9 Questions With ‘The Apprentice’ Advisor Niharika Singh

Jun 11, 2020

Niharika Singh is ready to be the eyes and ears for ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

The 31-year-old executive will serve as one of Sityodtong’s advisors for The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition, and there may not be anyone more qualified for the post.

Singh, who graduated from the Indian Institute of Management with an MBA in 2012, has held a slew of leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and Treebo Hotels.

In June 2019, the India native moved to Singapore to become the Head of Product for ONE Championship, where she has continued to blossom in her business career.

Singh has worked very closely with Sityodtong to push the company’s initiatives forward, so she has a thorough understanding of what he’s looking for in an apprentice.

That firsthand knowledge, combined with her dazzling background, makes Singh a perfect fit for the advisor role, and she will be paying close attention to all 16 contestants on the show.

In this exclusive interview, Singh talks about her relationship with Sityodtong, what fans should expect from The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition, and much more.

ONE Championship: How did you find your way to ONE Championship, and what attracted you to the company? 

Niharika Singh: Before I respond, I need to start with an assertion – while the answer to this question might seem made up because of the outrageously unbelievable nature of it, I assure you it is 100 percent true.

I found ONE Championship purely by chance. I was introduced, very casually, by a common friend and I think it was “love at first sight” for me. In fact, I think what ensued was everything you would expect from your standard rom-com on Netflix, except that the object of my infatuation happened to be a company. There were 5 am calls, there was obsession and the inability-to-stop-thinking-about-it syndrome, and there were impulsive flights to foreign lands taken on a whim. It was truly serendipitous.

I think I knew this was the company I wanted to be a part of the moment I was introduced. And while there are a lot of things that are very attractive about ONE Championship – including the stellar global team, the undeniably cool industry, and the winning business model – the part that attracted me the most was the core vision of the company.

I am a huge believer in the power of hope and dreams, without which life holds no meaning for me. And then, the values ONE Championship propagates really hit home, especially resilience.

ONE: What was your impression of Chatri when you first met him?  

NS: I first met Chatri for a dinner in Manila, where he had invited me to attend one of the ONE Championship events.

The first thing that struck me about him was that he is a person who hasn’t lost touch with his heart. We spoke about so many diverse things, ranging from business to travel, to books, to spirituality, to raw life stories. Watching someone who has been so successful in business, and who leads a huge corporate empire today, speak from his heart was very impressive, and also quite heart-warming.

The other thing that stood out for me that evening was that here was a man who could, and did, walk the talk. And it became clear to me that the reason the vision and values of the company had so attracted me was that they had been written with true sincerity and were lived and celebrated each day.

ONE: So what is it like to work with him now? 

NS: If you are going to be working with Chatri, you should prepare for the intensity quotient in your life to be upped several notches – and it’s definitely not recommended for the weak-hearted!

Working with him has been a very rewarding experience for me. It’s been everything I had hoped for, and more. For someone who is so busy doing so many things and being in so many places at the same time, he has really surprised me by how seriously he takes his role as a mentor, and how much time and effort he is willing to put into it. I have learned so much under his mentorship and he has also made me realize a lot of things about myself.

ONE: What are the biggest things you have learned from working alongside Chatri?

NS: I have learned a lot from Chatri. A lot. Working closely with him and reporting directly to him has provided me a window into how his mind operates and how he leads.

He has taught me how words can be such a powerful tool in mobilizing the masses and how having clarity of thought and communication can define the trajectory for a company. He has taught me how to operate under immense pressure and yet make the right decisions. He has taught me that when you genuinely believe in and respect your company values, they can be your true guiding lights, even when you are making the toughest business calls. In fact, especially when you are making the toughest business calls.

Most importantly, he has taught me how to value time, even more than I already did. He is such a busy man and yet he never lets that come in the way of business execution. Working with him has allowed me to further sharpen my communication skills and execution skills, enabling me to convey all important information and make all important business decisions even in crunch time.

ONE: When he first mentioned The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition to you and asked you to be one of his advisors, what was your first thought?

NS: My first thought, honestly, was that he was kidding. I am not particularly fond of the camera and I was knee-deep in the responsibilities of my role as Head of Product. So, in a nutshell, I thought the entire proposition was totally crazy! But that precisely is also the reason why I chose to pursue the opportunity, and I said “yes” within seconds.

ONE: There are going to be a lot of people trying to win this show. In your opinion, what makes a good apprentice and what will you be looking for in a promising contestant?  

NS: The apprentice will get to work directly with Chatri, and that is a phenomenal opportunity. But that also means the bar is going to be extremely high and the expectations almost unrealistic!

The apprentice needs to have all the traits that we already look for when we hire – the right values, the PHD factor (poor, hungry, and determined – in spirit), and the will to win. We look for dreamers who also have the fire in their bellies to make their dreams come true.

In addition, since the apprentice will be working directly with Chatri, there will be an emphasis on three traits. The first is resilience. It’s not easy to work for Chatri, I assure you, so you better have had a lot of endurance training in the past. The second is fearlessness. Chatri doesn’t like yes-men or yes-women around him. You need to be able to speak up for what is right. And finally, the third is the near-impossible trait of possessing a high functioning left brain and right brain, and a good proportion of IQ and EQ.

ONE: ONE Championship is a big advocate of gender equality, but that is not necessarily the case among businesses worldwide. Do you believe this is a good platform to battle for that cause?

NS: ONE Championship is a big advocate not just of gender equality, but of equality of all human beings. We believe in the power of diversity and you will see proof of that even as you look around amongst the employees at ONE. We do not discriminate. Period. And we stand strongly against any kind of discrimination. The only thing that matters to us is the strength of the mind, body, and spirit.

For The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition too, we are looking for the strongest mind, the fittest body, and the most unbreakable spirit. Color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any external privileges have never mattered to us as a company, and it won’t matter on the show either.

ONE: This will undoubtedly up your profile internationally. What message would you like to promote to people that might see you on the show?

NS: The message I would like to convey to the applicants, the final 16 candidates, and all our fans – irrespective of whether you watch the show or not, though I sincerely hope you do – is that we, as individuals, always have a choice. Even when circumstances seem completely out of our control, we still retain the choice of how we respond to those circumstances. We make thousands of decisions each day and each decision stems from a choice too. I think this knowledge that we have a choice can be very empowering.

And finally, our mind, our heart, and our gut are the three most effective, and sometimes, the only tools we have to help us make our choices. So, value them, nourish them, and most importantly, trust them.

ONE: Finally, what else can you tell us about The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition?

NS: Well, I can tell you that we are already in the middle of shortlisting candidates and the quality of the applicants tells me that this show is going to break all records! In fact, Chatri is personally involved in the shortlisting too, and hence, quick tip for all you applicants – make sure to review your submission at least 10 times because attention to detail is going to matter!

Also, don’t forget to keep training that mind and body. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but this competition is going to be brutal and will test you beyond your limits.

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