10 Success Lessons from India’s Richest Babas
A developer friend of mine from India told me the following story which played out near his village:
“There was a beggar who would sing near the railroad platform by his village. One day a police officer made him angry and he cursed the officer, telling him that he was going to die. Coincidentally (and unfortunately) the police officer died a few days later. People thought that the officer had died because of the beggar’s curse on him. Overnight the local residents began to call him Beer Baba (literally, Beer Guru) because they believed he had the power to foretell the future. Everyday, lines of people would give the Baba a can of beer and a banana for him to tell their future.”
I’ve always been suspicious at Indian Gurus. As I thought more about the story, a light bulb went off in my head. These Gurus were making big bucks and rising to popularity even before entrepreneurship became a big thing. Just as we learn from Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller, we can tap into and study the careers of some of the top-performing Babas of India.
After much thought and internal dialogue, I present to you the following case study of some of the key lessons we can all learn from these Indian entrepreneurs:
#1 — Simplify your product
Guru: Baba Ramdev
Net Worth: RS 1,100 Crore (163.8 Million USD)
Baba Ramdev as a yoga instructor struggled for years until in 2003, Aastha TV featured him their morning yoga slot.
There, he gained a large number of followers including numerous Indian film stars. He was soon invited to speak and teach yoga to individuals all over the world.
Ramdev wasn’t the first yogi to be featured on TV. He’s certainly not the first to offer Yoga classes, nor the first to have Yoga camps. So what made him so popular?
Here’s what he did right:
Yoga tends to be complex and difficult. Even the most beginner classes are difficult for someone who doesn’t possess some level of flexibility. Believe me, I know! I once went to a Yoga class and was tripping and falling all over the place.
Ramdev effectively created a simple routine consisting of 5 breathing exercises and 5 physical exercises. Nearly anyone can do his breathing exercises. The physical movements are also very simple to perform regardless of your age or weight.
Therefore, Ramdev’s product is “Yoga for the Common Man.”
Whatever it is you’re selling must be extremely simple. If you have to write a 20 page paper explaining your product, then you know it’s too complex.
The message of your website must be extremely simple. A random visitor should be able to immediately grasp what you’re about within a 30 second timeframe in order to accurately judge whether or not you can be useful to them.
This idea can also be used by actors. Define yourself in the most simplest terms. For job seekers, when you recruiters ask you to tell a bit about yourself, your response should be simple, clear and short.
This is the idea of the elevator pitch. The difficulty is to be unique yet convey that uniqueness in the simplest manner possible.
#2 — Have an Influential Mentor
Guru: Ravi Shankar
Net Worth: RS 1,000 Crore (148.9 Million USD)
Ravi Shankar had two spiritual teachers. The first was Sudhakar Chaturvedi, a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. From Chaturvedi Ravi Shankar acquired the basics of the Vedic religion. It would be Shanker’s second mentor that would really help propel him to fame: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
By the time Shankar became his discipline, Maharishi was already the guru to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and many other celebrities. He travelled around the world with his new mentor, giving talks on Vedic science and setting up Meditation and Ayurveda centers.
Through this experience, Ravi Shankar developed his own spiritual course called The Art of Living. He held the first course in Switzerland in the year 1983. If it weren’t for his connection with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, he would perhaps would have never been able to receive such international exposure.
Universities only teach you what’s in a textbook. Seek out a major player in your field and work under them. Take them on as your mentor, even if you have to work for free. They will open doors for you.
Too many people try to get jobs simply for the sake of money. Money will come. You must first find a job where you can gain experience and exposure.
Your mentor doesn’t even have to know that they are mentoring you. If you find work in a solid company, try and learn as much from the people around you.
So, for example, suppose you’re seeking to become a cook. Your objective should be to make a list of 5–10 top restaurants in your area and seek to work in the kitchen of those restaurants.
Learn as much as you can during your time there. Learn from the head chef, then forge your own path with those lessons.
#3 — Have your Own Unique Spin
Guru: Sant Rampal
Net Worth: RS 100 Crore (14.8 Million USD)
In 1996, Sant Rampal quit his job with the Government of Haryana irrigation department as a junior engineer to spread his message that Hinduism and all other religions were false. One should instead of worship Kabir who is the one true god.
He uses the Bible, Quran, Vedas, Gita, and various other religious texts to support his theory. Initially, his followers were people who already worshiped Kabir, but soon Rampal began gaining followers from other faiths.
Rampal claims that he is the incarnation of Kabir, and has been setting up Ashrams (places of worship) all across the state of Haryana, He is said to have over 2.5 million followers across 5 states: Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh.
Baba Ramdev spun yoga into his own brand, and Ravi Shankar spun the teachings of his mentor into his own brand. Rampal, however, has in effect begun a brand new religion — something that many of the top Babas of india tend to do.
Take something popular and put a unique spin on it. That unique spin is now your brand.
The automobile industry is the perfect example of this. Competition breeds innovation.
Each year, car manufacturers step up their game, seeking to infuse technology into their product to make it more appealing to consumers. We’ve come a long way from Da Vinci’s sketches in his notepad, due to the competitive nature of business and life.
Automobile brands also have their own unique edge, something they are known for. American companies are known for their muscle cars. Japanese companies are known for dependability. German companies are known for their engineering.
Consumers have different expectations for different brands. Not all consumers are budget conscious. Once you’ve built up your brand, you’ve also build up that expectation. Now it is your job not to disappoint your client base.
#4 — Get Influencers to Endorse You
Guru: Asaram Bapu
Net Worth: RS 10000 Crore (1.5 Billion USD)
Asaram Bapu was born Asumal Sirumalani and started a small ashram in 1973 with 5–10 followers. His following remained quite small until some local politicians began to believe his teachings. In 1981 and again in 1992, the Indian National Congress party allotted Asaram with land to expand his ashram.
Since then, Asaram Bapu has become a sensation. He has, however, been connected to numerous controversies including the horrible death of two young boys who had become devotees at his Ashram, along with a rape charge by a 16 year old girl who was a devotee.
You will also find many other India Baba’s facing legal problems. This, however, does not negate the lessons we can learn by their rise to fame.
You don’t need to appeal to everyone. Appeal only to one or two major players who themselves have a strong following.
Take for example, the French designer Philippe Starck who rose to fame after he designed the interior for former President Francois Mitterrand’s apartment. If you happen to score an A-list client, don’t waste it. Use that to your advantage to propel your career.
This may take a bit of luck…and a lot of hustle.
These days you can follow influencers on their social media accounts. You can use instagram to showcase your artwork. Use Facebook and other tools to showcase your writing.
We live in a time where we have numerous tools to show off our talents to the world. Influencers are just like regular people — they consume content and have problems that need to be solved.
#5 — Claim Enlightenment
Guru: Swami Nithyananda
Net Worth: RS 10000 Crore (1.5 Billion USD)
Swami Nithyananda changed his name from Rajasekaran. He claims that at age 9, he met regularly with Arunagiri Yogiswara, an incarnation of the god Shiva. This incarnation later said to him, “Dear one, you and I are one. We can never get separated. But the play is over. You will not miss me any longer. We are one.” The incarnation merged with him, according to Nithyananda.
At age 12, he claims he was given a meditation technique by Annamalai Swamigal which was the beginning of a new spiritual development. His meditation and yoga programs are extremely popular all across the world. His videos received over 14 million views on YouTube and he is the author of 300 books published in 27 languages.
There are many Babas who claim to have achieved some level of God-like status, but Nithyananda’s spin is different. He is quoted as saying “I am not here to say I am God. I am here to prove that you are God.”
In short, buy my meditation books to achieve god-like enlightenment for yourself.
Have some special knowledge only a few people possess. For chefs, this is easy: have a unique recipe so people don’t go anywhere else. Artists must have their own style. Business leaders must have their own formula, etc.
John H. Patterson created the world’s first sales training schools on the grounds of his National Cash Register company. The 16-page manual written by his brother in law set the stage for modern sales techniques.
This is why when internet marketers and bloggers create a course, they are immediately seen as an authority in their niche. You don’t need to be an expert on a big industry, but instead possess special knowledge on a very tiny niche.
This is what will set you apart from the competition.
#6 — Be Controversial
Guru: Osho Rajneesh
Net Worth: Unknown, but he owned over 96 Rolls Royce
Osho was a Baba who opposed organised religion. His initial followers were wealthy businessmen who supported his anti-socialist stance.
Rajneesh was always a rebel in school, but extremely bright. He took an anti-theist position, but not necessarily an atheistic position. Being a teacher of philosophy, Osho traveled throughout India in the 1960s spreading his unique ideas on religion, spirituality, and economics.
Each one of his ideas sparked controversy as they were against traditional Hindu values. He was an ardent supporter of resisting marriage, and spoke in favor of abortion.
The irony of Osho is that despite being against institutionalized religion, he set up Ashrams for his own organization. In response to his ideas, the Indian government began limiting his movements in the 1970s.
Followers in the U.S. purchased land to build an Ashram for Osho in Oregon. This was also met with protests from local citizens. Conflicts led to violence and conspiracy including a bioterrorist attack in Oregon by Osho’s supporters, and a conspiracy to murder the local District Attorney.
Osho was sent back to India on a plea bargain, where he died in 1990.
Take something you don’t like and speak out against it. Then offer a solution to improve it. People may be taken back by your words in the beginning, but soon they will see you as a thought leader.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore became a success by producing controversial films such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. On the conservative side, Dinesh D’Souza uses similar controversial tactics by creating films such as Hillary’s America.
#7 — Copy Someone Famous
Guru: Sathya Sai Baba
Net Worth: RS 38 Crore (5.6 Million USD)
Sathya did not claim enlightenment, nor did he claim God-hood. Instead, he claimed to be the incarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, a popular guru who lived over a hundred years ago.
The original Sai Baba lived an ascetic life. He had no formal disciples, nor provided any formal training. His preaching consisted of a combined philosophy from Islam and Hinduism, and opposed all persecution based on caste or religion.
Sathya Sai Baba, after taking the original’s name, took a step further and performed miracles such as healings, resurrections, clairvoyance, and bilocation to attract followers. Sceptics and media have constantly raised concern over such tricks.
His organization built 1200 Sathya Sai Baba centers in 126 countries. The organization does not seem to be selling anything, nor is there any specific link to donate on its website.
Even then, after Sathya Sai Baba’s death, millions were found hidden in his room. His devotees have come out claiming that people sent money to Sathya without being solicited to do so. Perhaps that is true, but if the claim is that he lived a simple life, then that money would have been immediately rerouted to charitable organizations.
Interview famous people on your podcast. By them being on your show, you’re positioning yourself as someone worth following.
I do a similar thing just by sharing stories of famous people. These stories are used to support my thesis that simple hard work can open doors and propel you to success.
Evan Carmichael’s YouTube channel features top ten success tips from clips pieced together from celebrity interviews. These clips helped him gain a following which then allowed him to conduct live interviews with top performers such as Gary Vaynerchuk.
You can also copy someone’s career path. Read biographies and attempt to pinpoint the exact steps a top performer in your niche took to become successful.
There are many film actors who have taken the path of first going into modeling, then entering the film industry. Some of these include Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who won the Miss World pageant in 1994 and John Abraham who won the Gladrags Manhunt competition in 1999 — both top performers in their field.
#8 — Focus on a Niche
Net Worth: He won’t tell us
Chandraswami began to study tantra at a young age, but shot to fame when he began advising politicians on election results. Clearly, he had exploited the right niche.
Not only do local indian politicians consult him as an astrologer, Chandraswami is also the advisor to actress Elizabeth Taylor and Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain.
He’s gotten into legal trouble due to numerous financial irregularities, making his wealth difficult to pinpoint. An income tax raid on his ashram revealed a payment to Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi of $11 million.
Use your skills to help a specific group of people. This group will attract more people in that same niche. Eventually people will take notice and you’ll be fully booked.
One director who started out in an extremely small niche market was Quentin Tarantino. His first film, Reservoir Dogs was first featured at the Sundance Film Festival. It became popular amongst independent filmmakers before being picked up by Miramax films for distribution.
His subsequent films, including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, catered only to a small audience. It was this small audience which helped garner the Tarantino brand.
Steve Jobs is yet another example. Apple computers was built for a very small, niche audience but has since developed into a game changing company with mass appeal.
Focusing on a niche market also preservers your own integrity and brand. It’s extremely difficult to make everyone happy. Instead, focus on making just a few people happy.
#9 — Use a Launch Pad
Guru: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan
Net Worth: Owner of over 700 acres of agricultural land, a 175 bed hospital, plenty of gas stations, supermarket complexes, and over 250 ashrams around the world.
His income isn’t publicly revealed, but he owns a lot of stuff and lives an incredibly lavish lifestyle. Gurmeet Singh is the third chief of a non-profit organization known as Dera Sacha Sauda, started by an acetic by the name of Mastana Balochistani.
Gurmeet Singh has used his position to launch an acting and singing career. Also known as Rockstar Baba, the trailer for his movie MSG received over 1.5 million views within a week of it’s release.
Despite being a terrible singer, he’s sold millions of his singles with titles such as “Love Charger,” and “Thank You for That.” Gurmeet Singh has a distinct style where he sings in broken english.
The Rockstar Guru has also used his fame to launch many welfare projects including disaster relief through the Shah Satnam Ji Green S Welfare Force Wing, which he set up in 2001. In addition, he’s spearheaded numerous cleanliness drives, blood pressure screening, diabetes screening, and more.
This guru also has his fair share of controversies including numerous rape cases. India’s Central Bureau of Intelligence has charged the baba for having masterminded the murder of the editor of Delhi Based newspaper, Poora Sach, who listed the illegal activities this Gurmeet Singh was involved in.
Work for a company you see growth potential. Work up the ranks. Use your position to make money off your side hustle.
This is the strategy 50 cent used. Interscope gave 50 cent his own recording label, and through this opportunity he was able to expand his wealth and invest into more businesses.
Sometimes when you have nothing in your pockets, you need to grab onto the first opportunity that comes your way. Rise in it, then use it as a launch pad for what you really want to do .
Charles Dickens was a freelance writer for various magazines and newspapers. This eventually led him to become the editor of a magazine known as Bentley’s Miscellany, started by Richard Bentley.
It was in this magazine that Dickens began publishing his first novel, Oliver Twist.
#10 — Love People
Guru: Mata Amritanandamayi
Net Worth: 273.2 USD
Known simply as Amma (mother) to her followers, she was born as Sudhamani Idamannel to a family of fishermen. At an early age, she would bring those in her neighborhood suffering from intense poverty food and clothing. She would also hug them.
She is known for saying, “I don’t see if it is a man or a woman. I don’t see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”
Mata is said to have hugged over 33 million people throughout the world for 30 years, and is a breath of fresh air compared to many of the other criminal and controversial Babas of India.
Give away massive doses of free information to establish yourself as an expert in your field. More importantly, genuinely enjoy helping other people with their problems.
This is a common way of establishing authority, already implemented by bloggers.
Cenk Uygur started The Young Turks, a free news channel on YouTube. The Young Turks is now a massive media power house, able to compete with major networks.
Some of the Babas mentioned in this post are certainly controversial. My intention is not to state that you should seek to mislead people. My intention was simply to point out that there are lessons that you can learn from successful people of all calibers.
Originally published at www.thehustlemindset.com on September 2, 2016.