Gandhian Values All Startups Need to Uphold
As we rapidly move towards a world where hustling and business buzzwords become the order of business, values often take a backseat.
Now, as a startup, you may already have your values outlined- either because it’s what you as a business truly stand for or because that’s what the internet asked you to write while you were working on your business plan.
Simply put, values are what a business does, says, and embodies.
Gandhian values are celebrated and popularised for their simplicity and the fact that Mahatma Gandhi walked the talk. He practised what he preached, he spoke about things he believed in, and he taught what he himself did every day.
As we celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary tomorrow, to carry on his legacy, we reflect on some of the timeless lessons he left behind for the world to learn from.
And if you’re a startup that is looking to find its values and beliefs, Gandhi’s values are a good place to get inspired:
When Gandhi was in school, during an Inspector visit, his class was asked to write five English words. While the class got all five correct, Gandhi was only able to write four. Seeing this, his teacher subtly asked him to copy the fifth one from his partners slate.
Not only did Gandhi not copy the answer, even as a child, he was content knowing he did the right thing not cheating despite getting an answer wrong.
The lack of integrity in people always bothered Gandhi so much, he vowed to practise it no matter what the circumstance. So when in Johannesburg, his son forgot to fetch a book from the office for Gandhi’s colleague, Mr Polak, he sent the 13-year-old boy despite it being late and dark because his son had given his word to fetch the book.
Integrity is a core Gandhian value that Mahatma Gandhi embodied throughout his life, he practised it as much as he preached it.
Entrepreneurs and startups should imbibe integrity as a core value for life. Not only does it help improve overall performance due to no grey areas in operations, but it also helps increase the value in the eyes of stakeholders and customers.
Gandhi resonated with the idea of fearlessness and incorporated it so well into the national freedom movement that when he was faced with his tall, muscular Pathan supporters armed with guns at the Northwest Frontier, his first words were “Are you afraid? Why else would you carry guns?”
These strong men were stunned into silence by a lanky Gandhi, who then continued to say “I have no fear, and that is why I am unarmed. That is what ahimsa is all about.”
Not only was Mahatma Gandhi fearless when it came to non-violently resist the British, but he was also fearless in demanding what was right- he was ready to have uncomfortable conversations, make uncomfortable decisions, and he was always ready to lead by example.
Entrepreneurs should be fearless. Business is a risk, threat, and a lot of times, failure. The fear of anything in business can lead to poor decision making that paralyses entrepreneurs to take decisions against their better judgement. Fearlessness brings glory, even in entrepreneurship.
Simplicity and Humility
Gandhi inculcated simplicity and humility in his personal life by practising things like a simple vegetarian diet, wearing simple clothes that he made, and leading a life of minimum wants and needs.
Mahatma Gandhi slept on the floor, used the same stone to scrub his feet for over 25 years, had practically no possessions, and ate the meals that volunteer families cooked- even if it was flatbread with onions.
He reinforced the idea of simplicity and humility throughout his life by preaching people of all ages, from children to the elderly. He believed that a life of minimum wants and needs is a life that can be lived well and that when we tie our happiness to things and people, nothing good comes out of it.
We love seeing businesses make it to Forbes, and who doesn’t like a fancy whip to drive around. But leading a life of simplicity and humility never goes out of style. Work hard and stay humble. The cars, watches and houses will come when they have to.
Gandhi led a life of discipline. He woke up at the same time every day, which was always around 4 am, he had fixed times for reading, yoga, learning. He served people like it was his moral duty and never backed out of a commitment no matter what.
While in prison, he observed every single rule and regulation religiously. So much so, he did not even read the newspaper in prison when his followers sneaked one in for him because it was against the law. He even told his followers that he would report them for doing something that was not right. His self-discipline resonated in every aspect of his life and even echoed in his followers.
As an entrepreneur, discipline is key because there is no one to hold you accountable. You have to keep yourself on track, you have to ensure you give time to your health and you have to ensure you start working on time every day. The most successful people in the world wake up before 5 am and lead a life of discipline, just like Gandhi.
When Gandhi moved to London to attend law school, he was often mocked for his attire and his weak English. Undeterred, Gandhi did everything in his power to become the best at what he did and excelled not just in academics, but in extra-curricular activities as well.
He did try to fit in by buying more suits only to realise material possessions drain you of money and bring no substantial happiness. He stopped trying to please people and focused on what mattered, his education.
His perseverance grew with him well into the national freedom movement where he fought for years and rallied against the British in a non-violent manner. He was motivated and believed in himself, he knew nothing could stop him. The Champaran Satyagraha Movement bears witness to his perseverance where he recorded testimonials of over 8,000 indigo cultivators to understand their issues and help them.
Mahatma Gandhi had been shy and meek as a teenager, he was also quiet and reserved throughout his life. This did not stop him from becoming the “Father of the Nation”.
His leadership was unmatched and he lead people with bravery throughout the freedom movement. All this was only possible because of his excellent communication and oratory skills.
Mahatma Gandhi toured across the country in 1917 against the slavery of Indians in South Africa, addressing masses of lakhs to not just revolt, but do so in a non-violent manner.
His message and spirit spread to the crowds with the exact intent he had planned- and he got the exact reaction and movement he needed. He believed in the power of people and gave people their power to fight back without violence.
Like a true leader, he was not just all talk- his power was that he could vest people’s power back in them- and that is what he did by communicating with people in a language they spoke, with feelings they understood, and with a passion that drove them.
Communication, even today, forms the very core of business. Entrepreneurs need to understand the value of communicating their ideas. Startups especially need to be able to communicate their vision to investors and relevant parties in order to grow. Even when a business takes off, clear communication should be a business’ priority for its life.
There’s so much to learn from the lives of great leaders beyond the world of business. With successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs believing in Gandhian values and building one of the most prestigious companies in the world, we certainly think that startups and young entrepreneurs have a lot to learn from Gandhi’s Life as well.
UIncept is India's premier startup incubator and accelerator based out of Gurugram, India. In our pursuit to create startups that become the disruptors for tomorrow, we provide mentorship, investment and growth opportunities to the young entrepreneurs who work with us at our campus. Learn more about us and our programs here.