. Thus, my company, AntWorks was born in 2015, and the last five years have been some of the toughest, most challenging and, yet, equally rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life. Given 75% of start-ups fail, I knew what I was doing was going to be difficult — I didn’t realize just how difficult. To put it mildly, there was a huge gap between my perception and the reality of what it takes to start a business.
Running your own successful business won’t be exactly how you imagined — but that doesn’t mean it can’t turn out even better than you thought it could.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Right now, I’m reading “Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age” by Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, and Carol Ann Browne. The book focuses on why technology companies must accept greater responsibility for the future, which is fundamentally the mission of AntWorks. Much of what I’ve learned in this book has been helpful in building my company, including the importance of doing things the right way the first time, and how to deliver ethical artificial intelligence so that businesses, society, and the world, at large, can all benefit from this powerful technology.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
I want to start off by stating the obvious. It’s an incredibly difficult time for everyone, and these aren’t normal circumstances. The world is dealing with both a financial and health crisis, which has forced businesses, governments, and people to make some incredibly difficult decisions. COVID-19 has also put to the test humanity, societies, and our value system. Yet, you’re right, there are some extremely compelling reasons to be hopeful:
- Spending more quality time with our families. As the CEO of a global start-up, I spend 80% of my time on planes and living out of hotel rooms, crossing sometimes two to three times zones in a given week. Being home with my family, playing board games, helping the kids with their schoolwork, I am gaining invaluable time with my children who are growing up faster than I’d like to admit.
- Incredible acts of bravery and selflessness. I am incredibly humbled and inspired by the acts of bravery and selflessness of the frontline workers, from those in the healthcare space — doctors, nurses, case managers — to the people who are allowing us to continue to get the provisions we need at the supermarket, to those who are in distribution centers allowing us to get essentials from the safety of our home. And my heart bleeds for those who can’t get access to essentials on their own. The generous volunteers who are taking care of the disadvantaged, looking after pets in shelters. Let’s not forget these unsung heroes.
- Focusing on what matters. Now is not the time to sweat the small stuff. Soup too hot? Tool cold? Who cares! It’s about appreciating what you have, the three-square meals a day I’m able to put on my family’s table, working from the safety of my home and having the capabilities to ensure the people at my company can do the same thing.
- Upping your grit game. The only way to develop your grit and increase your resilience is through adversity. We’re all familiar with the famous Nietzsche quote, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” So many of us have faced adversity in our life or have had to overcoming incredibly challenging experiences. It’s about using these experiences to build you up, not knock you down.
- Caring for our planet. The unintended side effect of being locked down has led to pollution levels decreasing and air quality increasing, reminding us how important it is to not only care for each other right now but for our planet. Talk about a silver lining in all of this. I have always been grateful for nature and what it teaches us about appreciation and the gifts it offers. Now more than ever, the sunrise after the sunset, the caterpillar on my lemon tree, the rainbow after a storm (and being in Singapore the storms are intense), are just daily reminders of how we need to be kinder to our planet.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Everyone deals with anxiety in their own ways and has their own outlet for how they best manage through tough times. This is a time when people are feeling particularly vulnerable, and, frankly, some of their usual decompressors, like gyms, may not be available. We’ve got to, in a sense, get creative for how we deal with anxiety and how we help others.
- Stay physically active. Take the stairs, sign up for an online yoga class, do some crunches, burpees…There’s lots of activities you can do from the safety of your home. Just get your blood flowing.
- Practice meditation. I always start my day listening to Buddhist chants and practicing meditation. It helps to clear my mind and let it all go.
- Listen don’t talk. Sometimes people just want someone to talk to or vent to without any judgement or interruptions. Right now, being a good listener is being a good friend.
- Remember the power of humor. I don’t think it’s just me whose received an influx of coronavirus related memes. While so much of this situation is dire, the right joke at the right time brings about a sense of relief and helps us to process this trying experience.
- Tackle that long and put off list of to-dos. Having a project to focus on, whether it’s decluttering or organizing your closet, keeps your mind focused and brings about a sense of accomplishment.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
For me, it’s always about believing in yourself. Jose Joaquin Olmedo’s quote, “He who does not hope to win has already lost,” is one that speaks deeply to me as an entrepreneur. It was always about not giving up on my dream and setting goals to help me fulfill it. Right now, ‘hope’ feels particularly resonant as we battle through this pandemic and look for light through the darkness.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I believe my co-founder and I found our problem to solve when we started AntWorks — the application of AI for good and nothing but. AntWorks value is more than just helping enterprises achieve their digital transformation goals, it’s about ensuring this incredibly powerful technology benefits everyone and realizes its full potential to solving some of the greatest challenges businesses and societies face today.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!