Benita Chacko

"Work and life should be synergistic": Google couple Apurva and Vandana Chamaria

In conversation with afaqs! after Apurva joined his wife at the tech company, the couple speak about their career, love and work-life balance.

After a brief stint at Tech Mahindra, Apurva Chamaria joined Google India this month as the head of partnerships solutions, startups and venture capital. His wife Vandana Chamaria heads business, brand and reputation marketing at Google. But this is not the first time that the couple, married for 16 years now, are working together.

In 2003, the couple met as management trainees at the pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare company Ranbaxy in Gurugram (then Gurgaon). Apurva had got a pre-placement offer from the company after his internship, while pursuing an MBA degree. Vandana had also joined the company immediately after completing her MBA.

Just like now, even then, they worked in different departments in Ranbaxy. Apurva focused on international marketing, while Vandana was with the India business. After many lunches together and carpools, they got married in 2005 and moved on to work in different organisations.

It was different things that brought them together. Coming from a traditional Marwari family with fairly traditional values, Vandana was looking for someone who respected her, valued her individuality and believed in equality. She wanted to be with an independent person, with a mind of his own. Those were the things that drew her closer to him.

Apurva Chamaria
Apurva Chamaria

What drew Apurva closer to her was the fact that, as best friends, they didn’t have to agree with each other on everything. At the same time, they respected each other's opinion and learnt from each other. “We make each other better,” he says.

Eighteen years later, working from their Delhi home now, they still try to have lunch together.

Vandana Chamaria
Vandana Chamaria

Vandana has been with the technology giant for close to four years. She looks after business, brand and reputation marketing. “It is a pretty large ambit for Google India. I spent my first 15 years in the industry as a marketer. And now, it is fun being on the other side of the table, trying to market to marketers,” she says.

Apurva’s responsibilities at Google include maximising startups’ potential in contributing to India's economic growth, creating jobs, increasing GDP, and creating a vibrant, dynamic and startup ecosystem in India.

“It's a very exciting role because India is the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world. The Google leadership is fantastic and very committed to India. My objective is to unlock the startup ecosystem’s potential in India and bring the best of Google to them. And hopefully, help create many more unicorns and decacorns,” he reveals.

At Tech Mahindra, he had a global role as the chief of staff to the CEO and MD, and was leading strategic initiatives. With Google, he has moved from the global role to focus on unlocking the economics of startups in India.

Seeing Vandana enjoying her work and having heard good things about the company from her, helped Apurva make the switch to Google. But more importantly, he believes that Google’s core values align with his personal values.

“Google's core values are to respect the user, respect the opportunity and respect each other. And every Googler lives these values every day. It personally aligned with my values, vision and mission in life. That was the deciding factor for me,” he mentions.

"Google's core values personally aligned with my values, vision and mission in life. That was the deciding factor for me."
Apurva Chamaria

For Apurva, the fact that he and Vandana are colleagues once again, still hasn't sunk in. “I have just been here for two weeks. And once work starts, we both are at our personal home offices and just focus on our work. Till now, we haven't been on the same calls, but it will happen soon,” he says.

Prior to Tech Mahindra, he was at RateGain and HCL Technologies, where he was part of the team that set up the organisation's marketing. How did these experiences help him in his current role?

“I've been an entrepreneur even in large companies. Even at Tech Mahindra, I was leading its startup efforts, called Wave 4, around micro-lending, agri-tech and marketing automation. I've also been a startup angel investor in the Indian market for close to seven years. So, I have a very good rapport with most venture capitalists, investors and private equity players. And when you invest your own money, you learn a lot. So, both my experience, and personal and professional life, come into play. All that combines to really help me here,” says Apurva.

Throughout his career, he has worked across categories - retail, consumer products, manufacturing, travel and hospitality, cybersecurity, co-working, mediatech and content. He’s really excited about some categories like e-commerce, agri-tech, SaaS software, media and gaming.

Before joining Google, Vandana had worked at GSK Consumer Healthcare, Yum! Brands and Hero MotoCorp, gaining experience across categories like healthcare, consumer goods, restaurants, and automotive.

As a couple, Apurva and Vandana don’t believe in the concept of work-life balance, and occasionally let work discussions enter their dining table conversations.

“We feel that it should be a very synergistic combination. At times, work stretches and we have to work late nights, early mornings, or even over weekends. But at the same time, if you have to take some time out on a working day and attend to your parents, children or even yourself, you do it. So, work and life should be synergistic, rather than either or,” says Apurva, and Vandana agrees.

Both of them have had a great experience of working in diverse fields and categories. Though they started their careers together, they have had different paths. During this time, they have learnt as much from each other.

Speaking about Apurva, Vandana says, “He's a big picture thinker. His ability to join the dots and see where things will go a decade from now, is incredible. That's always been very inspiring for me and I've tried to learn to become farsighted, build a vision and inspire people. The other thing about him is getting the best out of people. He is the kind of people manager who can truly bring to life what one calls ‘tough love’. He can be tough, yet at the same time, he cares so much about his team that he will do anything for them. These are the two things I learn from him every day.”

"He is the kind of people manager who can truly bring to life what one calls ‘tough love’."
Vandana Chamaria

Apurva says that over the years, he has taken inspiration from Vandana’s sincerity towards work. "She is very detail-oriented, has a 360-degree view and just remains unfrazzled, while juggling multiple priorities, whether it is work or home - always with a smile on."

Beyond work, they love travelling together (the cover picture is from their trip to Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic) and attending live music events. But due to COVID, they have not been able to do much of that. And now, they like to spend their time playing with their 18-month-old daughter Anvi.

“She was born in May last year. The (COVID) pandemic was a tough time. We lost friends and family. But God also gave us Anvi and that was an amazing perspective of creation and recreation,” says Apurva.

When it comes to their daughter, they don’t have segregated roles and responsibilities, but do have areas of expertise. “He is great at storytelling and she loves it when he narrates stories to her. I sit down with books and do things like painting and singing with her,” concludes Vandana.

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