By Bharati Sarkar
If you make a lot of money, you are successful. This definition of being successful is changing, imperceptibly but certainly, with motivational gurus shaping the
future of business management.
Gathering momentum over the past five years, motivational teaching is coming of age in India. Despite being hidden by the cosmic overview of a nation beset with myriad problems, not the least of which is its lack of moral probity, there is a groundswell of educated people seeking answers to deeply personal but universally asked questions. Indian managers are meditating, taking lessons in yoga and learning how to deal with human resources equations in an enlightened manner. Individuals from every walk of life are collecting in classrooms to listen to teachers expound on how to be better human beings, more balanced and less stressed out.
And armed with western management concepts and eastern wisdom mantras, professional ‘gurus’ are taking centerstage. Some conduct workshops, others write books and advertise their products with added brand values. All kinds of people, from CEOs to shopkeepers on dusty highways, business management students and housewives are lapping it up.
Improving Skills and Attitudes
Corporate houses gladly spend large sums of money on motivational workshops where executives down the line relearn management techniques and are taught to become better human beings. Major companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Bank of America, Xerox Business India, Lufthansa, Standard Chartered Bank, Infosys, Airtel, Nestle and thousands of others, large, medium and small-sized, regularly invite motivational teachers to conduct workshops for their management staff. Often, entertainment is combined with education as an added motivator and of course it is all tax deductible, making it a win-win situation for all the players.
Something has been happening to stir up this enormous interest in taking on the challenges of changing human perceptions, both among individuals and in hard-nosed corporate houses. There is the obvious and major impetus of competing with multicultural corporate giants but there is also the nascent feeling that individuals have to improve their worldview and their personal attitude to life in general. In the corporate sector, the scramble to imitate the West, that includes the ubiquitous Japanese management style, may actually have a serious downside. Given our cultural ethos, many Indians cannot really relate to the harsher, foreign management concepts that are being foisted on them.
Arindam Chaudhari, Dean of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), New Delhi and author of a recently published motivational book, believes that ‘the Indian leader and his followers need Indian core values as their touchstone to succeed in the Indian environment.’ Others, who essentially agree with this, add oriental wisdom, including popular stories from our own mythologies, to their teaching modules.
The India Connection
Dr Debashis Chatterjee, considered by Harvard University to be one of the top 15 thought leaders of the world, says that ‘the West is increasingly looking to us to provide solutions to deeper human relationship and development problems faced by them.’ However, Arindam Chaudhari believes that ‘the only honest organizations operating in India are American.’ The highly visible and popular motivational speaker, Shiv Khera said: ‘Core wisdom is universal and no nation or people can claim proprietary rights to it.’
India is now at the crossroads of rediscovering her strong cultural and spiritual values while being unable to let go of the tried and tested methods that made the West materially so successful. Within this flux is the confused individual, tossed around, tested for his staying power and bewildered by the choices thrust on him.
Success has become the new mantra for salvation. Everyone wants to be successful but the concept of success itself is being continually redefined and people want to know what it is that will make them really successful. It is a rare person who knows exactly where he comes from and where he is going, with a clear concept of how to get there but most of us don’t belong in that category until it’s too late to matter.
The Corporate Market
Let us examine the market demand for this extra-dimensional learning. Firstly, there is the straightforward corporate sector need for better functioning, result-oriented performance and strong leadership qualities. This segment has clearly defined goals and charters. Due to the changed context of visible value additions to business learning, corporate houses hire motivational teachers with verifiable track records, usually people who have themselves been successful in the corporate sector in India or abroad. Employees are trained to focus on measurable achievements, better performance, interpersonal and communication skills, time management and so on, all of these being directly relevant to their job performance. This gives the company a psycho-socially, better-adjusted workforce and not surprisingly, it eventually reflects on the bottom line.
The General Public
The second and much larger group of students is made up of average individuals lost in the confusing bylanes of life with a lot of queries in the heart and a great deal of frustration in the soul. Prasant Nayak, a young Oriya engineer, whose private firm in Gurgaon, India, often sends employees to personal development workshops, says: ‘I am handicapped by my medium of education. Despite my dedication to my job and my organization, I seriously lack in some things. One of them is my inability to speak English properly and this becomes a lack of self-confidence in front of others who speak fluent English.’
Some people need reinforcements to their self-esteem and some are trying to cope with their insecurities and problems in dealing with others. Bhavna Arora, a young Indian woman who came from Roorkee to live in Delhi, says: ‘I had a good education and my family is well-to-do but when I got married and came to live here, I really felt lost, almost like a villager. The men and women I have to socialize with are so smart and polished. I want to learn how to be like them.’
With their hearts bent on achieving success, many such people attend workshops and classes without a clear idea of what they really want and it is often during the learning process that they discover hitherto hidden inner dimensions and their latent potential for growth as unique individuals.
With altered student preference, motivational teachers have become facilitators and resource providers instead of traditional lecturers. They provide a service that is well paid for, and the results are overt and often, measurable. All these individuals are good public speakers and some are fired by a missionary zeal, which makes them exciting to listen to and visible role models to emulate. Not only by following what they say but also how they say it. Their self-confidence makes students believe that they too can do it and get there. This is not a mean achievement by any standards.
There are varying degrees of theatrical props and stances that such teachers employ to cut across communication barriers. As Vijay Batra, of ThinkInc., points out: ‘We all sell a form of illusion or even magic.’
Evangelists and motivational speakers alike have successfully and profitably motivated people in the USA for many years. It is estimated that Dale Carnegie, the father of all motivational gurus, is personally responsible for at least 20 per cent of American personal success stories after the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Indian Management Schools
Government sponsored IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta and Lucknow, (and now in Indore and Kochi too) are the top-of-the-line business management schools in India. Some excellent private institutions, such as the FORE School of Management and Symbiosis offer courses to keep students abreast with the latest developments in management thought, techniques and practices. FORE includes classes in Vedic Stress Management that ‘students look forward to with keen interest’, says Seema Sanghi, joint director of the school.
With a swelling number of students opting for management studies, these institutions are able to give more aspiring MBAs an opportunity to try for the big-time management career. It appears that many schools now incorporate Indian value systems, ethical choices and effective management theories based on interpretations of ancient Indian scriptures. Students are being increasingly exposed to a holistic approach with meditation, yoga and prayer included as regular fare. There is an attempt to combine the best of occidental practicality with ancient oriental wisdom.
New Paradigms, Uncertain Frontiers
The ordinary Indian citizen, exposed to the media blitz of titillating products, services, sops and aspirations that leaves the worldly-wise unaffected, is unable to account for the vacuum in his heart and the pain in his soul. What is it that is missing from his life? Why is his life so ordinary? Unlike the proletariat before the Russian revolution, who were have-nots at a very basic level, with a clearly identified target to fight against, the wannabes and have-nots of our times belong to a better-off middle class, caught in a completely different trap. On the one hand, they are taught values that they attempt to live by, but cannot hold on to in real life, on the other hand they are exposed to the glamour and glitter of lifestyles that appear sinful but seem highly desirable. The dilemma they face is that of a hopeful future and an inadequacy of means in getting there. It results in a frustrating dissatisfaction with what is, and a hankering for something, whatever it may be, to bring a radical change in their life.
Besides the several top-of-the-mind motivational gurus who operate clearly at the corporate level adding a few open workshops and seminars to widen their scope of students, there are a number of not so well-known but good teachers all over the country. Colonel Karan Kharb (Turning Point India) conducts workshops for several PSUs and has a small but steady group of students who demand advanced courses in personality development that he conducts in Noida in small, personalized sessions.
Sukhdeepak Malvai founded Intuita India and counsels people to change the way they relate to the world through a program known as the ‘semantic transformational process’. Asit Ghosh, an old hand at this business and his company Tuff Trak International is one of Delhi’s oldest motivational schools. He says: ‘Human training has a profound potential. We conduct ‘doing courses’ not ‘knowing courses’, most of our programs being experiential rather than informational in nature.’
There are private institutions working on human development in India, like Time Manager International (TMI) headquartered in Denmark, whose India director, Uday Chawla says: ‘We are culture change specialists. Management wisdom today can be lost in superfluous jargon. We unravel the core concepts and explain them in simple terms for all to understand.’
Manford Trust is a similar institution started by Anand David and DR Poonam Nijhawan that has been working quietly and effectively for several years around the country.
Landmark Education, of which the Forum is a part, evolved from EST (Erhard Seminar Training) founded by Werner Erhard in the USA. The Forum, active in India, takes a different route, where a leader demolishes all preconceived self-images of a person, including all conditioned behavior.
The Syncate Group conducts personality and leadership development workshops and its promoter Pornthep SriNarula of Thai origin is on a ‘life-changing mission’ to train people to lead lives of integrity, interaction and innovation.
Rajesh Aggarwal’s Rebirth Incorporation gives people an interesting suggestion in their trademark slogan: ‘Life Management is more important than Business Management.’
Another notable institution is the Indian Society for Applied Behavioural Sciences (ISABS). With nine regional centers, ISABS has been around since 1972, actively working on issues related to human behavior, motivation, perceptions and reactions. They conduct widely affordable workshops, training programs and share recent developments in this area through well-attended seminars, meetings and discussions.
On the other hand, there are articulate individuals with a bit of style and money who start schools or conduct motivational workshops. They lecture people on how to be successful, confident, healthy, better speakers, cope with stress, become rich, worry less, and so on. All it takes them is reading a few books on the subject, prepare worksheets and speak to their students with authority. It is not as if no service is rendered or nothing achieved. Some people are quite satisfied with the quality of teaching they receive from such teachers. This is understandable because the average student is not really looking for more.
Some motivational teachers, with their fingers on the public pulse, include meditation, yoga, consciousness-raising and other such items in their bills of fare. Many append quick-fix spiritual enhancement programs for their present-day market value. Teachers, by their very place in our lives, wield a great power over us. It is wise to be choosy about our mentors.
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