Sharayu Daftary

By Ms. Shalaja Ganguly

Author talks to Ms. Sharayu Daftary about the Jain influence on her business success.



"You cannot ignore or deny the fact that a man and a woman are like the twin wheel of life's carriage. That is why a husband and wife must nurture mutual respect and buffer each other at all times on their journey towards self-expression and fulfillment. For it is only in such secure and civilized homes that an intellectually strong and emotionally sound new generation can be raised, and a bright future ensured for our values and our culture."

This is Sharayu Daftary - ace businesswoman, caring wife, proud mother of three accomplished and a staunch practicing Jain - speaking in her new avatar as a committed editor of Jain Bodhak, an inspiring fortnightly paraphrasing the way to live right, as per the tenets of Jainism. In this edit she is reacting to Prime Minister Vajpayee's declaration of 2001 s the "Women's Right Year" and elucidating how gender equality is intrinsic to the Jain darma which grants a woman as much dignity, freedom of thought and opportunity, as a man.

A lightning-swift mind, a wide canvas of interest and achievements, ideas as crisp as the delicately embroidered cottons she prefers, a tremendous capacity for absorbing information and learning, and a work ethic that is defined by "need not greed" has enabled this spunky inheritor of the Walchand family to go far in a male-dominated arena with many "firsts" to her credit.

Currently injecting her special spark of womanpower in her second innings as President of the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC), where she had the honour of becoming the first elected President in 1981, Daftary has also earned the distinction of being the first woman to be elected President f the Automotive Components Manufacturers Association in 1971, the first woman member of the executive committee of FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, New Delhi), and first lady Rotarian of the Rotary Club in her area. In fact, during her initial run at the IMC, she was President elect of both its mainstream body and Ladies' Wing.

She is also founder and managing director of Bharat Radiators Ltd., an engineering and ancillary unit to the automobile industry which she established in 1958, at age 25. She guided the fortunes of her company with a business acumen and humane approach that could teach a thing or two to hothouse trained MBA's whose focus on upward mobility often makes them lose sight of the shop-floor where the success story actually begins.

"For 32 years we had no strike no go-slow and no loss of manpower." Now this is a record achievement for a helmswoman with a BA degree, who worked on the machines in a sari (oh yes!) and evolved her own play-to-win strategy with some credit to Peter Drucker, who asserts that the best manager is one who can get everything done through worthy delegates.

"I really believe in that. Rather than appointing quality-control inspectors, I always told my workers that I had full faith in them. I would give them the specifications of the materials and tell them to be their own inspectors in the production unit. This increased both their self-esteem and their skill, and no doubt their loyalty." "May religion and my upbringing have taught me that where you are born because of your karma. Go beyond that and you realize that all atmas are equal. Besides, a little praise goes a long way in making 'efficiency effective and weakness redundant,' as Drucker recommends."

"From my childhood, by education and example, I have been guided by the five principal tenets of Jainism ahimsa, satya, asteya, aparigraha, and brahmachary (being non-violent, honest, abstaining from talking anything that does not belong to you, being content and observing fidelity).

Everyone at home followed these principles. My uncle had many business interests but his personal assets would never go beyond a certain point - no shady deals and no opulence, even though there was affluence. Enjoy what you are entitled to because of your good deeds, you punyakarma, but do so with a certain detachment, is what Jainism says. The Walchand group earned respect for transparency of action because these religious tenets were applied to daily life."

Pepper this strong conditioning with an infectious energy and thoroughness of approach, exemplary time and people management and you have the success formula of this woman of today. "I have always had a tendency to evaluate and analyze the knowledge I acquire I also believe in constantly updating myself. I still read the latest books on economics and business management. At conferences, I would never open my mouth until I was sure of my hold over the subject. Therefore, when I did speak, I would better than the others.

"Religion teaches you to face reality," is how she brushes off a compliment on how refreshingly candid she can be even on such deeply personal and vulnerable ground. But then, in business life victory goes to the one savvy enough to circumvent any minor setback and create one's own space, one's own style. "My jewellery, my bangles, bindi, shoes, flowers always matched my sari. I played badminton regularly to stay in shape after may three daughters were born." She even learnt kathak along with them, for a while.

It was from this happy mix, this irresistible cocktail of a traditional foundation and a modern outlook, a healthy and perfectly groomed body and a quicksilver mind, that the swan soon emerged, earning compliments galore as she brushed shoulders with the high and mighty.

Independently, Daftary has travelled extensively and lectured on subjects ranging from management and women's empowerment to vegetarianism, ahimsa, and Jain philosophy. Little surprise then, that the Jain Ratna Award was conferred on her because of her firm belief in ahimsa as a practicing Jain, her commitment to the propagation of Jain philosophy as well as human and ethical values.

"In 1980 I began a serious study of Jainism under Acharya Vidyanand Muni. It was he who convinced me that I should take up the editorship of Jain Badhak, the fortnightly started by my grandfather. It is second in longevity only to Tilak's Kesari and it has brought me a lot of fulfillment. You see, when one follows certain principles, one wants to know the philosophy behind them. My main effort in Jain Bodhak is to make available what is in the shatras in a simplified manner. The road to moksha is open only to those with samayakdarshan - which is shraddha (piety) gnan (knowledge) and charitra (good character)."

" I believe in yoga. I do the suryanamaskar as well as pranayam and dhyana. You see, pooja or path (ritualistic worship or chanting and reading of spiritual texts) are the initial steps but finally the road to moksha is through mind, learning to eliminate anger, avarice, attachment and ego. The most difficult to give up is maya (attachment). Jainism tells you that by good deeds you may accumulate punya but to break the cycle of life and death you cultivate detachment.

In whatever she does, Sharayu Daftary's motto clearly is "Give your all to what you do." You have to only read her outstanding resume, or listen to her management-speak", or nitpick with her about Jain philosophy, or discover she gives research grants to low profile but deserving musicians. You can hear about the exhibition on vegetarianism that she had mounted and how she helped Satish Arora add zing to Jain food at the Taj, or see how well her daughter Gauri Pohoomal, Czaee Shah and Kavita Khanna have turned out ("what was important was not what they did, but how well they did it") or stare disbelievingly at the impeccable hand embroidery she had done on her sari.



Source :  The above is extracted from "Vardhaman, a book on Jainism," 2001
Published By Times of India to commemorate the 2600th birth year of Lord Mahavira


Mail to : Ahimsa Foundation