When tragedy hits, it often hits hard. Azran Osman-Rani, former AirAsia X and iflix CEO, made headlines in May 2018 when he was hit by a car while cycling. What was a routine trip home became a living nightmare. He sustained major injuries and was hospitalised for a week.
In his upcoming book, 30 Days and 30 Years, he recounts his lightbulb moment while bedridden. “I discovered a powerful purpose. I may not be able to change the circumstances that happen to me but I’m in full control of how I respond to them. Our lives are like crayons in a box. We can remain a perfect crayon if we stay safely in our box, but we are meant to colour the world. That requires us to go out of the box.”
At the time of the accident, Azran was in the middle of writing his book as well as launching Naluri, his startup health app. The app connects people to healthcare professionals to help them maintain a better mental and physical lifestyle when dealing with chronic illnesses.
“What I learnt from iflix is the power of psychology and behavioural science. If you dig deep enough you find that the problem isn’t just telling people what to do. Oftentimes people know what is good or bad for them, what is holding them back is the motivation to change, the feeling of being overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, the feeling of not being able to cope with conflicting demands in your life.”
His lovely wife Azreen Pharmy, a former Astro news anchor, studied Political Science and International Relations but ended up in media before becoming a full-time mum for ten years. She then undertook a degree and then a Masters in Psychology. She now runs a private practice, Anjung Naluri Sdn Bhd, working primarily with adults, with an interest in women’s health.
Their romance had a rocky start in 1993 at a very intense student conference for Vision 2020. “I was bored at the conference, I tried to impress her but it didn’t work. She thought I was very annoying and arrogant,” Azran recalls with a laugh, but he persisted in asking her for dinner until eventually, she gave in.
Even though she initially found him cocky, when he relaxed over dinner she found herself relaxing too. Twenty-five years later, they’re working, married and have three beautiful kids. “She’s a very confident person, very self-assured, knows what she wants, that’s something important to me,” he says when asked what he loves about her.
In turn, Azreen prizes that he’s a stabilising factor in her life and loves his discipline. “Because I have none, I’m waiting for it to rub off on me. The bigger part of him, I think the essence of who he is, is a serious person, a very intellectual person.” She goes on to describe him as “very intense and direct with his opinions” which juxtaposes with her own personality. “I’m an introvert, he’s the extrovert. He loves talking to big crowds but I’m better with smaller audiences.”
In his book, he talks about needing ‘mirrors’, people who help us reflect on where we are, and bounce our ideas off. Without them, we are more easily stuck in our own thoughts and beliefs and we become less curious and unable to challenge ourselves. “After 20 years, Azreen would know the ins and-outs of my mind, and because she has both familiarity and distance, she is much more ‘objective’ than I am with myself – thus the power.”