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Photo: Praveen Bajpai/ Hindustan Times
Photo: Praveen Bajpai/ Hindustan Times

Unless businesses succeed, there will not be any real change on the ground

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on why India faces a disaster if it does not scale up inthe next 10-15 years

Coimbatore: At least 200 entrepreneurs, from family-owned businesses to start-ups, attended the annual Insight: DNA of Success programme at the Coimbatore campus of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation from 26 to 29 November to learn how to “scale up" their businesses and chart future growth from speakers including Infosys Ltd founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, UTV Group founder Ronnie Screwvala and former Kellogg and INSEAD dean Dipak Jain. Mint is a partner of the programme.

In an interview, Sadhguru, who blends eastern mysticism with hard-headed pragmatism, spoke about the need for Indian businesses to grow faster and how politics is disrupting governance. Edited excerpts:

On scaling up

The main reason why we started the programme about four years ago, for SMEs (small and medium enterprises), was to address the need for scaling up. I’m impatient that we aren’t scaling up fast enough. India needs to scale up very quickly now. For me, it is not a question of who is going to make a billion dollars. My thing is (that) 600 million people tonight have not eaten a good dinner. Many have not eaten. If we don’t (work to) change that, I think we have put our humanity on sleeping mode. How long will you put it on a sleeping mode, tell me? You and me, where we are, we will get food and we will eat. But 600 million are not eating properly, every day. Just walk into a village and see—their (people’s) skeletal structure hasn’t grown to its full size. That means they have never eaten properly. Something they are eating, to stay alive. But they have never eaten properly. A farmer has never eaten a meal that’s enough for him to go to the field tomorrow and work. A woman who is pregnant has not eaten enough to deliver a healthy baby. You cannot keep your humanity in a sleeping mode forever. So, the only way you can solve this is that businesses have to succeed. Governments can talk, but unless businesses succeed, there will be no real change on the ground. And a time has come where large masses of people are realizing it is not the successes of your military machines or your popular politics which will bring well-being to you; it is only the successes of the business that will bring well-being to you. This realization is slowly sinking into everybody. So, this needs to happen very soon. Okay, sometime it may happen if we don’t proactively do it, but I would like to see this generation’s suffering go. Sometimes in the future, they may do well, who knows, but in this generation something must happen. Already, since 1947, three generations have passed... if we don’t scale this nation up in the next 10 to 15 years’ time, I think we will, in my opinion, I hope I am wrong, but in my opinion, I think we will... keep spinning in the same place, we will not get anywhere. Because I see many things are at a tipping point. This is the time. Already we are late by 20 years.

On politics

This entire negative thing that’s happening inside the country that everything is going bad is a politically motivated campaign. India is such a complex and diverse country that you are not going to turn this country around in one year. Or 18 months. It’s just ridiculous to even think like that... this is something I’m talking to all the leaders about, to change this, to bring in an amendment, if necessary, in the Constitution. If you look at it, in the last 18 months, we have been in an eternal election mode. Even the prime minister has to campaign, many ministers have to campaign. Because being in a democracy, you can’t help it. Democratic leaders will have to go and campaign. We can have elections once in five years... everything together. Or all the states can come to election somewhere near mid-term, two-and-a-half years after this thing (parliamentary polls). Only problem is that in case state government (assembly) gets dissolved, governor’s rule is possible only for six months. I think something has to be done about that. Because all the time we are in an election mode, where is the time to work? We are in a rhetorical mood, unnatural rhetoric. That’s natural in India. Everybody says whatever they want to say. Now, it is becoming the culture of the land, all the time people are saying whatever they feel like. It’s okay in the last three months before an election—you can say some irresponsible things because you want to beat somebody, but throughout the five years you keep saying it (laughs)... something needs to happen about it... I’m going to talk more about it. I spoke in a conference where some ministers were (present). I said it’s time to change this. We are in an eternal election mode... very bad thing.

On intolerance debate

Somebody wants to keep it up obviously. When they (critics of government) returned the awards, I watched it on TV... each person is giving a different reason as to why they are returning this. It’s not one particular cause for which they are returning (the awards). Now, the word ‘intolerance’ has picked up, but at that time, somebody said for this, somebody said for that (as the reasons for which they were returning the awards). You see, intolerance is there in the society at many levels, it is not a recent happening. You must understand this country itself started with a riot, a massive riot which killed nearly a million people. That’s how we started the country. And we are still having hangovers of that. But at least for the last eight months, there has not been a single major conflagration of any kind.

On democracy

I am not trying to take sides, but I am saying there has been an effort to take India somewhere (in the past 18 months). But some people can’t come to terms with the fact that somebody they don’t like has won the election. What I am saying is that whether I like somebody or I don’t like somebody—that’s not the point. People have elected somebody. Once they have done so, you bow down (to the people’s verdict) and support them for five years. The moment five years are over, you don’t like them, you remove them. If you say no matter what, somebody I don’t like has been elected, I want to remove him—these are the words being used: “we will remove this prime minister"—that means you don’t believe in democracy.

Fundamentally you don’t believe in democracy when you talk about removing a democratically, popularly elected government; may be you don’t like the government, may be you haven’t voted for the government, but it doesn’t matter. The majority have voted for the government, that’s about it. If you don’t respect this, there will be no democracy left. Even once you elect them, for five years you support them, at the end of the five years, let us take them off. We have the choices. But you don’t have a choice every day, you have a choice once in five years. You must understand this.

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