Secrets to creating a global business
Here is my speech from the London Southbank University Business Forum organised by the Southwark Chamber of Commerce on 14 November 2013:
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen
It’s great to be back again at LSBU. I enjoyed my last visit earlier this year giving a presentation on global business communication.
I want to pay tribute to Barry Martin and everyone at LSBU for organizing this wonderful event. We are here because of their leadership and tireless efforts. They deserve our praise and a huge round of applause.
I would like to share a quote from Mahatma Ghandi which I believe is why we are here today. He said “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” It is a mantra that I follow everyday and I am sure you do too.
Today I will share with you my journey from India to the UK and along the way tell you three secrets you can use to start your business. These secrets made me a multi-millionaire in 12 years after leaving India and enabled me to own a successful global business.
The first secret is to create your own learning, earning and saving model to give you the qualifications and ingredients you need to start a business. The second is to make yourself a celebrity by growing your business rather than making others celebrities. And the third is to acquire a global profile so you can expand business internationally.
My story began 7,000 kilometres away from here in India, where I grew up the youngest of 11 children. During my summers as a child, I would stay at my sister’s house. Her place had no bathroom, no running water and one electric light – when it worked! I remember collecting five buckets of buffalo dung everyday, which I’d shape into patties, slap them on walls to dry and then use for fuel. Through hard work at school, I won entry to the Indian Institute of Technology to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in engineering.
Upon graduation, I obtained a scholarship for a Masters’ degree in engineering from Clarkson University and went to New York at the age of 22 in 1986. But my excitement of flying for the first time was very short-lived. The second I stepped off the plane I dropped to the bottom of society. For the first time in my life, I was a fish out of water: a different culture, a different language and a different socio-economic level. I was dirt poor.
I remember telling myself that I had not come to New York to settle at the bottom of society. Instead, I would work hard and invest in myself to reach to the top, and do whatever it took to fulfil my dream of having my own business. So it was then I built myself a learning, earning and saving model – the first secret to starting a business.
I decided to save 50% of my monthly scholarship, which was no easy feat, I assure you. I never ate out in New York for the first 12 months, but I still had the most delicious food everyday… because I cooked it myself!
After one year, I had saved more than 4,000 dollars which hugely boosted my confidence. And I decided to invest these savings in building my future rather than buying expensive clothes and gadgets.
But, as I got grip on my life, I suffered a brain haemorrhage. After recovering from this setback, I continued working hard and graduated with a Masters’ degree in engineering. I got a job as a project engineer in New York and continued to save 50% of my earnings. I enjoyed free parks, museums and libraries but never thought about going for a foreign holiday or seeing a sporting event or music concert live.
When not working or studying 70 hours per week, I would volunteer in my community as a fire-fighter. I also took classes to get rid of my funny accent – btw, I never had any accent problem in India!
I can’t tell you how happy I felt when I had saved 50,000 dollars, enough to pursue my next dream, that is, to get an MBA degree. In 1992, I graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with the Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, the highest honour given to any student. And I had no debts.
After graduation, I joined Goldman Sachs on Wall Street – by the way, I was interviewed 31 times before I got that job! I worked with the most talented professionals ever from more than 25 countries in New York, London and Hong Kong. Would you believe, I had to work 80+ hours per week just to survive! And I continued to save 50% of my earnings.
After acquiring the necessary education and global banking experience, I used my substantial savings to launch Global Markets Consultants, a banking consulting firm, in London and New York in 2002. I’ve been its CEO ever since. So I strongly encourage you to build a learning, earning and saving model for yourself so you too can fulfil your dreams. But be aware – Wonga.com won’t like you!
This brings me onto my second secret – to become a celebrity yourself by growing your business rather than making others celebrities. Did you know that people spend six hours every day to make others celebrities? This is how much time each person in London spends watching television, texting, and surfing social networking sites! As a result, Hollywood stars, sports celebrities and social media owners, like Mark Zuckerburg, are millionaires and billionaires, but not us
I do enjoy myself, but I have limited it to one hour per day on average – this includes weekends! This has given me five hours extra every day to focus on my business. Before I spend more than seven hours per week on entertainment, I always ask myself whether I can put the experience on my business website, or talk about it with clients.
I capitalise on my free time in three ways so I have a continuous supply of new stories to help me generate business opportunities. First, I serve my community as a Magistrate, a Trustee for a homeless charity, a Patron for an Irish dance school.
Second, I fundraise for different charities and have raised about 150,000 pounds in ten years. Recently, I raised 25,000 pounds for the Attlee Foundation, a youth charity, by leading a London marathon team.
Third, travelling is a great passion of mine. I’ve been to 75 countries and all 7 continents, including the North Pole and the South Pole.
I can’t tell you how many successful business leaders I’ve met by participating in activities like these. So, I urge you to give yourself five hours extra everyday by not focusing on activities that make others money rich and you time poor. Instead invest these hours to grow your own business potential. Soon people will be following you like a celebrity rather than you following others. By the way, please don’t tell this secret to Sky TV otherwise they will cancel my subscription
This brings me onto my third secret – acquiring a global profile. This has sharpened my collaborative leadership style, which is an asset for doing business internationally.
As you know workplaces are becoming more and more global, so working with people around the world is a requirement, not an option. Did you know that 37% of the people working in London were not born in England?
If you look at Samsung, they employ 88,000 people across 46 countries. This means that whilst Samsung’s headquarters are in South Korea, they manufacture in India, have sales offices in Brazil and collaborate on products with staff in Germany. Therefore, it is essential for you to gain global credentials if you are going to exploit international business opportunities for yourself. I must point out that acquiring a global profile is a journey, not a destination. But you can achieve it in three ways.
First, studying abroad is the easiest way to gain international experience. I studied in Delhi, Calcutta, New York, California, Tokyo and London.
Second, taking on challenges overseas is a wonderful way to build your international personality. For charity, in Nepal I trekked to the Mount Everest base camp; in Tanzania I climbed Kilimanjaro; and in Vietnam I cycled 500 km. But please don’t try downhill skiing in Switzerland!
Third, live a global life in London. As you know, London is one of the most diverse cities in the world where you can learn about different people, cultures and cuisines. You must widen your social circle to include people from different parts of the world, especially from China, India, Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria. These are the markets that are going to explode economically in the coming decade and will make you a multi-millionaire in no time.
To learn about different cultures, enjoy different international festivals. Who celebrated Chinese New Year? Who partied during the Notting Hill Carnival? Who enjoyed Diwali last week? These are great ways to learn about different cultures. Afterwards, going out of your comfort zone will be your strength and not a weakness.
And you can start right now also. How many of you try a new cuisine on a regular basis? Let me tell you, eating kebabs, burgers, and fish and chips everyday will not generate stories for you. I encourage you to try new foods every month. Recently I tasted African cuisines and since then Jilof rice and suya have become my favourite dishes. So I strongly suggest that you become global in everything you do.
On this note, I’d like to conclude by telling you that you too can become a successful business leader if you follow these three secrets. I hope you create a learning, earning and saving model to start a business. I hope you make yourself a celebrity by investing your free time in your business. I hope you acquire a global profile to expand business internationally.
Today is about making yourself the master of your own destiny. I am willing to sponsor your business events. I am willing to mentor you to help you fulfil your dreams. I am willing to provide you top leadership opportunities now. All I wish is that the next self-made billionaire comes from LSBU.
And so, I will close with a quote from Henry Ford. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
And ladies and gentlemen, this is my dream. Thank you very much.