The difference between Vijay Eswaran and many of today’s business tycoons is his spirituality – something that he values greatly and adheres to in his personal and business lives. Mahatma Gandhi has been the inspiration for the electronic commerce conglomerate Quest International (QI) Group that executive chairman Eswaran co-founded in 1998. For example, Gandhi inspired its four corporate values: truth, service, care and raising oneself to help mankind. A statue of the Indian peace icon stands tall in QI Tower, the company’s operational headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
“Philosophy is my resource. I was very fortunate as my father opened my mind to many of the world’s leading thinkers – Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Mandela and others,” he says.
Eswaran, born to a Hindu family in Malaysia, used to joke with his business contacts, saying: “I’m only the assistant; the big boss is not here,” referring to the “Almighty”, which led some of his clueless listeners to ask when they could meet “the boss”.
According to Eswaran, many people start well, but the more successful they become, the more they believe their own hype. He says that even if there are 90 different nationalities at a meeting, he starts by asking everyone to close their eyes and ask for guidance. “This keeps me grounded – I need a boss as well.”
Like many successful people, Eswaran likes to wake early in the morning. The hour before sunrise is known as the “time before creation”, he says, and in India it is considered to be the most creative time of the day.
He spends this period analysing what happened the day before, and planning for the coming day. Spending time with yourself helps, “to become more real, and to learn who you are,” he says. “It also helps you to slow down, and to think before you talk,” he adds.
Author of four books and a motivational speaker with numerous YouTube clips, Eswaran also takes care of the facets of his business that encompass online services covering B2C e-commerce and direct sales, lifestyle, travel and leisure, wellness, luxury watches and collectibles, telecoms, property development, logistics and other operations.
Although Malaysia is QI Group’s official base, Hong Kong is the hub for its financial, technology and administrative operations, with around 130 employees in five offices.
One of its two international logistics hubs is in Wan Chai, and its data centres in Cyberport and in Kowloon host the international database for nearly five million customers of the group’s direct-selling flagship subsidiary QNET.
“In addition, for our continuously expanding presence in Hong Kong, we have recently invested in the purchase of two floors in MG Tower in Kowloon, that is currently undergoing renovation,” Eswaran says.
QI also has a training and conference management arm, and entered the education sector in Malaysia by opening its Quest International University in Perak in April last year.
With 30 offices globally, Eswaran is constantly on the road. He says he has gradually phased out the day-to-day management of the company to focus on doing the “broad brush strokes”. Still, with a household of five girls that he manages with his wife, Eswaran is philosophical about juggling his time. “You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself,” he quips.
Eswaran’s company does not advertise, but is a Formula 1 sponsor, so he tries to attend six to seven races each year. QNET also holds conferences at the global, regional and national levels. Some of these have as many as 20,000 attendees. Eswaran takes part either in person or via video link.
QI has also nurtured ways of giving back to society. “We cannot only focus on profit,” Eswaran says.
The university, which is under construction on 250 acres provided by the government of Perak, will be environmentally friendly, Eswaran adds. Only vegetarian food will be offered, as at QI’s large-scale conferences.
Last year, Eswaran was named one of Forbes Asia‘s annual “48 Heroes of Philanthropy” for his contributions to disaster relief, public health initiatives, as well as education and cultural programmes through QI’s Raise Yourself to Help Mankind (RHYTM) Foundation, which focuses on helping children across dozens of countries.