Subhash Chandra is known for being able to foresee the next big trend about the future. He has complete faith in his own abilities—something that is just not possible without being totally aware of one’s own strengths and weakness. The media baron attributes this ability to his practice of self-observation through silence—Vipassana.
You look fit and it’s really hard to guess your age. Do you exercise to maintain your youthful look?
Subhash Chandra: Over time, I have become particular about my fitness. Apart from being a Vipassana practitioner, I work out every morning for at least half an hour.
If you had to choose between the two, what would you choose—money or health? And why?
Subhash Chandra: Health is extremely important to me. Only if you are healthy, will you be able to concentrate on other aspects of life. If your body is fit and mind is healthy, money, wealth and prosperity just follow.
What’s your approach to food—are you calorie-conscious or a hearty eater?
Subhash Chandra: I am calorie-conscious and prefer home-cooked food. I believe that your food intake influences your thoughts and that’s why no matter which part of the world I am in, I am always careful about my food intake and watch what I eat.
Are you also conscious about your mental state?
Subhash Chandra: Emotional wellbeing and happiness are what determine our state of mind. Hence, they are both important to me. I believe that it is small things in life that bring us true happiness. We need to value them and be observant to those around us.
What makes you happy?
Subhash Chandra: To be able to think like a teenager or a person in early 20s makes me happy.
Let’s now talk about your rise as a media baron. Did you always want to venture into this business?
Subhash Chandra: Actually, during the initial years of my life I dreamt of becoming an engineer. But destiny had other plans for me. Our family was in the trading business. In 1967, we suffered huge losses. It was then that I stepped in and took over the reins.
I learnt with each step I took and one thing led to another. Each process gave birth to a new idea. First, we ventured into the packaging business, then theme parks and then media and entertainment. The rest, as they say, is history.
Surely there must’ve been hurdles..
Subhash Chandra: Each business has its share of ups and down, I came across hurdles too, but they never bothered me enough. Getting up after each fall and running harder than before is what sets you apart from others.
What gave you the courage to go on?
I have always believed in being an entrepreneur and risk-taker. And my choice of business has always been such that initially people have been apprehensive about it. But my biggest strength has been that my people have always had faith in me and vice versa.
Did you have faith in yourself too?
Only if your belief in yourself is strong will you achieve what you set out to.
What else helped you succeed?
Many may call me a visionary, but I think it is just a matter of providing something to the consumer even before he thinks he wants it. Maybe it has been my timing—the fact that as soon as I saw a gap I capitalised on it.
Was this something you learnt from your grandfather [Jagannath Goenka], who you give credit to for teaching you valuable lessons in life?
The wisdom passed on to me from my grandfather, who I used to refer to as the ‘Jagannath Goenka Academy’ is the kind I have not encountered anywhere. No management school will ever teach these lessons to you. The most important lesson was to identify your own talents.
He taught me how to value money and how to be cautious while spending. I also learnt the importance of teamwork from him and how we can always count on our family.
Has your family been there for you?
From the time I started till now, my family has always stood by me. Success and failure have been phases, but it is my family that has always stood by me and believed in me. My family has believed in my dreams and helped me in fulfilling them; I am successful because of my family; my children have suffered because of paucity of time on my part, though.
You are with your family during your best and your worst. When you get back from a hard day at work, it is your family that gives you the courage to go back the next day. We are proud of being a family and compliment each other.
We’ve heard you are a frugal spender…
Coming from where I started, I think the reason I have reached where I am is because of a set of values. One of them was to have only legitimate desires. Hence, I spend enough wherever required and am conservative elsewhere. If that makes me known as a frugal spender, so be it.
We learnt business the traditional way. We did not visit any universities to learn management lessons, we followed our instinct. The ground rule is that money has to be spent prudently and that is the only philosophy. Once your basics are right, wealth creation happens on its own. What matters more to me is that I have not only created wealth for myself, but for my people as well.
Moving on…you mentioned practising Vipassana earlier. Tell us more about it.
Vipassana teaches us the art of self control, which is critical in all aspects of life, as we should know where to draw the line and what our limitations are.
It is not just the purification of your mind, but the purification of your whole being.
I took up Vipassana to be more in tune with myself. When I got inclined towards it back in 1990, I observed a change in my outlook. Initially, it helped me relax and give a different perspective to life and those around me. Since then, I do a course every year. Besides that, I practise Vipassana every day, for about 45 minutes.
How has it helped you?
As I continue to practise Vipassana, I feel that I have become calmer and more at ease with myself—I used to be short-tempered earlier. It has also taught me to handle any situation, involving anybody or anything in the world, in a poised manner—which is a big plus in today’s word.
Vipassana has helped me connect with my inner self, which, I feel, is important. With this practice there is a certain state of tranquillity, that you achieve. This, in turn, makes you a rational and modest human being. Finally, I know myself, which I did not know before the practice.
Does that mean self-observation has helped you transform?
Self-observation is not about transformation. It is about being comfortable with yourself and knowing who you really are. The body and soul should be in tandem with each other. Once you have established this connection, you are able to think beyond yourself.
Were you always a spiritual person, or did something happen that made you turn towards this path?
Our culture is such that spirituality is inculcated in us. With me too, the inclination was always there. It happened naturally to me. We often get so caught up with work that we forget where we are headed in life. Spirituality made me observe the nuances in life and it helped me rediscover myself in all areas of my life.
If there is one principle or philosophy that guides your life, what would it be?
Always keep up to your commitment.
Moving ahead, wellness is the next big thing in business. Tell us more about the plans you have in this regard?
We as a company believe that wellness is the next big thing…rather it has already arrived. Taking a cue from this trend, we have launched our company Veria, in the USA. Veria is our initiative in the wellness business. It comprises a TV network, an e-commerce web portal and select retail centres. The retail products of Veria are already well-received in the market.
What advice would you give readers of Complete Wellbeing?
Believe in your self and never deviate from your goal. Once you are determined of where you want to be, nothing can stop you.
Favourite cuisine…Home-cooked food
God is…within ourselves
Knowing self is…the road to happiness
This was first published in the June 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing.