Day in the life: Dubai branding agency boss says brief meetings get work done

Gaurav Sinha, chief executive of the branding agency Insignia Worldwide, has a very cerebral approach to the working day - spending his early morning reading and meditating to ensure his brain is tuned into the world.

Gaurav Sinha is chief executive of Insignia Worldwide, a branding agency specialising in travel and hospitality, with clients including Dubai Tourism. Satish Kumar / The National
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Gaurav Sinha may have an in-depth, philosophical approach to work – but he says it is short and snappy meetings that make his business thrive. The Dubai resident is chief executive of Insignia Worldwide, a branding agency specialising in travel and hospitality, with clients including Dubai Tourism and others as far afield as Namibia and Miami. He founded the business with his wife Lucy 12 years ago and the couple now have three children ages seven, six and three. Insignia – which focuses on branding, advertising, PR and interior design – has “grown over 10 per cent year on year, even through the recession,” says Mr Sinha, 43. Here the Indian describes his cerebral approach to the working day.


After waking, there will be some reading time to make sure that my antennae are tuned in to the world, with a fairly rapid breakfast, and 10 minutes of meditation. There’s a very philosophical point of view for me about mornings. I believe that success comes not by what you do between 9am and 6pm, but how you think between 6am and 9am. There’s a certain singularity, a certain clarity that exists in the morning which is very empowering. Because the rest of the day is usually dealing with complexities and chaos.


I get whisked away by my driver to the office. I meet my senior management team to get a sense of how the business is performing. And it’s followed by the consumption of copious amounts of caffeine.


I will maybe do half an hour of emails. In a very peculiar way, I take a lot of pride in maintaining an extremely efficient inbox email-management policy. So I make sure that there are no unread emails by 11am.


It’s time for creative reviews on key campaigns and strategic projects. It could be looking at the results of a new photo shoot that’s just happened, or new creative that’s been developed by the studio and art directors. About 50 to 60 per cent of our business is from the GCC and the rest is from other international markets. Dubai is going from strength to strength … there is a significant number of new hotel rooms in the pipeline that are coming online for 2020. So there is a lot of work to be done.


A working lunch with a couple of my senior directors. I’m quite lucky to have a fairly innovative personal office space, where we have a breakfast bar. So we congregate around that. It’s usually a quick Chinese takeaway, or some kind of healthy sandwich. That lunch meeting is usually followed by a very vibrant discussion on a particular philosophical issue surrounding brand management.


Afternoons is when I’ll write. It could be articulating a creative strategy. A lot of what I write is looking at trends and evaluating how they impact businesses tomorrow, not today. I have a couple of allergies, and one is what I call ‘servile industrial luxury’, where a lot of large legacy brands have made the guest experience so formulaic and predictable that it has diluted engagement. So I think there is a lot of work that yet remains to be done in the hospitality space. Progressive luxury is defined by iconic service, not iconic properties.


I meet my interior-design team. We will do a stand-up meeting, which I call a scrum, that lasts no longer than 20 minutes. Having meetings for the sake of meetings is the fastest way to kill your business. People think in blocks of 30 minutes and 60 minutes. So if you think like that you get two meetings in an hour. But the fact that we work to a 20-minute schedule, we might get three. Within my organisation, my whole objective is to make myself redundant by making sure I have efficient people who know what they are doing. So, in principle, I can be left alone to do the things that I am passionate about – solving slightly bigger problems at a more international level.


I have the propensity to burn water, so I’m lucky enough that my wife cooks the family meals. Dinner is a very important time for me to catch up on my wife’s day’s activities and spend some quality time together. I’m a big believer that great rituals create great relationships. Certain things in life should be non-­negotiable.


I’ve got probably five books on the go at the same time. There will always be some book on philosophy that is never too far away from my hands. I’m currently going through a nice phase of reading biographies – I’m reading Nelson Mandela’s. Then I go to sleep at 11.30pm.

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