While listed companies are fixated on their bottom line earrings every quarter, British billionaire and founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, says that the measure of success “is honestly not the bottom line”. Success, he says, “is the satisfaction of creating a product that people love and having people work for you, who love what they are doing.”
Branson, who was speaking at an event in Mumbai organised by his airline Virgin Atlantic — commemorating its daily flight service from Mumbai to London — also had some words of advice for budding Indian entrepreneurs. According to him, “If you're a true entrepreneur, then a lot of the times you will fall flat on your face.” And added, “I fight tooth and nail to avoid failure. But if in the end I failed, then that’s history and I will not let that bother me.” He then narrated an incident of how his never-say-die attitude helped him survive crossing the Pacific Ocean in a hot-air balloon.
"On one leg of the journey, everything that could go wrong went wrong. We took off from Japan and 1,000 miles into the trip we had an electrical problem. We lost half our fuel; we looked at the statics and we had no chance of survival,” recalled Branson. “Since I was used to fighting to the last, I flew the hot-air balloon right into the core of a jet stream and suddenly I saw the speedometer go 140, 160, 170… Hundred miles faster than any hot-air balloon had flown.”
While he missed landing at his intended destination of Los Angeles by over 2,000 miles, “we ended up in the Artic, but we survived,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, fight, fight, and if you don’t you go bust. As an adventurer fight, fight, and fight to survive, and if you don’t then your legacy your children will carry on.”
Speaking at the Virgin Atlantic event, Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra said that a business was an adventure and that businesspersons need to take risks and have fun in what they do. “When I look back and think why do I persist with something despite failures; there will be something I learnt in my childhood and some role model that I have had,” Mahindra says.
For him, his inspiration was his mother, who came from a very modest background, taught herself English and then started writing books— both non-fiction and fiction.
“I remember the number of rejection slips she got [from publishers]. I was a kid then and kept telling her you have to keep trying,” Mahindra said. “She was writing a novel about two English women who were left behind by the Raj in a lodge in Ooty. After a 100 rejection notes some publishing house gave her the permission to publish and sponsored her. She then dedicated that book to me.”