On 22nd September, Vijay Eswaran spoke at the Global Indian Business Meet 2012 in New York, a summit connecting business leaders, entrepreneurs, experts and investors from around the world to discuss the issues of doing business with India. You can read more about it here. One of the highlights of this event was him being awarded the NGI Excellence award for business leadership and philanthropy. Below is the transcript of his speech at the event.
The QI Group was founded with two great icons in mind. Swami Vivekananda introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893 through his famous speech beginning with “Sisters and Brothers of America”. He said, “The world is not for cowards. You cannot find the truth, success or enlightenment hiding in the forest. You have to find it in the maelstrom in the midst of life itself.” These words continue to drive me and the company we have built.
The other icon is Mahatma Gandhi. He was not a general, a politician, or a business tycoon. He didn’t have power or money, but when he spoke, 300 million people listened. When he died, over 2 million people converged to attend his funeral. What did he possess that was so special? To me Gandhi was the quintessential Indian. He believed in the goodness of man, truth and love. To bring us all together, he said, “God has no religion”.
My roots lie in India – my family grew up with Gandhi’s principles, and we practised vows of silence, known as Mauna. Today this is practised in our company among the 10,000 people who attend our annual convention, V-Con. If you look at the human body, we have two eyes, two arms, two legs, but we have only one mouth. The lord is saying in his own way, “Think twice as much as you speak, listen as much you speak, and work twice as much you speak.”
When twelve of us got together to start QI, none of us held an Indian passport; yet we chose Gandhi as our corporate icon. Our thousand strong employees in over 40 countries are introduced to Gandhi as part of their orientation programme. As a company we chose to be vegetarian because of the concept of not doing harm to any creature. We chose to celebrate the Indian roots because of the beauty of the culture, the tradition, the philosophy that drives us till today.
If we do not know where we come from, we cannot know where we are going. What makes us Indian is that despite the cultural differences within our own community, India as a whole is a consciousness and something to be admired. I am what I am today because of my heritage. To paraphrase Professor ?? “We must be proud of who we are and celebrate where we come from, so we can take the next step forward and keep on celebrating.”