Akshay Munjal is a different entrepreneur. The third-generation business tycoon, hailing from the prominent Munjal family, the driving force behind the Hero Group, can in many ways be called the architect of the BML Munjal University of the group. Last year, he made a foray into the burgeoning edtech space by launching his company, Hero Vired. However, beyond the confines of corporate life, the sweet-natured Munjal is an artist at heart – when he’s not overseeing operations at Hero Vired, he likes to dabble in sculpting. The 42-year-old entrepreneur has a particular penchant for clay.
“If you look at sculpture itself, it is one of the oldest forms of art known to mankind. If you look at clay, it is formless. But in the hands of an artist, it can be sculpted into some of the most beautiful objects you can see. It’s just you and the sculpture. There are no external environments, no intermediaries,” says Munjal.
According to him, working with clay is a totally different experience than working with other materials such as wood. “Clay is a very capricious medium. It must be handled with care. If you put too much water in it, it will become soft and soggy. If you don’t put enough water, it will harden and crack. So there’s a beautiful sense of balance that’s needed in handling the clay,” he explains.
Munjal has always had a soft spot for arts and crafts, dating back to his early days in school. It was also at this time that he encountered clay for the first time. “I loved painting, then I discovered oil painting. But you know, when I first encountered clay, all my interest in other art forms was dropped. Clay sculpture, or any other type of sculpture for that matter, is a very three-dimensional pursuit. I really like it,” he says. However, her true love affair with clay didn’t begin until her early thirties, about a decade ago. “I loved clay at school. But, as often happens, I stopped working with it for a long time. Then, when I was in my early thirties, I went back to clay and I haven’t stopped since.
Munjal says one of the key things to remember about clay is that, given its highly temperamental nature, it can be both rewarding and frustrating. “[It’s the] same with a business. There are a thousand things that can go wrong. Working with clay teaches you about balance, [and also] the need to constantly calibrate,” he says. To give an example, he adds, if an early-stage startup behaves like a very mature, legacy organization, there will be a problem. Likewise, the reverse is also true: a very mature and old organization cannot behave like a start-up.
“The main thing is to calibrate. Everything has a natural rhythm. To build something from clay, you need enormous patience. And you can’t start a business without patience either. Like someone rightly said, starting a business is like planting a seed on the edge of a cliff. [and] it will break. It’s the same with clay,” says Munjal.