(Mahatma Gandhi Shram Sahyog Award, IIM, Ahmedabad. April 4, 2005)
Excerpts from the book ‘Work Ethics’ by PM Narendra Modiji.
There is a common misconception in the business field that an industrialist is someone who invests in business. We have tried to change this fundamental belief. We have tried to add something to the meaning. We believe that financial investment is not the only investment. The one who gives knowledge and the one who works hard in business is also an investor, and in turn, an owner. We consider hard work an investment. The amalgamation of all the three enlightens the spirit of family in a business. This is the fundamental idea of business. The financial investor knows that his company is doing well only because of the manager of his company because knowledge is also an investment.
He knows that as a businessman, his only investment is money. If this feeling is cultivated, and every work is accepted as an individual strength, the feeling of family and partnership in business will arise automatically. This makes every employee belong to the company. And once every single worker starts having family feelings for the company, the company is surely on its way to progress. Therefore, to cut a long story short, we should work with the feeling of family and belongingness in business. I firmly believe that this idea will lead us to superior results.
It is only by the gift of God that it is possible to skilfully manage industries in a land where there is scarcity of natural resources and where people are constantly struggling in their day-to-day life. Gujarat is deprived of natural resources. Those who have traveled across India must be aware of the fact that many Indian states thrive with natural resources. But God has His own way of giving strength. If any society uses these strengths appropriately, they would pass through God’s tests and would be able to live a prosperous life. The same thing has happened to Gujarat. As we lacked in natural resources, our ancestors had developed the skills and the habit of hard work. And we have inherited those skills. It is hard to imagine that despite sayings such as, Daalbhat khau shu sha paisa char (money that gets us food is enough), even 400 years ago, our ancestors had reached to the remotest places in the world in their tiny boats.
Recently, I had been to Russia to enter into an agreement with the country of Astrakhan. There is a building of Indian origin in Astrakhan. If we test their DNA, we would realize that most of them living there are Gujaratis. The people of Astrakhan did business with traders in Okha. They are all aware about their ties with Okha.
They have a rich heritage of historical tales, according to which, our ancestors were brave, skilful and hardworking and we are enjoying the fruits of it.
The competitive age of today demands more than just hard work. Until you make optimum use of your inherent skills, your hard work doesn’t pay. Moreover, you have to seek opportunities to expose your skills and that is where the test of human beings starts. You might have everything that you need to start up a business, i.e. a firm determination, raw material and enough time, and the will to work hard, and yet, you need to overcome many a barrier until the actual venture materializes. It is most difficult to clear this very first stage.
The Sindhi community is a living example of the perfect social set up that we had for starting up business. The Sindhi community has a unique custom. On the inaugural day of any Sindhi’s business, his community people gift a blank sealed envelope of money. They do not write their names on it, but the envelope usually has a large amount of cash in it. Thus, the person who has just started a new business gets enough money that can help him to manage his expenses. This is a social custom, which everyone follows. They may have to go to such inaugurations quite often, but everyone gets support from their own community. This shows how much people care for each other. This strength, that is an outcome of the social sensitivity, is the foundation of our social system. However, today we have forgotten this old custom and that has proved to be a major loss for the society. In Indian culture, the villages were the best because the entire economic system was based on the finest that you can gain in life. The southern part of India is known for the production of betelnuts. I have never had any research come across on Betelnuts. I had gone to an All India Seminar once, and offered betelnuts to someone only to face a question: “Why do you eat a piece of wood?” Imagine, if there is so much ignorance about betelnuts, what would happen to the community that survives on the selling of betelnuts? But the far – reaching vision of ancestors gave betelnuts a religious significance. They started using it in religious ceremony. There cannot be any religious ceremony without betelnuts, and this religious importance created a huge market for betelnuts, and In this way, they gave a huge boost to the entire economy.
There are various types of workers in villages, but the social system cared for the welfare of each of them. A potter would make earthen pots and diyas, but in a village of 500, would he have a sufficient market for his products? How would he survive? The society created customs that people should change their pots and use new earthen lamps during each festival, thus creating a huge market for pots and diyas. Thus, the society gave definite place to earthen vessels. This is entrepreneurship. This is a natural way of making the social life strong. Gradually, due to a lack of understanding, we broke our old customs and started new ones. This gap between the old and the new keeps on widening, and now we have to work harder to fill in this gap. We have to organize seminars, workshops and create new structure to fill the gap. We have destroyed the social system and now we’ll have to reconstruct the whole structure. We have failed to value our roots and the main cause of this failure is certainly the slavery we suffered from for more than 800 years. During this period, when we were under foreign rule, our ancestors fought for independence and wore out all their energy in battle. As a result, there was a major vacuum in the time between the acceptance of new systems with creative thoughts and the abandoning of old systems which they were used to. Moreover, independent India somehow started believing that the government will bring all the necessary changes, and downfall began from the moment this belief was implanted in our minds. This situation remained in India till 1992, at which point, we realized that we should get rid of this thought.