November 23, 1990 was a historic day. Not only because it was the 65th anniversary of the Avatar’s advent on earth, but also because of what Bhagavan Baba said on that important occasion. "There are countless people in this country, who cannot afford the huge costs of going abroad, and seeking a heart surgery…. Next year, we are going to establish a fully equipped, modern hospital at Puttaparthi, at the cost of hundred crores of rupees, where all cardiac patients will be given treatment, totally free of cost. Besides this, patients and their attendants will be provided facilities for their food and stay, totally free of charge. The first operation will be performed on the 22nd of November, next year."
When Baba made this grand declaration, many hailed it; but an equal majority, especially in the medical fraternity, doubted it. And for this, they had good reasons because there was not even a plan on paper for the hospital as on that day. When the students of Bhagavan’s Institute went to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi for training, the medical professionals there mocked them. “Your Sai Baba has no clue; He has no idea what it takes to build and run a hospital completely free of cost. It will not last,” they said. Exactly a year later, the Hospital was indeed inaugurated by the then Prime Minister of India, and today, nearly 18 years later, it has breathed new life not only into hundreds and thousands of patients - rich and poor, theists and atheists alike - but also into the profession of medicine itself! [Read Healing Touch].
This was almost a replay of what had happened ten years prior. On Vijayadasami Day (the last day of Dasara celebrations) in 1980, while inaugurating the Sri Sathya Sai College at Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami emphatically stated: “This [campus] will be transformed as a University next year. We must ensure a stable basis… since Swami’s Will is the almighty Will, the Government of India has agreed to the inauguration of a University by us here. Therefore, this very day, Vijayadasami, the college at Prasanthi Nilayam and the college at Anantapur are raised to the status of the constituents of the University.” Many educationists and eminent men including Dr. Bhagavantam, who was a former Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, said, “It is impossible!” On October 8, 1981, the day of Vijayadasami the next year, Swami announced that the Sri Sathya Sai University will be inaugurated on November 22, that year, one day before His fifty-sixth birthday. When the marvelous edifice which sits atop a hill in the divine valley was unfurled, it was truly, as Prof. Kasturi writes, “The dawn of the Sai era of re-education of man for the establishment of peace on earth and goodwill among all peoples.”
Even after the University came into being, surprises from Swami, in the field of education, never ceased. While there was something new happening every year, five years later, Bhagavan shocked the then Vice Chancellor, Prof. S. N. Saraf, when He expressed His desire to start a management programme, and also said that he had resolved to begin the course in the following year itself! It happened just as He had willed, and on Aug 21, 1986, after inaugurating the MBA programme, Swami said, “In the Sai Institute, we are attaching special importance to cultural and ethical values. Among these, the primary place is being given to ‘Indian Ethos and Values’. The course will cover such matters as the Indian Economic Environment, Personnel Management, Organizational Behaviour and Business Communication. Emphasis will be laid on Personnel Management and Human Values, which do not figure very much in the courses of studies in other management Institutes now….”
And that is how the School of Business Management, Accounting and Finance (SBMAF), Puttaparthi, right from its inception, has been very different. Apart from the regular subjects dealing with analytical skills, production, finance, marketing, etc., it had special courses on Value-based management, leadership and national perspectives, at a time when no other management institute in the world even thought about these topics. The significance of this becomes apparent only if we closely watch the changing contours of the corporate scene in the last few decades.
Though business originally started as a way of serving society by providing a few goods and services, in the last hundred years or so, with the rise of capitalism, its objective has been dangerously redefined to ensure wealth maximization for shareholders. In fact, in 1970, Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate economist, aggressively propagated the idea that ‘the sole concern of business should be maximization of profit’ and that it cannot accommodate a host of other ‘conflicting interests’.
Even though, most companies today do not concur with this verbally, or in their mission statement and do acknowledge alternate paradigms of business, they do precious little to embrace them wholeheartedly. At best, they engage in a few activities that can be labeled as acts of ‘corporate social responsibility’, ‘sustainable development’, and so on, to appear as ‘responsible companies’ while they pursue their capitalistic goals with undiminished zeal. At worst, they selfishly concern themselves only about their profits, unmindful of the resultant social or environmental damage accruing from their activities. The scene has only become more dismal with the rise of super capitalism in the current times, which is dividing the world into two halves; and increasing the gap between ‘the haves and have-nots’ at an unsympathetic and fast pace. With the capitalistic frenzy taking over the corporate boardrooms, anything other than economic growth of the company is overlooked, and any shortcut to growth, even though questionable, is welcome.
This is precisely the reason why the “Enron Collapse” happened and shook the corporate sphere like the 9/11 in 2001. The next year, it was MCI Worldcom, which filed the largest bankruptcy protection in US history. In the same year, Adelphia, the fifth largest cable company in the US, became insolvent. And this trend continues even till this day, as much in India as elsewhere. Not a week goes by without the news of one big scam or the other being unearthed. And this happens, in spite of so many checks and balances being introduced into the system by the regulatory authorities. Can these unfortunate situations be prevented by introducing stringent regulations? Can corruption at high places in the corporate world be reduced just by introducing more rules? Maybe yes, but it will only be a temporary measure before someone finds another loophole to exploit. The problem truly needs deeper introspection, and if one analyses carefully, it winds its way to the corridors of the world’s business schools.
Rakesh Khurana, an associate professor at Harvard, in his new book From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession, says, “The university-based business school of today is a troubled institution, one that has become unmoored from its original purpose and whose contemporary state is in many ways antithetical to the goals of professional education itself.” B-schools which started to make management a profession with a commitment to using a body of knowledge for the good of society, have today transformed themselves into a “marketable commodity” with the students often being treated as ‘customers’, he says. This is where the root of all problems of modern business lies.
Bhagavan Baba says, “True business is that which is carried out on the lines of truth and righteousness. Profit earned without these two cardinal principles should be considered as loss, not profit. Giving up life for the sake of truth, love and righteousness is true profit.” To the students of His business school, Swami directs, “This should become the objective of all managers of this institute.” It will be heartening to note that this, in fact, is the life-breath of scores of graduates that leave the portals of SBMAF every year. How do they do it? Can anyone be successful in this highly competitive and ruthless world conforming to one’s sacred values? What are the costs to pay? Are these boys ‘achievers’? Read our cover story, which is in two elaborate parts, to find out.
It will not only enlighten you but also inspire you to shed your inhibitions, believe in your self and go forth for the right courageously. The business of business and the business of life are not different; both have to be played diligently, delicately and with a spirit of dedication to God. Only then can we replace our every moment of pain and pleasure with undisturbed calmness and bliss.
Let us go for the business of bliss! Let us let go the ‘ego’ and let in ‘love’!
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