Anuradha Vaidyanathan is passionate about doing things well, finds Kalyan Ashok
If you are a successful woman entrepreneur, with an outstanding academic record as well, would you take up an extreme sport and make it as a passion of your life?
Well that’s what Anuradha Vaidyanathan, or simply Anu Vaidynathan as she prefers to call herself. She is a multi-faceted young woman, who is an Iron Man athlete (Iron Man is an extreme form of triathlon), a successful entrepreneur and an academician who lectures in country’s top B Schools and IITs and a regular speaker on National forums on entrepreneurship, innovations and leadership.
The slightly built, soft spoken Anu hardly fits the image of a sportswoman, who is into an extreme sports. She was the first Indian (male or female) to qualify for the Half Ironman World Championships and also the first Asian (male or female) to participate in the Ultraman Triathlon in 10 km swim, 420 km biking, 84.4 km run, finishing at the sixth place. Anu, who holds a doctorate from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand ), is the founder of Pat N Marks, an Intellectual Property Consulting firm in Bangalore. She has also won several awards for her excellence in sports, business and leadership areas like — TieAspire Award 2011, Bajaj Allianz Most Inspirational Working Woman Award 2012, INK Fellow 2012. Given her commitments, life’s quite hectic and Anu finds herself always on the run and living out of suitcase ! “But it’s fun,” she declares.
Becoming a triathlete was hardly a childhood dream. She was more interested in academics, especially English literature and Shakespearean works, history and geography. “The love for basic sports came much later, like an after thought and has surpassed anything I could imagine in all the milestones that I crossed,” says Anu.
The sport she took up was among the toughest. “The appeal for triathlon and Iron Man lies in the life long dedication and discipline,” feels Anu.
“Triathlon is a tough sport, Ironman is the toughest single-day triathlon — I suppose the appeal for it is a lifelong dedication to the processes, exceptional discipline and mental makeup.
I meet competitors from all sections of society and all age-groups and it is interesting to see how tough some of these competitors are and how fiercely passionate about their sport,” says Anu..
Though hailing from Tamil Brahmin community, where conservatism often reigns supreme, Anu faced no opposition from the family, when she decided to take a plunge.
“My family has always been supportive of my endeavours, on and off the field. I have the privilege of very hard working parents who taught me the value of self-relianceThere is very little consistent support for athletes in this country unless they have a godfather or are cricketers.
Every year, I tell myself that its important to represent the idea and participate for as long as it is fun and interesting,” says Anu.
For someone, who is ploughing a lone furrow, Anu admits that she is handicapped by the lack of sponsors, barring a few like TIMEX and media coverage of her sport is minimal in the country, though there is a growing awareness now. “I have had very few consistent sponsors — TIMEX has been brilliant with their equipment which I use every day and a few other private sponsors for individual races.
I have not made any money from the sport and don’t think that is my main motivation to begin with. I am interested in seeing how good I can be and until my motivation and love for the sport lasts, I will continue taking part. The media is still very puzzled about what triathlon is - I have a lot of trouble getting my races reported and if its IPL season then I can pretty much forget about it! ” opines Anu.
Though she has raced round the globe for the past five years, she regards a scratch event in Toronto as her best. “My best race was last year at a scratch race in Toronto — I had a hard time getting started but ended up finishing very strong.”
To be truly independent and pursue a dream, one should also have a Plan B, a career on the sidelines to sustain it, says Anu. “Running a very small company gives me the independence to pursue my dreams in the manner I see fit. PatNMarks is an Intellectual Property Consulting Firm - we help mostly small and medium businesses but we also have some mileage with successful academics and top-100 companies in India.
We file for patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs and also do first-mile consulting in the IP Strategy Development phase. I complement my learning in PatNMarks with my classes at IIM-Ahmedabad, where I teach Innovation and Intellectual Property and Technology and Intellectual Property - there is a lot of history in trade monopolies and a lot to be said and understood.”
Her marriage to a Punjabi colleague provided an impetus to her career, though it was a cross cultural one.
As an independent and free thinking woman, Anu, like most in the country, was shocked by the Delhi gang rape and endemic incidents like that around the country. She strongly feels, women in the country need to find their personal space and assert themselves in unequivocal terms.
“I don’t think women in India are asserting themselves enough. I have two reactions to the Delhi gang-rape - the visceral reaction was to feel completely gutted, as if something had landed on my head and want the worst punishment imaginable for the perpetrators.
My other thought is that after six years in the sport, I realise that it is still an uphill task to survive, keep our heads up and continue to pursue something without a thousand fears nagging us. I think it is even more important for Indian women (now) to assert themselves. From the time we are brought up, we are told to “be safe”, “come home on time”, “don’t talk to boys”, etc.
I had the blessing of some very liberal parents but, I know that is not the case for 98 per cent of my peers. So, I do think its time to say and do something about asserting our personal space and follow our dreams and our health with no compromises and no fear,”says Anu.
Quoting Camus “The only way to deal with an un-free world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Adds Anu, “I don’t really have an expiry date on my dreams or my sport — if Vishwanathan Anand can continue playing well into his 40s, then I expect the same if not longer for myself,” signs off Anu.