Fit to Lead | Nazara Tech’s Nitish Mittersain: ‘Israeli Krav Maga is physically challenging & mentally stimulating’
Fitness goal for 2024: To lose body fat and increase muscle mass, improve stamina with HIIT and cardio.
As a seven-year-old in the early 1980s, Nitish Mittersain was coding games in a room full of computers and dial-up internet modems in suburban Mumbai. A business-minded and ambitious Mumbaikar, he had already started Nazara with flash-based India-specific games such as Housie, Bingo and cricket as a 17-year-old and formally registered the company two years later. Today, Nazara is India’s only listed gaming company and he is the company’s founder-CEO and joint managing director.
A son of a textile businessman and a survivor of the early 2000s dot-com bubble burst, Mittersain’s life was a full roller-coaster ride even before he was of drinking age. His father’s successful textiles business forced him to deal with Mumbai’s dreaded underworld at least once and the dot-com burst left him with a debt of Rs 3 crore. “I paid off the debt in the proper way and came out of it stronger with plenty of learnings,” recalls the 44-year-old south Bombay resident. His love for computers brought him a Bollywood mentor in the late Shammi Kapoor, who was equally enthusiastic about computers and the internet. “He lived across the road from us and had many computers, including four-five Macintosh units. It was a dream come true for a young computer enthusiast like me and we would spend time discussing a lot of things,” he says of their time together.
Starting a business as early as he did and his love for all things computers meant he didn’t pay much attention to his health. By the time he and his wife were expecting their first child, he realised he needed to do something about his health and fitness. “Being overweight and having a family history of heart disease and diabetes made me realise the importance of being fit. When my son was born, it became clear that I needed to prioritise my health to be there for him as he grows up. This motivated me to make serious changes to my diet and exercise routine about 10 years ago,” he says, as his younger one comes into his office with a quick query.
As a business leader, Mittersain, now 44, is relaxed and data-driven, patient and attentive. Having learnt first-hand the benefits of an active life, he encourages his colleagues to pay attention to their health in order to perform well in their professional lives.
Nitish Mittersain does a combination of weightlifting and HIIT cardio at the gym.
Your fitness routine…
I hit the gym three-four times a week and do a combination of weightlifting and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) cardio. I go for a walk after dinner to ensure I get at least 10,000 steps in daily. I also maintain a disciplined diet and eat dinner around 7 pm to complement my fitness programme.
Favourite fitness activity…
Weightlifting. I also like Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art. I find Krav Maga both physically challenging and mentally stimulating.
The toughest has to be heavy weightlifting, especially “leg days”. I have a love-hate relationship with those particular exercises because they require a lot of strength and it could become difficult to be consistent with these routines.
The new normal for you…
Post-COVID work is quite hybrid for us. I wake up at 6 am to help my children get ready for school and then I tackle all work-related emails from 7 to 8 am. Then I go to the gym and I'm in office by 10 am. I finish my workday by 6 pm. Evenings are centred around an early dinner and quality time with my children from 7 to 9 pm. I take a refreshing walk, usually around 9 pm and after that, catch up with the follow-up work for an hour before calling it a day with a good book.
Has your fitness routine helped you navigate the uncertainties of the recent times?
With the constant overflow of information and high-stress lives, a structured fitness routine is important for maintaining both mental and physical well-being. It provides the necessary energy to manage the various demands of daily life.
The one change you would encourage your teammates to make to deal with the challenges of the current times?
I would encourage my teammates to prioritise exercise and fitness in their lives. A healthy body fosters a healthy mind, which, in turn, enables us to excel in our work and balance our familial responsibilities effectively.
Leadership lessons in your fitness journey…
My fitness journey has taught me how to avoid procrastination, instilled discipline in my dietary habits and reinforced the importance of consistency.
What impact does the image of a ‘fit leader’ have on a team?
I hope it gives my team encouragement. It signifies the importance of health serving as an example of commitment and discipline.
Has being fit helped you become a better leader and a better version of yourself?
Absolutely. Being fit has provided me with boundless energy and it allows me to focus on both work and family without succumbing to fatigue and exhaustion.
Your leadership style…
Relaxed, focused, and data-driven. To encapsulate it, I often turn to the words of Muhammad Ali: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
On work-life balance…
My fitness routine plays a pivotal role in striking a work-life balance. It provides me with more energy, reduces fatigue, and fosters a more positive outlook. I also play the saxophone, which is a great breathing exercise, as well as a meditative activity.
Goals and challenges for this year…
Physically, I aim to lose body fat and increase muscle mass, improve stamina with HIIT and cardio. Workwise, my goal is to continue driving Nazara to become a prominent Indian gaming company with global recognition.