Corporate Management - RX Indian ethos
by Cherian P. Tekkeveettil
Even the most spiritual businessmen would find it hard to bring spirituality into the boardroom, so synonymous is business with sharp practices. G. Narayana, however, is the living proof that such a combination is not just compatible, it's superlative. He is the Executive Chairman of Excel Industries, a company that manufactures agrochemicals, industrial chemicals and pesticides. A committed spiritual practitioner, he's known for his ability to motivate people to get the best out of them. This is done with a kindness that earns him the respect of his employees and acquaintances. At Excel, people refer to him as Narayan Guruji.
Warm, exuberant and disarmingly humble, Narayana transcends the persona of the boardroom executive. In fact, he has made the Board an object of worship with a philosophy of management that integrates the scientific principles of the West with the profound thought of Indian scriptures. Narayana elaborates on how his spiritual journey began. "At that time, I had started my own data processing company called Procon. But by 1985, I had begun facing some professional difficulties. I had great energy but also a lot of anger and a big ego. My life had reached a dead-end. My company became unviable.
"One evening, somebody put the Gita in my hand. I opened it and a particular phrase made an impression on me. I decided to do Gita yoga for 18 days-just fasting and meditating on the Gita. When I did this, the gates opened. I found Godů Since then, whenever I've had a problem, a readymade solution has dropped into my mind."
God, he says, is Groups, Organization and Direction. He forms groups of people and motivates them to create a particular result. This collective group energy works wonders. When Excel had problems in 1987, he was called in. "When I came to Excel, I formed groups. There are groups at corporate, operational, general manager and shop-floor level. Decisions are taken together. Within six months, there was a turnaround. From 1989 to 1997, the growth has been fantastic. We grew from Rs. 400 million to Rs 4,180 million. In this set-up, the managers learn more about each other's functions and become more well rounded.
Narayana elaborates: "A corporation has a personality. Spirituality emphasises that the universe itself is a person, Purusha-Vishwam-Vishnu. Similarly, a corporation is a vibrating, collective living being. The shareholders are Paramatma (Supreme Self) and the Board is the Antaratma (Inner Self).
"The Board," he explains, "is the mini-cosmos representing the shareholders. It is important to give highest respect to the Board. The Board members are selected considering their potential to contribute to the company in terms of knowledge, values and ability to pinpoint weaknesses. We practice e-quality. All members are treated with equal respect."
Given this standard of respect they aspire to, it's obvious that the company has to embody high ethical standards in its dealings. He expresses this in managerial terms: Ethics creates the Energy, which creates Excellence, which builds the Economy without disturbing the Ecology. Excel Industries was recently awarded the 'Ethics in Good Business' award by the Punjab, Haryana and Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, India.
When asked how his company treats the environment in the tricky business of making pesticides, he replies: "We know that the excess use of pesticides is dangerous. We practice something called Integrated Crop Management. We recycle municipal organic waste to create a product called Celrich, which we combine with pesticides. This ensures that the land is not eroded and there's no pollution.
Narayana also believes in service as an end in itself. 'Take care of people and people will take care of you' is his motto. Accordingly, Excel trains voluntary workers who are active in many parts of India. When a cyclone devastated Orissa, India, in October 1999, 30 volunteers from Excel camped in severely affected regions, providing disinfection, sanitation and water purification services. They also provided food, shelter and medical assistance to about 140 villages.
In the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, Excel volunteers work in rural development and watershed management. The idea is to train people and make them self-sufficient.
Since all social development has to be accompanied by personal transformation, Narayana works tirelessly towards this end. His personal involvement in the lives of other people has led to the spiritual transformation of nearly 100 managers. He is involved in the movement called Indian Ethos, which strives to bring values found in the scriptures into modern management. Through his association with the Ramakrishna Mission, India, Ahmedabad Management Association, India and other bodies, he works to propagate the ideas of this movement. He has written many books that highlight these values.
Given his direct application of spiritual principles in management, he was invited to speak at Vision 2000, a conference held at Washington and Chicago in 1993 to commemorate Swami Vivekanand's speech at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893.
Clearly, the company he heads embodies the values he holds so dear to his heart. " I know that my God will continue with me as long as I serve others," he says with a smile.
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