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Run, eat, work, sleep, repeat

Bhupender Singh is a corporate success story. Far from leading a sedentary life, he finds that hitting the tracks physically transformed his life and helps to keep him going 

BHUPENDER SINGH is the President and CEO of Teleperformance DIBS, the Digital and Integrated Business Division of Teleperformance, a leading business services company with over 330,000 staff across 80 countries It is listed on Euronext in Paris with a market cap of over $12bn. He also, holds a global remit as the President of Group Transformation. He is an IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad gold medallist and has achieved a lot in life at a young age. He epitomises a successful corporate honcho–tall–6 feet slender, sharp and someone who means business, is always part of the solution and a trouble shooter.

He has a talisman: running. He has always set high goals for himself and worked hard to achieve them, but no situation in his life has made him busy enough to shun his daily run. Since the age of 10, running has been a constant companion. It is integral to his being, an activity that keeps him going.

Singh leads a busy life that involves traveling all over the world accounting for nearly 200 days of the year, but he never really stops running. “I manage to travel so much because I run, and not the other way around – “I manage to run despite traveling so much,” he clarifies with a smile. A man of mild manners, he is precise in his ideas. “Running has infused in me a certain focus, perseverance and discipline,” he adds.

Apart from discipline, running has instilled in him “guts”. “If you find an idea good enough to start working on then it is also good enough to be taken to its logical conclusion,” he says. “Perseverance” is the word he uses to emphasise the fact that he isn’t a quitter. When people find reasons to make a quick exit from a tricky situation, he gives himself “more time”, and invariably things work out.

This is a conservative estimate of his perseverance. On an average, he runs 8 kilometres five days a week, for the past 30 years now and would have easily logged in an excess of 75,000 km, which is nearly equivalent to circling around the planet Earth  twice.

In the past , the longest phase he didn’t run was for two weeks when he was trekking  in the higher reaches of the Himalayas. He runs at speeds higher than 12 km per hour covering 8 km in less than 45 minutes. On weekends, he gets a little adventurous. He has run many marathons and half marathons clocking 76 minutes to finish a 21-km race—his personal best–which is just a few minutes longer than the national record. “But at that level every second counts,” he clarifies.

Not competitive as far as running is concerned, nor is he training himself for a race. It’s an activity that he enjoys. In retrospect, God’s gift that transformed his life.

Singh explains in his candid way that he was an average student when he started running in school more out of compulsion after he joined Motilal Nehru School of Sports, Rai. Within a couple of years, he started to enjoy running and his life began to change. “In class XII, I was amongst the top two. When I had joined the school, I was amongst the bottom two.”

Singh hails from a middle-class family from Haryana and is married with two beautiful children. He designed his own house in Gurgaon, some eleven years ago. A clean, airy space, flooded with natural light, his double storey house is organised and uncluttered, user-friendly and furnished with simple yet strong teak-wood furniture indicative of his own personality.

“My source of energy is internal,” he says. So, while he excelled in academics at India’s top technology and managerial schools, he never stopped running. He was not an outgoing extrovert kind of a person, but peers remember him as a runner.  When they meet after years, the first question his college mates ask him is “Are you still running?” Prophetically some described him ‘lambi race ka ghoda (a horse fit to run for a long time, long distances)’.

His looks haven’t changed much in the past three decades, at least his weight hasn’t changed—it hovers in the range of 72-75 kg. And he runs as well as he’d done in the past. If you press him for an answer as to how age has affected his running? He ponders for a while  and says, “I realise, perhaps, I’m a shade slower…” And after all these years, he concedes, still “the most difficult part is to get started.” It’s not easy to get out of the bed and the first few minutes are difficult, but then, you soon, enter into a “rhythm” and then its poetry.

He has followed the lives of many athletes who have inspired him but makes a special mention of the legendary English athlete Roger Gilbert Bannister, also a neurologist, who for the first time ran a mile in less than 4 minutes. Singh was in London part of Cendant’s Strategy and M&A team, his remit encompassed a business spanning 38 countries in Europe, Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

”For two years when  my wife, Nisha, was pursuing her studies in the London Business School I lived near St. John’s Wood and ran in the Paddington Recreation Ground where, I was told, Bannister used to train.” This simple fact added   joy to his running.

Talking of legends, Singh says, “They were enjoying what they were doing”. To ask him ‘Why do you run?’ is like posing an existential question ‘Why do people breathe?’ He paraphrases an obvious reply. “It brings a certain simplicity and clarity in my thinking,” he then pauses to smile, and adds, “I run because I want to enjoy life–eat and drink.”                      ■