Vikas Shah MBE has spoken of the moment he took a risk by revealing his battle with depression.

The CEO of Swiscot Group, a textiles and commodities trading business, started his first business aged just 14. Now in his early 40s, he 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. 

He was awarded an MBE for services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty’s the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours list.

Shah was speaking at a business breakfast a decade ago when he was asked about the hardest aspects of being an entrepreneur – and feared that his spontaneous response would come back to haunt him.

“I was feeling pretty anxious that day. I was like, you know what? Forget it. I’m going to just be honest and say ‘this decade of depression, to be honest’,” he tells the Doing the Opposite Business Disruptors podcast, hosted by Cloudfm entrepreneur Jeff Dewing.

“You could have heard a pin drop in the room. Even a decade ago, the culture of business was still: ‘You don’t admit it, you’ve got to show strength.’

“There was a very real consequence that it could have dramatically reduced my credibility.”


Later, Shah would tell a BusinessCloud breakfast that he would make it law to include mental health first aid in business first aid at work policy, and speak at length about his own mental health.

But of that original moment, he says: “The pivot then was: now the cat’s out of the bag. What do I do? How can I own that conversation and adapt? 

“It was interesting because there’s an extent to which as a business owner, you’re in a position where you can take a risk and be truthful. But you also can’t be scared of consequences when it comes to the truth. 

“It could have been the case that the business scene, let’s say, would’ve been like, ‘oh, well, you know, he’s probably not fit to lead if he’s like that’. 

“But I remember that day I got a message on LinkedIn from someone who was sat in the room, and their brother had tried to take their own life the previous week. They were really glad that somebody had talked about it. 

“If anything, being really open about it and being more truthful about who you are and what you’re going through makes people trust you more because there isn’t a skeleton in the closet then. Once the skeleton’s out of the closet, you don’t need to be scared of it anymore.”

Find episodes of ‘Doing the Opposite Business Disruptors’ podcast here

Shah’s 2021 book Thought Economics features interviews with people shaping the world, including conversations with Nobel Prize winners, business leaders, politicians, artists and Olympians. 

He says there is a misconception about what motivates leaders in the world of business.

“Obviously businesses have to make money, but I’ve yet to meet someone in that world who made money because they set out to make money,” he explains. “Most of the time they set out to build something because they were interested in it, and maybe the timing was right or the idea was really unique – and it made money. 

“When I’m speaking to students, I’ll often say to them: ‘If you want to make money, go work for an investment bank.’ 

“Creating something [with a business] is like science and art combined: only a tiny, tiny number of artists ever go on to make big money, and the same is true in business. 

“Finding that purpose is so important because if your purpose in life is to make money when you embark on this journey of entrepreneurship, you might be very disappointed.”

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