A story of how Kumar Mangalam Birla balanced the new and old

Life is all about creating a balance. If you observe closely, you constantly balance, expectations and reality, conflicts and camaraderie, hopes and disappointments, old and modern. Creating a balance is a vital skill of life. The more adept you are at this, the better is your progress. Let us learn more about this with an example of Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group (ABG).  

Honored with the Padma Bhushan in January 2023, Kumar Mangalam Birla’s success story is inspirational on many levels. But in this article, we will only explore how he created a BALANCE.

Kumar Mangalam Birla assumed leadership at the young age of 28, after the death of his father Mr. Aditya Birla.

He inherited a successful business, being run in a closed traditional Marwari setup. A mark of the system was that positions were naturally filled by the children of the older employees, irrespective of their abilities. Kumar Birla recognized the inadequacy of this system, and embarked upon the arduous journey of developing a system based on meritocracy.

Do you think it was an easy task for him?

It is difficult to explain the need for professionalism when the business is already well-established. But being a visionary, Kumar Birla had gauged that he had to bring about this change. He hired managers from multinational companies, putting an end to the tradition of employing ageing staff.

A retirement age of 60 was set. The group explained it in detail and made sure that it was not sprung as a surprise, with those close to retirement getting a two-year grace period and some extra cash.

He infused fresh blood into the group, but also retained many seniors such as Askaran Agarwala and Dwarka Das Rathi, who continued to lead group companies.

One of the key roles created by Kumar Birla was that of people who would determine strategy and today ABG is a multinational conglomerate with presence in 36 nations and a combined annual revenue of $65 billion, over 50% of which is derived from its overseas operations

Kumar Birla says: “Very often people get so caught up in running the businesses that they have no time left for spotting opportunities.”

Have you been postponing an important change in your personal or professional life for the fear of IMBALANCE?

Steve Jobs explains the secret to focus:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Source: Worldwide Developers Conference 1997

It often happens that you read something amazing and your anxiety is relieved instantly.

Since the last few hours I was brooding over something that I did not do. And now as I write this short article, I know the reason?

Simply, because I wanted to spend my energy elsewhere.

We always push ourselves, plead guilty for not having done X,Y,Z…. the list is never ending.

What we don’t see is what we did otherwise.

You don’t party, you get to rest. You drop the argument that you just had, you get involved in the task in hand. You don’t access social media, you have surplus time…

Let us stop feeling bad about the trade offs that we make.

Let us acknowledge the strength that you showed in saying a NO.

Resolutions are overrated

This new year I have made no resolutions. I am in complete acceptance of my current state. Yes, I do wish to achieve but I don’t need resolutions to determine my genuineness. I took 1st January as easily as I took the period from 25th – 31st December. After all what changes in a night.

The start of the year has definitely filled me with a renewed zeal and I am loving the vibe of good change that surrounds me. My sleepyhead friend is jogging at 7 am, my mother in law ate a fruit platter first thing in the morning, my sister has kept a book by her bedside, a friend has enrolled for dance class… yes, they have all resolved.

I am happy for them, but this year for a change I have made no resolutions. Starting 1st Jan, I have only become mindful of my thoughts and actions. The agenda is simple

  1. Judge less, connect more
  2. Keep only ONE important task in a day
  3. Break free from set comfort zones
  4. Uphold your choices
  5. Be in the flow

Do the above read like resolutions? No. Because they are loosely stated giving me ample room to err. As long as I am there most of the times, I am happy. I don’t want my resolve to choke me.

I am not sure as to how many of my readers will agree with me, but I have chosen my course.

I believe that water is an epitome of natural beauty when it flows in the form of a river and the same water becomes one of the resources when it flows in contained steel pipes. I want my resolve to be free flowing and remember, even then, there is momentum, there is progress, there is happiness…

Be Kind to Yourself

Today as I sipped on my morning tea I heard a voice in my head – “Be kind to yourself.” Amidst targets, responsibilities and the ticking clock, this thought felt empowering. We often expect kindness from others, and end up getting disappointed. We then, enter the emotional tornado where we list everything we did for others and express remorse over how little we got in return. The sad part is that others don’t even realize what you are going through.

The result is, the ‘doing’ that should have uplifted you, brings you down.

How about being kind to self and not seeking it outside?

Here are few ways to be gentler to yourself –

Take care of yourself – Your body is your medium to act. I was once diagnosed with acute calcification is my left hand. The cure was to use an immobilizer so that the muscle tear heals. My days and nights were horrid as I was able to do nothing. In that phase, I realized that I am nothing without my body. Eat well, sleep well, feed your mind with good stuff.

Follow the 3-priority rule – This rule is not by someone famous, rather it is from an 80-year-old woman Mrs. Vaidya, who stays in our complex. One day as I sat on the park bench feeling tired, she came to me and said, “Hi! How are you today. Where is the twinkle in your eye?” As we conversed, she explained, “If you want to do good in life, keep only 3 priorities in a day. Anything more than that strips you off your pleasantness.” Since then, her advice has stayed with me.

Know your journey – In a world of social media, you feel lost. Your possessions, vacations, achievements are underplayed constantly. It generates a ‘lack’ in your life. You see dreams that were never yours and you seek paths that you never wished to tread. Knowing that your journey is exclusively, uniquely yours is the most effective way of being kind to self.

Do special things for self – This thought itself makes me happy. Take a hot shower, cook your favorite meal, watch a series that you like, shop for yourself, go for a walk and many other things make you feel nice. We do it for friends and family with happiness, why leave oneself behind? Remember these are more relevant in difficult times. So do your best to incorporate some of these ways in your schedule on hard days.

Accept your failures – When you fail in life, you should take extra care of yourself. Failures have a domino effect that triggers our negative memory. We remember all that went wrong in the past or could go wrong in the future. In moments like these please do not abandon yourself or feel lost.Be compassionate to regain your calm at the earliest. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. Keep the dialogue same.

Forgive – You might be wondering how this is an act of self -compassion?  When you hold grudges, you obstruct your natural energy flow. You waste precious time in rumination. Once you choose to forgive, you release your mind and energy and you are kind to self.

Lower your expectations – Lesser your expectations, lesser will be your disappointments. Develop an attitude of not anticipating and you will protect your peace forever.

Be genuine – Every act of ingenuity is tantamount to self- betrayal. When you force yourself to be somebody, you lower your self-esteem. As against that every act of genuineness makes you stronger and allows you to be kind to your true self.

If I were to give one trait that can possibly cover all the above points, then it would be – ‘Emotional resilience.’ Build a protective wall around your mind and do not let anything enter, to disrupt your peace. No person or situation should have the power to be unkind to you. The moment such a thing happens, stand for yourself with firmness.

The sooner you internalize emotional resilience the better it is.

Keep calm and be patient

For how long should I keep patience? This question itself shows your impatience. Of the many situations and factors that demand patience, I find two to be the most important  – 

  1. Self-Growth and
  2. People

In fact, if you look closely at your worries, you will find that each incident that bothers you falls under one of the above. Let us list some every day incidents that test our patience –” I am working hard, still I don’t have a steady flow of work”, “he is late always”, “Why do people honk on signals?”, “I am trying to learn AI but it is too demanding” and so on.

Big cities carry  a vibe of busyness. People’s minds are fragile. Small incidents trigger them and it has a trickle down effect on everything around.  

Here are 3 simple ways by which you can develop patience–

  1. Focus on your energies. Others have their own thoughts and priorities. If your schedule is permitting you to take that extra task in hand, just do it. This will help you honor your individual potential.
  2. If you are upset over something and feel like putting your point forth, wait for an extra 10 minutes before you speak. The gap allows you to choose your words and vibe. Many a times the situation gets dissolved in that span.
  3. Remember your circle of control and circle of influence. Know where you can bring a change for good. Everything else does not need your attention.

The rule is simple – Be patient and keep doing what you are good at. Your every act of patience can create a domino effect and inspire many others to behave the same way.

Let us stop looking at PATIENCE as a weakness or vulnerability. Let us celebrate and acknowledge every act of patience to create a new culture of easiness and accommodation.

It’s Diwali!

Diwali is a celebration of homecoming. When Lord Rama, Maa Sita and Laxmanji returned from 14 years of exile, Ayodhya was fully lit with divas. Every lane was colorful, kids danced on the streets and the joy of the people knew no bound. Similar is the scene even today. Diwali carries with it a deep emotion of togetherness and new beginnings.

What is different is the reason of celebration? This festival gives us a chance to distance ourselves momentarily from the mundane chaos. It gives us time to ponder over what values do we really want in life. Every part of the celebration signifies cascading of the old and rebuilding of the new.

Diyas fight darkness and fill your heart with their golden light. When we look around, we notice what we already have in your life. This makes us feel content. A diya has a tiny flame but it glows in its own light, never asking for more.

The traditional sweets connect us to our ancestral legacy. When the family comes together to roll ladoos and make ghujiyaas, we experience the joy of hand labour. In the age of pace and technology, this practice slows us down and helps build patience.

When we meet and greet our loved ones, we know what real connection is. The pressure exerted by social media is released temporarily while we are engrossed in meaningful conversations.

Dressing up for Diwali helps you find a new beautiful you. The sheen of the silk dress, the grace of the gold jewelry, makes you feel elegant and special.

The rituals lead us to purification, by way of which we invoke Goddess Lakshmi to bestow upon us, the choiciest of her blessings. I firmly believe that the presence of money in life is important, to ensure that we are able to create and spread goodness.

With all of this an abstract aspect that I cherish on Diwali is considering this time to be auspicious to develop new thinking patterns. The newness of material possessions does not stay for long but a change in the thinking pattern, does help you upgrade. We all are victims of our own weak thoughts, which leads to anxiety and vulnerability. The outer world does not change, but it is our perspective that makes the difference.

Diwali is the ideal time to replace jealousy with appreciation, resistance with acceptance, anger with patience, anxiety with faith and FOMO with JOMO.

It is necessary to understand the significance of the REAL. It is important to internalize the good that you have done as you celebrated and not put everything on display through pictures and posts. What is internalized stays with you, what is over exposed fades away. Let us work on internalizing the positive emotions to build a newer better world.

Keep Faith

What keeps the Universe going?

What keeps the world moving?

What makes you rise each morning?


An old adage says – ‘Faith can move mountains’ and yes, it is so true. There are days when you don’t feel like starting. Everything looks overwhelming. The multiple roles that you play demand time. The many habits that you wish to develop require grit. And on top of all of this is an innate desire to grow as a human being. In such a tight scenario where you move at snail’s pace, absorbed in the mundane, faith can be your strength. Faith lets you see the possibility, that things will change for good.

When does faith work? It works only when you channelize the energy created by faith. How can you do it? By working in the direction of your faith. How can you work for something that is a distant possibility? You can, by practicing the following ways –


The more you live in the future, the lesser will be your faith in the present moment. Mindfulness is a powerful habit, that keeps you grounded in ‘what is.’ It does not let your faith waver because you know your awareness is completely towards the task in hand.


Resourcefulness is about valuing your time. There are many things that you can do if you have an intention. The more you work, the stronger is your faith in your potential. Stretch yourself, every day to give time to things that matter to you. Don’t give up on your own resourcefulness.


Be conscious of your thoughts. Give yourself two positive thoughts for a single negative thought. Whenever your mind feels tired and soul feels weak, sit with yourself and kindly explain your mind – how you do when a loved one feels troubled. Try to read or listen to something that reinforces faith. Trust me it is about holding on for a few moments till you overcome or outgrow.

A short story

Let me share a story about a sculptor, who practiced the above three habits for keeping his faith. It is an adaptation of the original publication from www.winnersstory.com

There lived a father and son in a remote place best known for sculpture shops. Father was a sculptor and had a shop. He made little profits from the shop. In his free time, father used to teach his young son the art of sculpture. While teaching the art, he also taught him about work ethics and the faith one should have in his work.

He told his son, “We are not selling as many sculptures as we wanted. But one day our work will reach the right people. From that day, there will be no looking back.” As time passed, his son learned the complete art of sculpturing. He was helping his father along with his studies. Other Sculptures in the area closed their shops and went for other jobs. They used to advise the father, “Leave this work and look for any other source of income. You will never earn from this.”

One day, a businessman was traveling in his car and saw the sculptures shining like gold in the rays of the sun. He visited the shop and explored the sculptures. Then he told the father, “These sculptures look great. They have high demand in other countries. Can we both do business together?. You make the sculpture, and I sell it.”

Father and son were happy with the offer from the businessman. They agreed to the deal. They started making more Sculptures, and soon their business grew multi-fold.

Moral of the story

When we pursue something in life, the first step is to have complete faith in it. There will be challenges during the process, but if we have faith, we can succeed.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This book is a beautiful narration of the year-long events that occur in a family, starting on the special day of Christmas. The family has six members– A doting mother, Marmee, four loving daughters, each honored for their uniqueness and a house help, Hannah who stands like a strong pillar of support.

The father serves in the army, but his presence is felt in every chapter through his thoughtful letters. His words inspire the girls to do better for themselves and the house. Every single time when they read or re-read his wise words, the family is saddened. And every single time, they consciously bring themselves back to the present moment with cheer and poise.  

Mommy Marmee defines their simple family goal – ‘Hard work and perseverance help you lead a life free from weak thoughts, malice and anxiety.’ Both the parents keep guiding the girls to engage in the mundane without fretting, without giving up.

Meg, the oldest is a governess, Jo is a caretaker to old Aunt March, Beth is adept at house making and playing piano and Amy the youngest is a learner, willing to help. What is commendable is that the author Louisa May Alcott has maintained the distinctness in the characters despite the continuous intertwinement of their lives and constant compulsory engagement with each other.

Every chapter leaves the reader with a simple thought, that inspires and is easy to follow. It depicts the joy in serving and pushes the idea of finding contentment in less. Comfort zones are caressed and family values are protected. Yes, all these ideas sound obsolete but they offer peace and stability to a confused mind.

The language is archaic and so is the plot, but it draws the reader into a world which is differently resourceful. Unlike the ideas in many other books that require both thought and effort to practice, Little Women gives you easy goals, on which you can work upon from this moment itself.

I would like to conclude in a literary style – On days you feel lost in the world of endless pursuits, the book holds you like an anchor in the swaying sea. On days when you are too tired working, the book pacifies like an oasis in the parched desert. And on days when your self -esteem is low, it brings you face to face with how simplicity lies at the center of your soul.

There are many revised and edited versions of the book available in the market and seven films/shows have been produced as an adaptation of the book, the most recent one being released in 2022. The story is indeed timelessly true.


3 Easy Ways to Follow on Your Journey to Being More Humble

Humility is the ability to view yourself accurately, with your talents as well as flaws while being void of arrogance. We often come across people who brag about their accomplishments. Some are so full of themselves that they turn garrulous while some others keep mentioning their milestones subtly. Most of them don’t realize that they are boastful but everyone around feels it.

Hence, it is important to recognize your self -state – Are you humble or are you not? Give it a thought and you may find yourself oscillating between two ends. When I spared a thought, I recollected one incident where I mentioned my highly paid content projects in pipeline to a friend who never asked me about my price plan. Now, that is not humble and, on another day, I did not feel like sharing about my new fitness regime when my cousins were talking about pilates and proteins. You will face the same but when you think a little deeper, you will be able to identify which way are you skewed. A few subtle indicators of your boastfulness are –

  • You mention the same list of achievements to one and all
  • You steer the conversation towards your lifestyle and your beliefs
  • You listen only to reply back with your experiences

Sometimes you unintentionally demean the lifestyle and accomplishments of the other person while you are highlighting yours. I know this lady in my complex who is passionate about healthy intake. She develops new recipes using alternate substitutes that improve the nutritional value without compromising on taste. While it’s a good pursuit to engage oneself, that is the only thing about which she converses and she fails to realize that everyone is not interested in learning about the methods and benefits. As she casually shares, she often says – “We refrain from using this, we avoid milk, we don’t overcook for taste?” and suddenly there is an air of superiority. As if the conventional ways adopted by others are passe and unhealthy.

As I observe more and more, I have understood that pride is more self -created. Society appreciates everyone’s accomplishments and for them you are always one of the achievers. But you replay the accolades in your head and every time you do so your pride increases.

Understand how humble you are and delve deeper into knowing the source of your pride. This becomes the starting point of bringing about a change and developing humility.

Speaking metaphorically nature is the best example of humility. The trees bend more with every new fruit that grows on it, the river flows around, never expecting the rocks to move, the sun and the moon shine whether people appreciate or not, the birds chirp without seeking an applaud, the breeze soothes even if we don’t thank it back – I can give many more examples but I would want you to derive more from nature.

The three easiest ways to embark upon the journey of transcending from arrogance to humility are –

Keep learning – The wise say, one should keep learning as if there is no tomorrow. The more you are open to learning the more you are able to see things about which you don’t know. This discourages the feeling of ‘I know it all’ and keeps you modest. Especially in your area of expertise keep seeking more knowledge on latest developments – this pursuit keeps you so engaged that you have no time for self-praise. Knowledge about things other than your vocation, shapes your all-round personality and makes you more independent. For instance, an engineer who is also a good cook and a cyclist can engage in two other activities along with his profession making his day interesting.

Talk about the present – Consciously keep the conversation on the present day and you will find it easy to be grounded. It is only when you discuss your past achievements and future plans, that you get misled and in the flow of the conversation reveal a lot that is extra and boastful. I am not suggesting that you be an introvert and shy away from sharing your accomplishments, but talking about the current moment with short references to past and future, makes the conversation more relevant and interesting. You waste less time and there is room for knowing what more you need to learn, else the limited span gets exhausted with information overload.

Regulated use of social media – In the world of social media where even the smallest of acts finds a mention, it is hard to stay humble. Care less for likes and lesser for followers because this indirectly nurtures the habit of showcasing what you have done even to people who are not concerned about it. Also, it pulls you into having meaningless goals that otherwise would not have found you. Use social media wisely to learn more and connect.

Humility is often looked down upon as weakness or fear. Don’t fall in the trap and find better ways to make your presence count. Believe that it is your biggest strength and hold on to it even on the toughest of the days.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi – “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

3 Lessons from Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha’s festival is here. Our beautiful city, Mumbai shines brighter with lights and colors. The vibe is festive, streets are energetic and people are all smiles. Mumbai is His city and He brings along unadulterated joy. Communities prepare for the 10 days with enthusiasm. People keep their commitments on hold, they forget their schedules and be around the deity.

I feel motivated to pay my tribute to Lord Ganesha. Here is an article that narrates 3 important things that he symbolizes, he teaches, he depicts.

Beauty is within. It is not in your body shape or structure; it is your deeds and soul that matters. An ancient story says that when Gods went to attend Lord Vishnu’s wedding, they did not take Lord Ganesha along because he looked odd and ate too much. When Ganesha came to know about the reason he told his confidante, the little mouse to dig the mud on the entire route which the procession was going to take. The wheels of the wedding chariot got stuck in the mud. When they called a local farmer to help, he said, “Oh Lord Ganesha, please help!!!” All the Gods felt small and ugly because of their thoughts. They apologized to Him and requested him to accompany them.

Let there be playfulness in life. Lord Ganesha reminds us of cheerfulness. Even when he reached adulthood, he retained his happy go luckiness. One story aptly narrates that how even while taking up important tasks we can be playful. Ganesha was known to be a good scribe and Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa approached Him to pen the epic of Mahabharata for him. He agreed but with a condition that Vyasa must recite all the verses without a pause. Vyasa knew that Ganesha wrote at a good speed and he understood the trickery. He put a reverse condition where he said that Ganesha would write the verse only after he fully understood the meaning. The duo – Ganesha and Vyasa took over three years to complete the epic with over 100,000 verses.  

Forgiveness is a mark of wisdom. Lord Ganesha was known for forgiving easily. Once Matsaryasur, a dangerous demon managed to please Lord Shiva and took from him a boon of immortality. He was blessed and Shiva said he will not be destroyed by any human, God or demon. Lost in his power he started committing atrocities on the innocent beings of the three worlds. Ganesha took the form of Vakratunda, fought ferociously and captured him. However, when Matsaryasur asked for forgiveness, he set him free and upheld peace over vengeance. We hold grudges against our near and dear ones. Petty issues keep us from rising to higher levels of love and friendliness. It is time to give a thought – Is all the bitterness worth your time?

In India we celebrate numerous festivals. We should spend some time learning about the relevance of the same. Lord Ganesha is always regarded as a friend who helps in time of trouble. Easily approachable, it is even easier to please him with simple acts of love and kindness.

This Ganesh Chaturthi let us resolve to imbibe the above values in our life. If you know about others, please share in the comments section.