If you think practising mindfulness is the preserve of the stereotypical hippie, think again.

Vikas Shah MBE has built both a profile and portfolio of some standing since starting his first business aged 14.

The CEO of textiles and commodities trading business Swiscot Group – now in his early 40s – is a venture investor in a number of businesses internationally; a non-executive board member of the UK government’s Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy; and also a non-exec director on the Solicitors Regulation Authority. 

Awarded an MBE for services to Business and the Economy in 2018, his book Thought Economics published three years later featured interviews with people shaping the world – including conversations with Nobel Prize winners, business leaders, politicians, artists and Olympians. 

“If you’re creating something inherently new, unless you keep inspecting to figure out what it is you want – or indeed what it is that you have to offer – you’re not going to win,” he tells the Doing the Opposite Business Disruptors podcast, hosted by Cloudfm entrepreneur Jeff Dewing.

“That is one of the massive advantages of practising things like mindfulness. It’s not about being a hippie.”


Dewing says he encourages staff to spend an hour a week doing nothing, which “makes it okay… they’re not fearful of not being productive”.

Shah agrees. “In the early days of my first business, we did a lot of work on the West Coast of the US – and I was inspired by how much time those entrepreneurs spent having a ‘walking meeting’, or taking time to introspect and be mindful. 

“That’s arguably why they do the job so much better than the rest of us, in many ways.”

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Another key factor may be the surroundings themselves, says Shah. “You need to have enough around you that gives you a consistent sense of inspiration.

“It doesn’t need to be big: it could be a nice piece of art that makes you think; it could be listening to music. We’ve all had that experience where songs or art makes us feel a certain way. 

“This is where places like Portugal are so, so lucky – because all you have to do is go outside and just be. This is why Lisbon is one of the most phenomenal places on the planet.

“Make sure that you have enough around you that keeps you feeling inspired because that will trigger ideas and solve problems.”

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Anyone who follows Shah closely on social media will be aware that he is fond of posting pictures of his cats. 

“There’s an aversion to doing something silly in terms of productivity culture, but that kind of stuff matters. It’s important,” he explains. “It’s one of the reasons why people get so much joy out of pets. 

“The minute you’re interacting with your pet, you have to be in the moment – you are very mindful and present and it’s amazing then how much that gives you – not just joy, but also insights into other parts of your life. 

“So part of it is making sure that we don’t think of things like that as being silly, daft or odd. It’s normal; it’s how humans are. We depend on it.”

He also spoke of the moment he took a risk by revealing his battle with depression.

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