An Offering from a Transformed Student of Sri Sathya Sai – By Anand Bhaskar Raju

Our life is a precious gift from God, an eternal laboratory of experimentation and learning……a ceaseless tribute to the curiosity and passion that underlines our existence. Success and failure, important as they may seem, are notions designed by men such as you and me. 

We have the world to gain and nothing to loose; if a million rupees or a hundred acres could shape half a person, our world would have been complete long ago. So, invite yourself, to this play called life and enjoy your role in the ethereal process of living. Live and capture the essence of every moment, the spectrum of emotional experience is painted on a Divine Canvas, in the colours of joy and glory, pain and misery – our life story is merely a synthesis of our relationship with the canvas of emotion. Each of us is special, and the journey of life is half accomplished, the moment we truly understand the elements that make us special. 

Be kind and honest, not because they are virtues taught in moral classes across the world, but because they are expressions of a blossoming human being; the human being, the way we knew, before leaving from the shriveled existence of the classrooms, a place where we were all supposed to learn. Learning though, is sadly skewed by the misguided impressions of a genre of humans posthumously influencing our education and our lives. Our education has relegated itself to serving the purpose of satiating the endless needs of our body and mind, leaving our beleaguered souls to suffer the indignity of our spiritual apathy. In doing so, we are navigating the winding streets of vacuum in the mortal pursuit of material existence. 

But then, the blessed among us have walked the enlightened corridors of our pristine Institution; a garden of learning, nurtured by the Love and Vision of our beloved Mother Sai. You and I are cleansed under the soothing shade of His beloved trees. Our teachers are pillars of learning presented to us by our caring Mother, teachers who have dedicated their lives to sow the seeds of love, shape the leaves upon which we learn, nourish us into buds of knowledge and fill us with the colours and fragrance of resplendent flowers. It is this wonderful nursery of the Lord, that we call our School. 

Yes indeed, we learn Mathematics and Science, Management and Arts. Alas, they are subjects that enable us to understand the wound up dynamics of organised human life. However, the learning of skills is merely a pursuit of available knowledge. Our life in the nursery shapes our understanding of its application and the importance of common sense. But most importantly, our minds and hearts are showered with the blessing of human values that enable us to make the joyous journey of life and work with the balance and grace of an accomplished tight-rope walker. 

Often in business, the rule of Economics reigns over, as millions weigh heavier than the milieu of the affected people, on the embroiled minds of Management professionals. In an era of persistent change, where business cycles are measured in months, rather than years, one cannot undermine the importance of economic considerations. However, to ignore the possibility of achieving a balance between human and financial interests, symbolises the myopic pursuit of short-lived executive glory. We have the infamous examples of Enron and Arthur Anderson, WorldCom and Citibank that will stare at our collective conscience, for decades to come. The degeneration of accomplished managers into money chasing morons should awaken us to the benefits of Management by concern towards each and every stakeholder. 

A couple of years ago I was working with a large chain of retail stores, employing several people. The effects of declining business growth, in the post 9/11 phase created ripples that have lasted long after the event itself. We faced constant pressure not only to increase the top-line, but also to reduce operational costs. This implied retrenchment and rationalisation of the stores. There were two approaches open to us as at the Management. Indiscriminate dismissal of all the employees accompanied by the closure of stores, or selective rehiring of potentially good employees even though it meant increased overheads to the remaining stores. Obviously, it would appear that firing lock, stock and barrel would be the economically sensible option. There were lengthy discussions, as the Management team debated the feasibility of adding costs in an uncertain environment. After many sessions of brainstorming, we could develop consensus that the latter approach deserved a chance. There are several merits to this approach as we learnt subsequently, through our experience: 

First, the action reaffirmed to the employees that the Management has faith in quality and good behaviour will be rewarded. The attitude of the employees in the remaining stores turned positive, leading to improvement in customer service. Second, employees with good potential eventually replaced the recruitment errors stemming the decline in business. The stores were strengthened as a result. Third, the employees retained despite the closure of stores, transformed themselves from semi-interested participants in the business process into loyal stakeholders of the business. They transformed themselves into self-motivated drivers for future business growth. Fourth, the action was perceived as a strong positive reinforcement and reward mechanism for positive attitude and commitment to business. 

The experience was only made possible due to the Top Management’s receptiveness to the Sai School of integrated business thought and the perseverance of the entire team to the core values that define our holistic approach to Management and work. The process of managing a business is always beyond meeting goals and growing sales; the essence of Management lies in unifying the efforts while effectively addressing the concerns of the stakeholders of the business in achieving these goals. The truly successful organisation deals with them as vital resources that define its soul, giving it a lifecycle that can span many generations. 

We, the alumni of Mother Sai’s garden of education and love are moulded with this attitude as the very foundation of our learning. It is our duty to work tirelessly in achieving our respective corporate objectives through the practice of Management by Values. There is no doubt that there is far more joy in adding value to life, than there is in signing in the next million in sales. The challenge for us lies in being able to achieve financial success through the process of value addition both to life and work. 

Over a decade ago, I walked the blessed sands of our School aiming for a few lessons in Management. I walked out of the hallowed portals with invaluable lessons about life. The finest tribute to our School is in transforming our convictions into conduct. May each of our steps be blessed by our Beloved Mother Sai… 

- Anand Bhaskar Raju
Student (1994-1996), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Investment Consultant, Hyderabad

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