"When I was in Class 4, I used to carry granite stones on my head."
"I would travel miles in the sun on a bicycle and bring new clients. I did not even have an office or a table to work on."
"If you run after money, you will never improve."
"I told my kids, I’ll give you nothing but my legacy. I want my kids to make their own fortune through hard work."
Abu Dhabi-based serial entrepreneur BR Shetty walks us through his life and career and shares the imminent lessons he's learned.
The story of how an Indian pharma salesman went on to set up UAE's largest private healthcare services is an amazing tale in itself, filled with surprises, downfalls, and life lessons.
Born in Udupi, Karnataka, BR Shetty moved to the UAE in the 70s to search for a job.
In 1975, he set up the New Medical Centre (NMC) in Abu Dhabi which currently caters to over one million people in the country.
Among his other ventures include UAE Exchange, a remittance firm and Neopharma, a pharmaceuticals company which he founded in 1980 and 2003 respectively.
Last month, the Padmashree recipient visited India to speak to management students at the National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Powai and receive the Lakshya Business Visionary Award in honour of his services in India and abroad.
In his 20-minute address to students, the serial entrepreneur who identifies himself as a 'middle-class man' shared interesting anecdotes from his life and career that is sure to inspire you. Read on...
Always have service on mind
Shetty who dons multiple hats -- that of an entrepreneur, investor, mentor and philanthropist -- attributes his success to the lessons he imbibed during his growing up years.
"When I was in class 4, I used to carry granite stones on my head.
"I have been a volunteer for several social causes before I became vice chairman of the municipal council in Udupi.
"We did not have proper sanitation and good hospitals in Udipi. When I grew up, that became my aim -- I built more hospitals, improved underground drainage and septic tanks.
"Today Udupi is counted among the cleanest and beautiful cities in India. I did the same for UAE and people have loved the transformation," he shares.
"When you have service on your mind, anything you do will be successful," he adds.
You're never too old to learn
When Shetty went to the UAE, all he had was a degree in pharmacy and a few hundred rupees in his pocket. No one was ready to give him a job, but he managed to find one and excel at it.
"Every time I applied for a job, my application was turned down -- either I was overqualified for the job or under-qualified.
"I could not go back to India and face my family. So I decided to create a job for me.
"I volunteered to be the first outdoor salesman for pharmaceutical products.
"It was a totally new experience for me. I would travel miles in the sun on a bicycle and bring new clients.
"I did not even have an office or a table to work on. I would come back to office and take orders sitting on a chair.
"I had to learn Arabic and update my product knowledge so I could communicate better with customers and clients.
"I learned to multi-task and worked really hard.
"If I had been adamant to do a comfortable job based on the degree I had, I would have never got so far," shares Shetty.
Respect your customers
In any business, the customer is always the king. It is the customer who dictates the market and decides how much profit you’ll make.
"If you don’t have any customers, who will pay you salary?
"Don’t work for the company, work for your customers.
"Listen to their problems and issues.
"If you help them find a solution, they will give you more ideas and also help you grow," advises Shetty.
Don’t let failures disappoint you
When one door closes, another one opens. Treat every disaster as an opportunity, he urged.
"Every time I faced a difficult situation, I would think of alternative solutions to come out of it.
"I went to the UAE to take up a better job and repay the personal loan I had taken for my sister's wedding.
"If I had not taken a loan, I would have never gone to the UAE and become a businessman."
Failures will always help you look at new opportunities and avenues.
Don’t work for fame and money
"You don't need money to do business," says Shetty, "you need passion".
"If you run after money, you will never improve. In business, money is temporary -- what you earn in one day, you are bound to lose some day.
"What is more important is the relationship you share with people, customers and society.
"If you're good and dedicated to your passion, money will come automatically," he reasons.
"I told my kids, I'll give you nothing but my legacy.
"I want my kids to make their own fortune through hard work."
Always remember, your hard work never goes unrewarded, he summed up.
Lead image: Former president of India A P J Abdul Kalam honours BR Shetty with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2007
Photograph courtesy: brshetty.com