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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Grooming the next generation

The older generation must give the next generation a challenge and an opportunity to create something within what has already been created

When they start, businesses are usually about personal success. Because of a certain volume, it becomes a larger country-wide or world-wide phenomenon, but initially it’s a question of personal success. This is a certain level of drive, a certain projection of what you are. So that success has a personal stamp on it. If you want to peel that stamp off and hand it over to somebody, there are many problems.

There are many things, in the process of building an organization, that can never be taught to another person... which they can only imbibe by being around. There are many small nuances. There’s no perfect way to build or run a business—it is just that it’s working, it’s successful. Anybody who’s built anything successful knows there is no perfect way—it’s a constant juggle. So, particularly businesses which are crafted around a person are very difficult to pass on. It takes a certain amount of effort... years and years of culturing people around you to be able to pass it on to somebody. And the effort it takes to pass on a simple nuance to people is so much that sometimes you would rather do the work yourself.

How business transitions in India is very different. In the West, it transitions from the first generation to professionals. In India, it generally moves to the second generation whether they are fit for it or not. They don’t know how to professionalize because they don’t trust anybody other than their blood. So the purity of pedigree creates certain problems. This is a very small resource you are looking at. If you have two or three children, you are trying to find a leader within them instead of looking at 500 and picking up the best.

In the past, Indian families used to groom them in-house, at least the boys, when they were as young as 7-8 years old. They would start writing accounts and observed everything, but never got to touch the money until they turned 18. By then, they understood the ins and outs of business. These are not processes that can be written down in a book because every business is run secretively in India. I’ve seen some older generations complaining that the younger generation is not showing enough interest or not as engaged as they should be, not responsible enough, not judicious enough. Some may be genuine cases of responsible or irresponsible action, but mostly this is because you heaped your children with too many things. There is a wise saying: “You must give them enough so that they can do something, not so much that they don’t have to do anything." Somewhere, because you’re successful, you gave them enough to convey the impression that they don’t have to do anything in their life—because there is enough. After all, entrepreneurship is economic activity and economic activity need not be raised to heaven! It must be conducted on the planet only to the extent that it’s necessary for you and the world around you.

In family enterprises, with both generations engaged in business, often the older generations are more enterprising than the younger generations. There are many successful family businesses in India like this. The older generation created it, so they are constantly on the ball, whereas the younger generation landed on top of the hill. You see this in the political sphere as well... To transition well, it is very important that the older generation seeks sensible cooperation from the younger generation. Those who created the business, they have a different sense of everything. Those who just landed into the comfort of what has already been created, they have a different sense of everything.

So it’s very important: the older generation must give them a challenge and an opportunity to create something within what has already been created.

There is always a risk they may fail, but there was always a risk that you could fail when you started. It’s just that you have succeeded; somebody may actually fail right in front of you. But if you don’t create that, if you don’t create that challenge and opportunity, then they will not understand what you are talking about because they don’t know what it means to build something. They have always been in already-built situations. Only when they work at building do they also truly become entrepreneurs. Otherwise they are inheritors, they are landlords. Being an entrepreneur means you are eternally on your toes. It is a landlord who sits back.

If the younger generation tries something for the sake of it, it can be disastrous. But if they really have a better way of doing things, they must be allowed to do it. They will either transform their parents, or themselves, or perhaps just quit their inheritance and find some way to do things that work for them.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is founder of the Isha Foundation.

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