In the early days of my career, I had heard that Bhutan measures its success as a kingdom not in terms of GDP, but in terms of a Gross National Happiness – the measure of well-being of its population continues to remain a key indicator of this nation’s growth. Even as it embraces economic progress, it seeks to cultivate a holistic approach towards societal development so as to create a happier society. No wonder Bhutan is ranked amongst the happiest countries in the world.
Decades later, as part of Viacom18’s leadership team, I had a chance to visit Bhutan. The government manages inflow and outflow of tourists such that this sought after destination is never overcrowded. Through my conversations with a local driver, I discovered that education, although not compulsory, is free for 11 years from nursery to the 10th standard. I was also told that heath care is free for all citizens who looked happy and content. And that the state ferries people from remote areas by helicopter ambulance if they need to get to the best hospital, which is in Thimpu, the capital city.
One evening, when we went out shopping, something fascinating happened. A colleague of mine walked into a shop and bought some artefacts and jewellery worth about INR 60,000. When she gave her credit card to the shop keeper, it wouldn’t work. She tried another card, but the result was the same. She was embarrassed, so she told the shop owner that she would come back later. She was about to step out of the shop when the owner came to her and insisted she buy the stuff. She told him that she couldn’t since her cards wouldn’t work and she had no cash. He said she could take the goods and come back to pay later. She told him she couldn’t do that since she did not live there. He said that it was no problem and gave his account details, saying she could transfer the money to him when she went back in India. The words he used were ‘I trust you.’
This statement stayed somewhere at the back of my mind, even as life went on.
As CEO of the television channel Colors, I used to tell everyone who worked with me that I had only one KRA: I needed to make sure that all those who worked with me should wake up feeling charged with an adrenaline rush and excitement to come to work. I told them that if I was able to create that magic, I could achieve everything, because then they would happily do all the work and I would get the credit. It used to be treated as a joke, but I lived what I preached, and enjoyed the love and affection of my team, knowing that it was their passion and hard work that propelled the growth and success of the organisation.
When I was promoted to COO of Viacom18 – my scope of work had expanded hugely but I continued to hold on to my corner office, a seven figure salary package, and all the power and perks that came with the job. I had a great team, a great boss, and a very supporting management.
Yet, in spite of all this, I woke up one morning and didn’t feel the adrenaline rush to go to work. It was very unlike me. I was always motivated. I loved my work, it was my passion and I was excited and happy with what I was doing. I thought it was just one of those days when you don’t feel up to things. But this lethargy continued day after day. Initially I thought it was a passing phase. I had lost my mother and my brother over the span of a few months, so I attributed it to the fact that a lot had happened in my life, and that this too shall pass. But that did not happen. I was not able to put a finger on why but I was just not happy.
So I took a holiday, and visited my daughters who were studying in the United States at that time. When I told them, and my wife, that I was not enjoying what I was doing and didn’t know what step to take, they said: “Your twitter handle and email id is rajcheerfull. You always told us to follow your heart, follow your passion and to do things that make us happy. So what’s there to think about? Just do what makes you happy.”
I returned to India and sent in my resignation letter.
Later, when I spoke to many people within the organisation, including friends at CXO levels in various companies, I began to realise that many of them were not happy in spite of “having it all”.
Most companies do a lot of things to boost employee morale, offering incentives, offsites, Friday chills, engagement surveys, and much more.
But there is still something that is missing. I like to call it the H factor.
I thought to myself: “What if I could find a way to measure happiness, and seed happiness in companies? Why not create the concept of the Happiest Companies?”
It’s an idea that has the potential to benefit the corporations, as well as those who work in them. The value add could be far reaching.
So here I am. Doing what I know best: Being cheerful!
A visionary leader, media maverick, growth spinner, trendsetter and a motivational powerhouse, Raj has led businesses for over three decades. An advocate of happyness, Raj derives his energy from people across all walks of life and believes in the strength of diversity.