The Businessman I Believe In
In the world we live in today, the businessman gets a bad rep. We picture him with slicked-back hair, a sleek briefcase, and shoes so polished we can see our reflection in them. He’s the one yelling on the phone as he walks through the city, too busy to apologize for brushing past your shoulder. He’s the one that never makes it home in time for dinner and forgets about anniversaries. He’s evil and probably evades his taxes. He’s greedy; he’s selfish; he confuses happiness with money, and he’s a figure worth fighting against.
I’ve heard this story of the businessman many times — in books, in TV, and, yes, in real life. But it’s not the story I know.
Let me tell you the story I know. Let me tell you about my dad.
My dad LOVES food. I know what you’re thinking: uh…everyone loves food. It’s how we live. But my dad’s love for food goes way beyond an appreciation for flavor. Not only does he cook the most MAGICAL dishes I’ve ever tasted, he obsesses over ingredients in a way that not even a hardcore vegan could understand.
A mere grain of rice gets him excited. He can tell you whether the rice is organic or hybridized, where it was likely produced, what the size of it indicates, how it will cook and what it will taste like. He will tell you all about the international markets in rice, the trends in its price over time, and the trade laws guiding its exchange. When I was in preschool, my dad would tell me so much about rice that when people asked me what his career was, I would never say “businessman”…I would say “rice man.”
Although it’s true that my dad knows a lot of “food facts,” he’s never considered facts to be more important than ideas. Watch Ibby, this is going to be the next big breakthrough is something I’ve heard him say with twinkling eyes at least a hundred times, after brainstorming new food technologies or solutions. I was most surprised when, a couple years ago, I discovered that UberChef was launched a few months after my dad had told me how desperately we needed an uber-for-food system connecting households with non-career cooks.
And although ideas have given my dad a very special kind of innovative spirit, he’s never considered ideas to be more important than sentiments. When people tell me that I’m emotional, I always say the same thing: you should meet my dad. This is a man who will cry more than my mom during any melodramatic Bollywood movie, a man who will brake the car for every squirrel even if it kills his tires, a man who calls every single college friend for every single birthday, a man who wraps Christmas gifts as if he were a retired grandmother, a man who will do absolutely anything he can to make people laugh and smile, a man always asking himself if he is doing the best he can at being a “good” person.
It is with a love for food, spirit of innovation, and this keen sense of morality that my dad entered the business world several decades ago. And despite the “dog eats dog” atmosphere of the food industry, my dad has carved out a space for himself in which he can hold onto his ideals, and built a network of people that respect his work ethic and refusal to ever go back on his word.
For my dad, business has never been about making loads of money. It’s always been about making the world a better place, and for him, that means making good food more available and accessible. Unlike the dominant narrative that the business world is “soul-sucking,” my dad has never lost the belief that what he is doing is fundamentally important for society. As he says, “food is our most essential human experience.”
It is from my dad that I have learned to follow work which you believe in; work which you consider fundamentally important. It is also from my dad that I have learned that not all business is bad. Business allows us to access robust experiences and build vehicles which propel the rate of progress. Business allows us to create the stuff of our dreams. Thank you dad, for always dreaming.