Letter No 50 - Yeh dil maangta more!

When I was not even a teenager, my dad set up his first factory in a place call Chakan, near Pune. Today Chakan is a throbbing industrial hub. Volkswagen, Mercedes, Bajaj and other majors brands have their factories in Chakan. Back then, ours was the very first (or maybe second) factory in the area. This was in the 80's. The state government used to give something called 'backward area incentives' to entrepreneurs to set up their factories in such areas so that locals get jobs. When my father set up his factory, the backward area benefits scheme had not even gotten announced! It came almost 5 years after his factory, and he never got those benefits.

I shared this last point to emphasise on how 'backward' Chakan was back then in terms of 'modernisation' or industrialisation. People lived a simple farming life. They had farms to attend, families to look after and food to eat. But they had no TV's, modern schools, and certainly no shopping malls.

Within a year my father's factory had employed more than 40 to 50 local men and women (at that time mostly men). For most of them it was their first job other than working on the farms. They received training and grooming on how to operate machines, count inventory and communicate in a modern factory setup. Things were going good. Production was efficient. Demand was increasing.

Being an open minded businessman, and wanted to share growth with all concerned stakeholders, my father decided to increase the salaries of the workers. Although the pay was well above the minimum wage rates recommended by the government, they were still quite meagre. So, in the second year, my father almost doubled the wages for his team.

He thought it was a good thing. People would have more income and live a better life.


Within 3 months, he received a perturbed visit by the local 'Sarpanch' - the village 'self government' leader. There was concern in the air.

'What's the trouble?' my father asked.

'Why did you increase their salaries so much' he asked.

My father was stumped. He has never heard of anyone complained of too much money!

'These young men don't need so much money. They work hard in the day, and come home to their families in the evening. They are responsible. Their families are happy. Their life is good. Now everything is getting messed up.'

'But what does increased salary have to do with all this?'

The sarpanch replied 'Now they have extra money in their pockets. They don't know what to do with it. They have started drinking and consuming tobacco. Some have started gambling. Their families are not happy. Please reduce their salaries to what they were before.'

My father was stumped.


Is more money good or bad?

Is more of anything good or bad?

How much is enough?

How much do I need in order to live the life I want?

But what if I feel I can do much more?

These are important questions for all of us to ponder on.

I'm not agains't growth, or wealth creation, or abundance. I believe in it. The human potential is limitless.

So is human greed.


JRD Tata, who set up Air India and led the Tata empire for more than half century, used to drive a simple fiat, while he could have owned any car and as many cars in the world he desired.

Naryana Murthy is known for his simple lifestyle.

Azim Premji, one of India's wealthiest people is known to take a rickshaw to the airport every now and then.

Warren Buffet, one of the world's wealthiest men, still lives in a modest home he bought more than 50 years ago.

Mark Zuckerberg wear simple T-shirts, doesn't own private jets or yachts, and lives a simple life with this family.

Look, I'm not saying don't buy a private jet or yacht. No, I'm not.

But it if you love it. And of course if you can afford it. But don't buy to wear it as a badge of how successful you are.

Don't buy it for others. Buy it for yourself.

There is a subtle but huge difference between buying for greed, and buying for genuine enjoyment.

I'll leave you to ponder further on that.


A few years ago my wife and I sat and had a conversation about money. We asked ourselves what would we change in our lives if we were making 10X the amount of money we were.

The answers that emerged were so interesting.

We love our house, and didn't feel we would really buy a much bigger or fancier house.

We didn't think we needed to super fancy car.

We already have good clothes so that would not be a major change.

What we might spend more on on is:

We both love to travel.

We love good food.

I love gadgets so I would buy some more tech.

She loves home decor, so maybe some spend on that.

But that's it. It didn't seem like a major change.


So does that mean you and I should limit our ambition?

Does that mean we should stop learning and growing and taking risks?


The only difference is that - we don't just need to be ambitious about earning money only for ourselves.

We can be ambitious about creating wealth - for everyone connected with us - Warren Buffet did that!

We can be ambitious creating something that improves the way people work - Steve Jobs did that with Apple!

We can be ambitious about bringing technology into the world that change's how we live and learn - Larry Page and Sergey Brin did that with Google!

We can be ambitious and create something that solves a major problem - Dr. Jonas Salk did that with the Polio Vaccine!

We can be ambitious and create art and music that soothes and uplifts people - JK Rowling did that with the Harry Potter series!

We can be ambitious and help people confront mental and social challenges - Oprah Winfrey did that!

What say?


Thank you for reading. I'm excited that this is my 50th letter since I began writing these. Half a century done. I'm ambitious about writing and connecting with many many more people.

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