By Nilima Pathak January 2001 Gurcharan Das, Corporate guru, author ‘I started from rock bottom. While in my 20s, I would go around towns carrying a bag like a salesman,’ says Gurcharan Das, the former boss of Procter and Gamble, and a corporate guru. Well, wouldn’t you say that many of us have done just that? ‘But I always knew I would succeed,’ adds Das.So what’s his mantra of success. Das laughs: ‘You need two things: you must have the hunger for success and the desperation to achieve it. It’s as if your life won’t be complete until you succeed. That fundamental discontent has to be there.’ Got it? ‘In those early years, however, I didn’t think in terms of success. My evenings were spent wandering around in bazaars, or watching movies. After all, what else could one do at Satna, Ratlam, Bina or Katni?’ he queries.So he read a lot. Sitting in his bungalow at Jor Bagh in Delhi, India, you observe the range of his library, which is classically English. What else could he be, but a writer? you conclude. ‘The process of reading is taking in, but you only give back when you actually write. So I decided to give back.’ In the process, he first gave us his novel A Fine Family and now India Unbound.He adds: ‘I feel hunger combined with focus brings about energy. Agreed, a lot of people have dreams, but unless they compel themselves, results can’t be achieved. As for me, I always knew I was going to write a novel. It was only a question of time. If you want to do something, find the time and energy for it.’Born in 1946 at Lyallpur in Pakistan, Das spent the better half of his childhood in New York as his father was posted there. A graduate in philosophy from the University of New York, Das was offered the prestigious Harvard Scholarship to pursue his masters. ‘I had no desire to become a philosopher and eventually came back to India,’ he recounts.From a trainee at Procter and Gamble, he rose to become Managing Director of the company and was later appointed manager, worldwide, strategic planning. Having chalked out his life graph, he quit at the age of 50. He’s now a full-time author and has some consultancy assignments with the industry and the government.We quiz him on spiritual principles used in management and business. ‘I think, it’s pure common sense,’ he declares. And elaborates:• One should have clarity of objectives, there shouldn’t be more than three. Make sure they are the right ones. Once you know that, go ahead and execute them single-mindedly. And you must enjoy doing it.• Do not try to do everything yourself. Delegate the jobs and look out of the window. The results will come. That’s how you build institutions. It happens only when you empower others. You may find the other person doing 80 per cent well as compared to yourself. But it’s better because only then will he learn to rise above 80 per cent.• Get quality people. Hire someone in your organization who is better than you are. If you do that, you build a company of giants. If you get people worse than yourself, you build a company of dwarfs.• Has New Age caught up with him? Does he meditate? Das replies: ‘It’s a life of thought and reflection and in that sense I lead a meditative life.’• Not one to give in to stress, he says: ‘Stress and management go together. But having clear objectives removes hindrances. Stress arises very often from negative energies, worrying too much about oneself. And this is where Krishna’s advice comes on nishkama karma. If you act for yourself, do it not for applause or result.’How religious is he? ‘I’m a free spirit—not committed to any ideology or religion. My father was a model human being and a very spiritual person. He was Radhasoami and so is my mother, who still lives at the ashram in Beas near Amritsar, India. I visit her frequently and have great respect for her guru. I am religious in the sense that I wonder about the universe. I don’t believe necessarily that there is a God guiding our life because I see no evidence of that! I believe in the religion of caring for other human beings and having compassion for the poor.’His book India Unbound flows out of that focus. ‘I could say I believe in the religion of man, rather than of God!’Having his own convictions, he says: ‘I believe more in rationality and am a product of European enlightenment of the 18th century. This means a person who believes in a man’s reason—the arbiter. And I trust my reason.’ He also believes that ‘in life, action is more important than thought’.No doubt, the action-oriented man’s motto is—’Just do it!’
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