N. Venkatram, commonly known as Venkat, is Managing Partner and CEO of Deloitte India, and is a member of the Global Executive team.
Let me begin with wishing the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, a disciplined yoga practitioner, a very blissful 70th birthday.
“Samatvam Yoga Uchyate”, which translates to “being able to keep the mind steady and balanced in all conditions of life”, is the description of Yoga by Lord Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita. Samatva, would have helped our Prime Minister, in leading the world’s largest democracy. In his words, “Yoga is the journey from ‘me’ to ‘we’. Yoga makes an individual a better person in thought, action, knowledge and devotion”.
The practice of Yoga, does over time, result in a subtle internal transformation that influences actions taken as a business leader. Over the last 15 years, I have been fortunate to walk on this journey of discovering the larger self, as a student of Yoga. On this occasion, I would like to share some of these life lessons, drawing at times on some of the asanas themselves, or their outcomes.
Let me start with Chandrasana, the half-moon pose, which is a difficult asana. This requires the practitioner to balance the body, while stretching up, both with the rear leg and out with the palm of the front hand on the ground. There is a huge sense of achievement in staying in the posture. However, the secret to success here, is focus, as the slightest distraction, or sense of exultation that one has stayed in the pose for a long time, can make the practitioner immediately lose balance. This is equally true in business or profession — a leader needs to balance the organization, he/she cannot afford to lose focus on the task at hand, or permit ego to cloud his/her thinking, or else just like the practitioner in the asana, they would wobble and fall.
In addition to balance of the mind and the body, yoga also teaches the practitioner that qualities of head and heart are equally important, as is the ability to follow the breath, to create conscious awareness. The unprecedented challenge of the global pandemic has seen both government and business make very difficult decisions, such as protracted lockdown to preserve humanity, even though it affects livelihoods due to an economic slowdown. Yet, in India, these decisions were made on a measured, calibrated basis, maintaining that critical balance between empathy and economic considerations.
Yoga also reveals the significance of collaboration for success. Guruji BKS Iyengar, wrote, “Whatever asana you do, see that your intelligence (prajna) is lighting each and every part of your body.”
What I have understood from this is that communication is vital – between each of the five senses and each part of the body. This communication energises and acknowledges the important role of every active part of the body. Similarly, collaboration plays a key role in a leader’s success. A successful leader would collaborate and communicate with people, explaining the objectives and benefits of actions taken, and lighting up individual lives along the way. India has enhanced its international stature and relationships over the past few years through a cadence of communication and collaboration with both neighbouring and other countries. Within India, the PM’s regular Maan ki Baat aired over All India Radio, helping him directly communicate the government’s policies and vision, energising its citizens.
Being Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) is essential for a yoga practitioner. It teaches the practitioner to unify the self, mind, emotions, body and energy. While the Atma (soul) or self is important, the only way a person can do more for self, is when he/she enlarges and expands the definition of who the self is i.e. looking beyond himself/herself. A leader needs to run an organization unified by a common purpose and shared values, to overcome obstacles successfully and make an impact that matters. The Prime Minister’s clarion call for a self-reliant and unified India, speaks for an India both prosperous and plural; it is a competitive India engaged with the world; for nationalists as well as globalists, it means India requires and welcomes foreign technology and capital to rebuild and thrive in a post-pandemic world.
In closing, “Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame,” said Guruji BKS Iyengar. Let us take inspiration from this as we light up our lives.