The hot tub industry often looks to cars to find inspiration for hot tub design. That shouldn’t be too hard for Watkins Wellness’ new executive vice president, Vijaikrishna (VJ) Teenarsipur. In addition to spending 11 years with Watkins’ parent company, Masco, Teenarsipur started his career developing products for Ford and Chrysler, and managed the launch of the Dodge Challenger before he left the automotive industry.
“That’s my favorite car in the world,” Teenarsipur says. “It was a very exciting product to be working on.”
But that experience also left him wanting more of a say in big-picture decisions. “I really missed not being on the business side,” Teenarsipur says. “I was executing someone else’s vision.”
Teenarsipur, who has both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, started working toward his MBA at the University of Michigan in 2008, on the heels of the auto industry’s recession shellacking.
Coming out of his MBA, Teenarsipur joined Masco Corporation, which owns brands like Behr and Kilz paints, Delta faucets, and companies that manufacture rough plumbing products, plastics and advanced coating systems. Teenarsipur started at Delta in 2010, helping launch the company’s B2B e-commerce division.
“It was still the early days of e-commerce,” Teenarsipur says. “We were just beginning to get into it and drive the vision, create the team and department.”
After nine years with Delta, Teenarsipur moved to Kichler lighting to help architect a turnaround, once again with a focus on e-commerce. “As CMO, I had product development, engineering, brand and channel marketing responsibilities,” Teenarsipur say, adding that he learned a lot from the experience.
During his tenure with Masco, Teenarsipur caught the eye of Watkins executives. Late last year, Watkins president Steve Hammock asked Teenarsipur if he would be interested in taking over for Mike Dunn, Watkins’ longtime executive vice president.
“I have known, admired and respected VJ for a very long time,” Hammock says. “His experience is mostly with even larger companies than Watkins Wellness, and he brings with him some skills we will need on the next leg of our growth journey. VJ is a great culture guy. Culture is the reason people like Mike stay with Watkins for 30 years, and we have worked hard to sustain our winning culture as we have grown. VJ is the complete package. He will only add to us.”
The move to Watkins excites Teenarsipur because of both the company culture and the product.
“It reminds me a lot of the automotive products,” he says. “[Hot tubs] are hugely experiential products you can show to your family and friends. [At Watkins] there is this passion around the product. There’s a lot of unbridled honesty and no agenda, which is really good. People have an owner’s mindset, in which case a role like mine becomes easy where you’re playing the supporting role, encouraging people.”
Teenarsipur has spent his first few months at Watkins working closely with Dunn, and remotely meeting as many Watkins team members and dealers as possible. Originally from Bangalore, India, he and his family will move to California from Indianapolis once the school year has finished. With lots of extended family in the area, his wife and son are both ready for this next chapter.
The pandemic has kept Teenarsipur from getting the in-person, in the field discovery of the industry that he prefers. “I can’t wait to visit our customer base,” he says. “That’s high on my list — to hit the field, spend time with customers, see a sales cycle in process, test soaking — experience it in person.”