A day in the life: Nalin Chandna, CEO, National Gas Company

Story Gautam Viswanathan & Madiha Asif

If you’re a working professional, trying to find the perfect work-life balance can be a battle. However, while the feeling of striking just the right amount of stability between the two is one that may be hard to achieve, it is sometimes even harder to describe. For that reason, T Magazine decided to reach out to Nalin Chandna, the CEO of National Gas Company, who has some valuable advice for people to get the most out of both their professional and personal lives.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company?
I am a finance professional and I came to Oman in 2010. I will be completing 10 years in a couple of months now. I was leading the finance function at the National Gas Company and gradually as opportunities came in, I got to the helm of affairs. Besides Oman, we have operations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, which was an acquisition that was done during my tenure in 2012.

With all your global operations happening, do you find time to spend with your family?
Yes, I do. In fact, it has been a conscious and deliberate effort. I remember, even when I had come to Oman I was struggling to find time for family and the things I am passionate about. So, I did some brainstorming and self-introspection to see where my time was going, because all the successful people in the world have got only 24 hours in a day. I started waking up early to find time for myself, my health and spiritual self, and also office work.

Are you pulled into work on the weekends often?
Yes, especially on Fridays as our Malaysia and India operations are working. It is a connected world and we are connected 24/7. This keeps happening so, unless there is an emergency, I try to plan it out and kind of get into blocks of time. For example, if I have got to make two calls, one to Malaysia and one to India, I would like to do it back to back, so that at least I have chunks of time available.

When you are at work, do your kids ask when you are coming home? Does that happen often?
Not really, unless I am travelling. I make sure my evenings are spent with my family. My son is now studying in the UK so whenever he is here I try not to travel on those days. I spend time with my family more often than I used to before.

You’ve mentioned quite a lot of things you do. What is that you enjoy the most?
Family is probably the single biggest priority that we should look at. There is a need to give equal importance to work as well, but even if I am in a meeting, there are three phone calls I would never miss – my wife and my children, my parents, and my board members. These people would only call me at work in case of an emergency, knowing I am in office. Those things have been inculcated into my life.

Any dream destination to which you want to go or have taken your family in the past?
The best holiday that we have had was a couple of years ago, when the entire family, including both my kids and wife, went to the Maldives. It was a memorable holiday for all of us. I have also never been to South America, so I think that is one thing I really want to do.

What are the life lessons that you have learnt from your job?
What I consider very, very important is keeping close contact with your people. Today’s CEO is not just sitting in the corner office – you have to mingle with your people, you have to talk to your people, you have to continuously go down to the roots. So I keep visiting my locations, despite the time constraints. I make it a point to visit at least the major plants every quarter.
Another thing I do on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis is that I allocate ‘reflection time’ for myself. Every day before sleeping, I spend 15 minutes reflecting on how the day went, what were my tasks for the day, how much we could complete, the next day’s priority, the next day’s calendar – that is something I do on a daily basis.

What is that you enjoy doing the most with your family?
There is no particular thing. We just try to have dinner together without the phones, so that at least we talk to each other, just casually chat and ask how the day went by. We ask each other what good happened during the day, and try asking questions which don’t have a simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer so that we have a real conversation.