While he’d love to sit down and chat with you all, there’s just not enough hours in the day! So we’ve asked Vijay for his thoughts on some of the most popular topics he gets asked about, to save you writing in!
Vijay Eswaran’s reflections on Success
The difference between success and failure is simple; the one who makes it to the top is the one who lasted, pushed and survived just that little bit longer. Giving up is easier to do that holding your ground. The only difference is now I’m not going to give up when others do. There’s nothing secretive about it – it’s about being able to complete the process.
If only there existed a secret, someone would have found it by now. The real secret is that each person must find his own recipe. The problem is not with the success itself. The most dangerous is to be successful the very first time. It’s better to fail before one succeeds because that is the best way to learn. The most important thing whether you succeed or fail is always what you learn along the way. The worst failure is to be trapped in success. I would define this process as crossing a mountain and a valley. It’s necessary to leave the valley to cross the mountain. For me, the mountain and the valley are both beautiful. Usually, I leave one and enter the other. The mountain is now very high and we just have to work towards getting to the top.
There is no efficient way to success though. The effective path is more likely to be paved with failures and anguish. Experts are usually the last to perceive success as the facts tend to get in the way.
The right time and place meets you half way. You don’t move, it will not come. Success does not respond to wishes. It responds only to definite plans, backed by definite desires, through constant persistence, perseverance and patience.
Vijay’s thoughts on Spirituality
The path of spirituality is essential to what we do in business. Spirituality has new meanings. For many, it is a dirty word; for others it is a new-age fad. There are very few who realise the value of spirituality in day-to-day management of work and life. Spirituality is a force in management. It is in fact a strong business concept.
To me spirituality is no different to life. It is closely intertwined in everything I do. I don’t find any conflict between business and spirituality. I am not at all interested in the business of spirituality. But I am more convinced and have long been converted to the need of spirituality in business. The business of spirituality I do not appreciate but spirituality in business is an absolute must. Spirituality is a destination. Having no spirituality in business is like a ship with sails billowing in the wind running speedily and smoothly with no particular direction. Spirituality is the destination that makes the whole purpose of sailing necessary.
I find no contradiction in being spiritual and being an entrepreneur. To me, success is defined by certain attributes that apply to both the spiritual and entrepreneurial spheres. Both require patience, perseverance, drive, determination, and discipline. One shouldn’t be worried that one is spiritual. How can one not be spiritual? To me, the physical existence is just an extension of the spiritual. Whether one hopes to enter heaven or another life, what you have now is this life and you have to make it count. It is both spiritual and material logic to be at your best in what you do and in every endeavour you get involved in.
Vijay’s inspirations – Business & Personal
Ironically, a great part of my business inspiration comes from Mahatma Gandhi because most of my management principles are drawn from him. He was not a politician, nor a general, nor was he a businessman, nor was he a prophet espousing any particular religion. His life was his message and when he left this world, he created an impact. He created a crater in the mind of man that no other man has been able to do since. And not many have been able to do before. Also, I find it very practical to apply Chanakya’s principles of arthashastra when it comes to running business. I can also draw my business inspirations from people like Martin Luther King or Mandela!
If you are looking at specific business idols, then I would have to mention some individuals that I’ve had the good fortune of running into, albeit accidentally. I find Sam Walton founder of the Wal-Mart chain, at one time the world’s richest man in the world, very inspirational. I ran into him when I was working after graduation in Arkansas in the United States. I was visiting Clarksville, Arkansas, where my brother was studying in the University of Ozarks. Sam Walton was a patron of the University and would very often visit the campus and just sit down and watch the young people walking around. What struck me most was his simplicity and how down to earth he was. He was very approachable and I had at least two or three conversations with him over a few weeks back in the early 80s…more than 20 years ago. Those conversations continue to inspire me till today.
On another occasion in 1982-83, when I was studying in London and driving a cab to pay my way through school, I picked up this gentleman from the airport. We had an interesting conversation of no particular significance, about everything under the sun for more an hour, before it hit me just 20 minutes from the destination, that my passenger was none other than the legendary JRD Tata. He was just so simple. I admired and continue to admire this approach to life which he exemplified through his demeanor, his simplicity.
What I recall from these fleeting memories which continue to stand out is how very down to earth both these men were. On both occasions, I got a glimpse of their vision. In today’s business world, Richard Branson evokes and inspires me in the way he continues to prove the world wrong. He appeals to the maverick in me. Also, recently, after watching the movie Guru, I have been inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani. Closer to where I live, Li-Ka Shing is another business mogul I look up to. He is a man who made his mark only at the age of 58! Until then, he was a nobody. And now, the wealthiest billionaire to come out of China.
Vijay Eswaran on Philanthropy
As far as I am concerned, CSR is just new PR jargon. CSR should not be used as a cosmetic camouflage to show that we are responsible corporate citizens. It should be the inherent purpose of our being. As a businessman, I definitely agree that profit should be our driving force. But our primary purpose should be above and beyond profit. To build a better place, a better environment, a better future for our children.
This may sound corny to most and maybe very Gandhian if not archaic in today’s world, but our company’s motto RYTHM or Raise Yourself to Help Mankind is the primary purpose I chose to build this company with my partners.
By building this company, I hoped that we would have a vehicle to help build a better world. So, RYTHM Foundation is not just a cosmetic tool to make us look better. It is to us an ultimate part of why we are in business at all. And eventually we hope RYTHM Foundation will become equal to our flagship.
Vijayaratnam Foundation is another project, something I established in honour of my father. My parents have been my first Gurus. And this was my way of paying tribute to my father and thanking him for laying the foundation of my quest for knowledge. Vijayaratnam Foundation supports the education of young promising Malaysians as well as activities that enhance tolerance, understanding, health and well being in the community in the community in which we live
Vijay Eswaran on building a Global Brand
We see ourselves as an International Company. Hong Kong as a country has an international brand appeal and people in HK are global in their thinking. So, Hong Kong being what it was, we don’t see ourselves as Asian, but as international. This has been our strength. Our branding has always been global and with the internet as our modality there were no barriers – currency, language, economic. Service with quality and affordability for us became our branding.
Whether or not legal trade agreements ever come into place, whether or not ASEAN works or doesn’t, whether a body like the European Union is ever formed in Asia, we are already there, setting the stage in a sense. It did not need any government impetus to bring Indians to Malaysia or Malaysians to India, or Singaporeans to China and Chinese to Singapore. It was the pure economics of demand and supply. If restrictions were taken off, the flow would be that much faster. The only issues preventing Asia from working together arise from political differences, which have created artificial barriers. If not, I believe, we would very subtly, silently, but surely, merge to one. And that is the strength is that one does not see from the outside.