Name: Pranav Parikh
Profile: Chairman and MD, TechNova
His Three Rules:
- Be better than your competition and get business on merits.
- Do not breach the law consciously, through oversight or neglect; and be willing to pay penalties when you inadvertently do so.
- No one non-performs intentionally. A leader’s job is to nurture the strengths in everyone.
If you have nothing to do with the printing industry, it is unlikely that you know Pranav Parikh. Not that he cares. Given how reserved he is, he might actually prefer it that way.
Parikh owns TechNova. The company was started in 1971 and today is one of the largest manufactures in the world for offset plates, graphics art chemistry and digital print media. It is the world’s fourth largest plate manufacturer. Parikh is also part of the larger family business that includes Lee and Muirhead, a company that was bought out by his father.
The story goes that Parikh senior had come to Bombay to seek his fortune and used to sit in an Irani restaurant in the evenings, where he could meet businessmen and brokers. One evening a broker suggested that he could buy out Lee and Muirhead for all of Rs. 50,000. Lee was leaving and Muirhead only lent his name to the business. The senior Parikh did not understand what the company did. But he did some quick math: Even if the business failed, he could still make a lot of money by simply renting out the office. It is quite another story that the business grew and eventually led to other businesses like TechNova and, among other things, DHL Lemuir, a joint venture with DHL.
But today, we are here not to discuss the old man. I am intrigued by the question: Who is Pranav Parikh?
Self-deprecating to a fault, he says he is just pursuing the ultimate purpose of the journey of life through a fascinating combination of spirituality and business. “I see myself as a product of a lot of things and my life is about the angels I meet”. Anything remotely personal that he shares with me, he requests that I not write about it. He is so reticent that I even ask him why he agreed to meet with me; and then he replies he did so because he wanted to see the man whose article his Guru had forwarded to him sometime back! So, my first question is predictable. I want to know about his spiritual experience.
“If by spiritual experience you mean seeing a life-changing flash of light, internal vision, or a miracle, I have not been blessed with any. However, spiritual learning from my father and Swami Ramdas instilled a desire in me to be acutely self-aware and ‘witness’ day-to-day experiences…joyous, pleasurable, painful, threatening, whatever, with a positive attitude and a sense of detachment,” he says.
“I notice that when I am able to remain internally focussed and consciously aware of my own intentions, feelings and thoughts, I seem to be able to operate with a higher level of creativity, energy and equanimity. The impacts of the results, negative or positive, are muted and both are more acceptable and enjoyable.”
He says his belief is reinforced by everyday experiences in business and personal life. When someone is not “worried” about the results of their actions and decisions, after having done the right thing, inevitably, it all works out beautifully. Conversely, when someone is unable to give up control, things usually get messed up! The challenge is to constantly remain in this state of total surrender. This needs intense self-awareness.
As I am listening to him, I can hear the voice of my readers inside my head: “How does one deal with the conflicts that being in business entail? Can one be spiritual and yet swim with the sharks?”
Parikh can hear them, and he answers: “Experience tells me that this is not only possible, it is essential. TechNova has been swimming with the biggest and meanest sharks ever since its inception. If the foundation of TechNova was not based on spirituality and the total commitment to be ethical, we would have failed a long time ago. Undoubtedly, there are conflicts on a daily basis; these can be categorised into three areas: Self-interest versus the right-thing-to-do, dealing with corruption and dealing with non-performers.”
He says, to solve the first, one must become self-aware and frequently consult the conscience. On corruption, he says, there are three situations entrepreneurs have to deal with: Bribe to get business from customers; bribe to avoid penalties, and bribe as speed money.
“Be better than your competition and get business on merits. Do not breach the law consciously, through oversight or neglect; and be willing to pay penalties when you inadvertently do so. Coming to speed money, it can be a challenge. But you could avoid even this one by planning your projects well in advance. Finally, on non-performers, no one non-performs intentionally. The job of a leader is to nurture the strengths in everyone, address the impediments to people’s growth that may be both professional and personal,” he says.
“When we started the conversation,” I tell him, “you alluded to angels in your life. Tell me, how does one create the ability to receive them?”
He says, “One has to eradicate ego and include everyone in one’s circle of love and respect. This helps eliminate the three obstacles to receiving: Judgemental attitude towards others, rigid adherence to one’s beliefs, aversion to criticism. If one learns to genuinely see good in everyone, there are angels everywhere, waiting to guide one on the right path. In my life, they have entered in the form of parents, family members, spiritual Gurus, friends, customers, competitors, employees….”
It is getting late, but he is in no hurry; he looks as if his day has just started. Finally, we say goodbye to each other near the elevator and just as he is stepping out, he turns and gives me a hug. At 67, Parikh looks younger by at least a decade and wiser by another. He speaks with an equanimity that completely contradicts the stereotype that business leaders must show Type ‘A’ characteristics and that without being aggressive and ruthless, you do not get to be No.1. The man is a contradiction in the city of lust and lucre.
As I see him go, the thought crosses my mind: Doesn’t the truth always reveal itself in contradictions?
Subroto Bagchi is co-founder & gardener, MindTree and a best-selling author. His brief: Every fortnight, exchange tales of the road with successful entrepreneurs