“To transform India into an economic, military and spiritual superpower by 2020”. This was a vision/mission statement i had set for Srijan Foundation, when it was first conceptualised as a social arm of Srijan Technologies (the technology services company i founded and head as CEO currently). The statement was inspired by Dr. Abdul Kalam, who through his work, books and lectures, ignited the imagination of thousands of people like me during his tenure as President of this country.
For months and years, i’ve been questioning myself on my life’s purpose. I love what i do right now. I am inspired by the idea of making Srijan a very successful (financially and as a brand) company while remaining fiercely transparent and democratic, and continuing the practices of profit sharing, ESOP (employee-ownership), employees setting their own salaries, and other similar practices. When we achieve small successes within this framework, i get truly motivated to do more of the same.
Yet, to fulfill the constant urge inside me to do more with my life, it has been clear now for about a year, that i must move on from Srijan. Move on to do more meaningful stuff to enhance well-being of people around me; work towards creating water security; a more dignified life for people in rural India; reforestation of India’s denuded forests with initiatives like the Billion Beejams; create more employee-owned companies serving the Base of the Pyramid (BoP).
Over the last couple of years of searching for equitable models of ownership, i came across writings of E.F.Schumacher and then of Center for Equity and Social Justice, both of whom talk about collective ownership of companies, to create an ‘equitable’ and ‘just’ society. I have been bought in to these ideas for long. However, the missing pieces have been – a model that could be replicated, and, my emotional and financial insecurity about letting go.
The latter has been largely addressed during the past year of daily meditative practices initiated by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, and a model for employee-ownership discovered lately. The road is becoming clearer for “Srijan ONE” to take flight.
It occurred to me, rather powerfully during a meditation session yesterday, that “Srijan ONE” (a name i coined while sharing my ideals with my good friend Navin Pangti) should probably have the same vision what i set for “Srijan Foundation”, albeit, a little modified. Col. Ramakrishna (retd.), had made me drop the “military” bit during the registration of the Srijan Foundation Trust, of which he was to become a part of as a Trustee.
“To transform India into an economic and spiritual superpower”
This goal/purpose/vision of Srijan ONE, is inspiring enough for me to dedicate my life towards, and large enough to consume it. Perhaps it may seem a little arrogant, as well. While, i am a spiritual dwarf, (and perhaps not even that) i do know that India’s ‘spirituality’ is the biggest gift it can give to this ailing and torn world. It is our relationship with the thing called ‘God’ that needs to be redefined. This is central to having a world and life that works.
I firmly believe that it is the East’s philosophy of ‘ONENESS’ or ‘UNITY of all existence’ that the world needs to re-discover. India is probably the only region in the Eastern civilization, which has kept this ‘spiritual core’ alive. And thus, in whatever limited capacity it may be, i will work towards creating an environment where this country can find its place as the spiritual Guru of the world, once again.
Spirituality will be deepened, once stomachs are fed. Thus economic upliftment of its people is absolutely necessary.
Srijan ONE would therefore, incubate ‘employee-owned, for-profit‘ companies – in business sectors which are more meaningful – renewable energy, agriculture, forestry, health, education, etc., and carry out non-profit programmes specifically for creating water and food security in rural India.
Workplaces which are co-owned, do tend to become more spiritual as well, as Ricardo Semler observes in his series of books on workplace democracy – ‘Maverick’ and ‘Seven Day Weekend’.
This i feel, would be the pillars of this transformation.
What about my finances?
Yes, that concern that somewhat still remains. While, i have earlier, and continue to explore strategic investments from like-minded investors or open source businesses, i prefer the option of converting Srijan into an ‘100% employee-owned company’, where employees run the company. If they can buy Srijan from me – even if in part – this would really be the win-win i seek. Such buy-outs by employees are quite common the USA. Unfortunately, financing for such ‘retirement linked employee share-ownership‘ is literally non-existent in India, and thus a different model has to be adopted.
For now, having explored many options over a year, i am proceeding with an ESOP plan. I plan a pretty significant one to encourage Srijan’s employees to identify with Srijan a lot more. If i am successful in creating a deeper buy-in from all employees at Srijan, then the company would almost certainly continue to run well – ofcourse with more leadership people in the right roles. One way to do this, would be to invite investment from strategic investors which would help all employees make significant money. In such a case, I could potentially stay on as a share-holder, and thus earn money through dividends in the long-term.
I’m all prepared for doing the transition. Next 1-2 years will be some serious brick building.
“Please maintain Your Grace!”