I recently had the honour of attending the ongoing Jain International Trade Organisation (JITO) conference held at the Hotel Park Plaza Riverbank, London. Set up along the beautiful river Thames, the conference is undoubtedly one of the most productive, and positive convocations I have been to in some time. The conference saw an impressive line-up of guests from over 16 different nations. They spanned across different sectors including trade, industry, banking, investment, accountants, lawyers, etc. It would be fair to say that these delegates cumulatively account for $30 billion. Men and women of the global Jain community, most of them under their 50s, I observed, gathered and held discussions on various different topics.
The Jain International Trade Organisation, or JITO as it is called is a worldwide group of Jain businessmen, entrepreneurs, professionals and workers. Headquartered in Mumbai, it has approximately 57 chapters, and over 6000 members. I feel it is important to know who Jains are, here. Considering the large strength of all existing religious communities around the world, the Jain community is a small group. As per the 2011 census, there are approximately 4.5 million Jains in the over 1.2 billion population of India. Meaning, the community accounts for just 0.36 per cent of the total population. According to the Oxford Handbook of Global Religions, a total number of 25,000 Jains reside in Britain. However, what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for it with their educational achievements, business acumen, trade, industry, and performances in other fields.
The JITO conference hosted attendees from India, South Africa, East Africa, Europe, Britain, and America. I was awestruck. The management of the programmes, the arrangements, the intentional yet humble exhibition of Jain values. One of the most striking qualities of the Jains are that they maintain their values assiduously. It despite being a business conference, there was no alcohol seen being served, no non vegetarian food, and I want to make a special mention of the way the Navkaran Mantra was presented gracefully and keeping with tradition.
I remember two interactions in particular. One of them was the candid open Q & A session with steel magnate Lakshmi Niwas Mittal. The 67 year old answered all questions unhesitatingly. Be it about his humble beginnings or the challenges he faced, all questions were factually answered. It was admirable to see a man of his stature take pride in the hardships he has had to face to reach where he stands today. Yet, the most memorable speech I remember was the one made by Gopichand Hinduja. In a frank and highly entertaining way, the 75 year old opened his book for the audience.
The Hindujas are the richest family in the UK. Their businesses have travelled across 110 countries, in trade, investment banking, and various other sectors except tobacco, alcohol, and gambling. Why? Family principles. Gopichand talked on various topics, including the cardinal principles of the Hinduja family. His speech was dotted with funny anecdotes, all of those kept the listeners engaged. He stated that all four generations of the family remain united. For those of you wondering why I find it important to mention these statements here, I must say- I know only a handful who have made their home away from our country and maintained a business resonating of their cultural principles.
Dear readers, you must know by now how excited I always am to share my thoughts and philosophies with you. I took the liberty of jotting down few points, bullets, if you may, from Gopichand's light-hearted and enlightening speech :-
EVERYTHING BELONGS TO EVERYONE, NOTHING BELONGS TO ANYONE
The sentence is simple yet complex at its own tone. Let me elaborate, Gopichand Hinduja said that no one person in their family is owner to any business. Everything is run for everyone. At a time when two brothers can't run a father's business, four generations of the Hindujas run an empire together!!
IMPORTANCE OF CULTURAL VALUES
I have always had a special, reserved respect for those who stick to their roots despite the contemporary way of life. Gopichand said religion, tradition, and moral values rank high in their family. They always work to make sure their principles remain intact.
FAITH IS PARAMOUNT
GP described his family's faith and said we all do pray regularly. A lady whom I recollect as Santoshben, went to the platform and requested GP if he could sing his prayer. And lo and behold! The Man of 75, person of his eminence sang the beautiful song 'Ae Maalik Tere Bande Hum' from the film 'Do Aankhein Baarah Haath'. Surprising? Not with the Hindujas.
Despite expanding their business at every step, the Hindujas are content with what they have now or whatever stage they were at. At some point, a person has to stop, and be content with what they have- a gentle gratitude towards the fruits of their hard work. Gopichand said that at no point was their aim to just acquire more wealth.
ALL ARE TREATED EQUALLY
GP said, we have relations with people from different stratas of life. Be it the prince or the pauper, we interact with them in a uniform way. A way of respect.
DIFFICULTIES ARE A WAY OF LIFE
Be it your personal life or your professional, small and/or big issues will prevail. No matter how hard you try, you will never erase them completely. Troubles, challenges are there. With the rise comes the fall, which is why the question is, how well are you climbing? Learn from the phoenix- how it rises from its ashes.
Dear friends, GP's 'journey' was extensive and educative at the same time. After the completion of his speech, several JITO leaders were conferred awards. I noticed that a couple who came to stage to receive theirs, could not stop smiling. GP noticed it too. He promptly started crooning, “Kisiki muskuraahato pe ho nisaar, kisi ka dard mil sake toh le udhaar...” as the audience cheered.