In an interview with ETMarkets, Desai said: “I exercise regularly, usually five to six days a week, alternating between yoga and strength-building with cardio. Yoga involves breathing and meditation, which I find beneficial” Edited excerpts:
Thank you for being part of the segment. Aditi, apart from holding a crucial leadership position in DSP MG you are very passionate about protecting ‘wildlife’. Take us through this journey, how it started, and it helps you keep mentally fit?
Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by wildlife. We used to eagerly watch National Geographic and any animal videos we could find.
Back then, access to such content was limited, requiring videotapes. I have grown up watching movies like “Hatari!”. One of my most memorable experiences was when, at the age of 10, my parents finally took me to Africa.
This trip ignited our passion for wildlife. As we explored the Indian jungles, accommodations were scarce, so we often stayed in government guest houses with special permission.
Despite visiting numerous sanctuaries throughout the 90s, it took me a decade to spot my first tiger in the year 2000 in “Kanha”. This encounter made me realize the significance of this majestic animal.
Gradually, as the infrastructure improved, we began exploring more parks, particularly “Ranthambore”. However, the scarcity of suitable accommodations persisted.
Undeterred, we continued our wildlife adventures, both in India and Africa. In 2002, we established the Wildlife Conservation Trust, initially making small donations to smaller organizations.Recognizing the absence of a large-scale NGO dedicated to wildlife conservation, we hired Anish Andheria, who now leads the trust. Today, we have approximately 90 staff members and many field workers in Nagpur. Our collaboration with the government has been instrumental in safeguarding tigers and other species.
Our conservation efforts extend beyond tigers, encompassing animals such as the Gangetic dolphin, Eurasian otter, and pangolins. We work on various projects, addressing road kills, which pose a significant threat to tigers.
The Wildlife Conservation Trust remains an integral part of my work as a trustee. I derive immense satisfaction from protecting India's forests and ensuring that future generations can marvel at these magnificent creatures.
At DSP, we organize excursions to forests and incorporate wildlife conservation into our company culture. By immersing our employees in nature, they come to appreciate the importance of preserving these animals and understand why our family and DSP are dedicated to this cause.
How much time do you dedicate on a weekly/monthly basis to these initiatives? I am sure these initiates also act as great stress relievers and give a different perspective to life.
I am dedicated to investing a significant amount of time each week, ranging from five to ten hours or sometimes even up to 20 hours.
Occasionally, when I decide to embark on a weekend safari within India, exploring the projects undertaken by WCT, the time commitment increases further.
Additionally, I serve on the board of Dasra, a non-profit organization that facilitates the scaling and strategic enhancement of other non-profits.
Through Dasra, I engage in meaningful conversations with philanthropists, seeking ways to optimize their giving in a more efficient and strategic manner.
You also lead financial wellness initiatives at DSP MF. How Winvestor, a special initiative aimed at empowering women, is making an impact on society? What is the kind of response you have received? Have you seen the number of women investors rise after COVID?
Since 2011, we have been working on Winvestor, which has sparked an increase in conversations about women in the workplace.
It was clear that we lacked not only female investment managers but also women who made their own investment decisions.
My aim was to motivate women to take control of their investments, which required building a community of women advisors, and asset management companies, and amplifying our voice through the media.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant change. Women and investing have become prominent topics, both in India and abroad.
We initiated the Winvestor Program, which focuses on financial wellness and has reached thousands of women employees in various companies.
We talked to employees in different companies, and we've gone from over 150 companies now to almost 200. We've talked to 40,000 women employees focused on what they should be doing with their money, and what options they have, and these are salaried women, we catch them young.
We also conduct investor education programs and we are delighted that the government has introduced incentives for mutual fund distributors who on-board new female investors.
Additionally, DSP offers a specialized helpline for women to address their concerns and provide support. Society has responded positively, largely due to the increased visibility in the media, which aligns with our initial objectives.
Apart from Wildlife initiatives do you also follow any meditation or exercise regime on a weekly/monthly basis? Any programs you have attended recently?
I exercise regularly, usually five to six days a week, alternating between yoga and strength-building with cardio. Yoga involves breathing and meditation, which I find beneficial.
I enjoy attending in-person meditations with Guruji at the Art of Living ashram in Bangalore or Bombay. Once, he was even there on my birthday, and it was a special experience to meditate with him alongside my family.
Although I don't meditate enough on my own, I also attended a Geeta class for years, which was meditative in itself. I approach it from a spiritual perspective, not a religious one.
Besides meditation and practice, acquiring the right knowledge is important. Serving others through philanthropy is also significant, even if it doesn't immediately bring profit.
Lastly, listening to good music adds to the experience. Overall, I strive to incorporate seva (service), satsang (good company), knowledge, and sadhna (meditation and practice) into my life in various ways.
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