I have had the privilege of meeting some really inspiring people and be part of their transformative journeys during the course of my career. Jagriti Yatra, a program focused on youth, is one such journey. It aims to positively change the lives of millions of youth in what is known as “Middle India”—the so-called Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities of our country. It aims to spark entrepreneurial spirit among them so they can create value and contribute to the betterment of the society at large. Self-sustainability is beyond subsistence. It imparts confidence, pride, and a purpose to life. Without launching a sermon of the known benefits of entrepreneurship for a young nation like ours, I would like to quote a simple adage, “teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Jagriti Yatra started as a 15-day long train journey during which 450–500 youths travelled the length and breadth of India over 8000 kilometers to discover shades of India tucked away in small towns and villages. Coca-Cola India partnered with the Jagriti Yatra to reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit among youth by evangelizing the message “Building India through Enterprise.” Our focus has been to encourage the women participation in the Yatra that augurs well for our global commitment of 5by20.
Our partnership with Jagriti Yatra is moving beyond the Yatra now. I must also confess that we did go through ups and downs during our long association dotted with sporadic bouts of skepticism. Every uncomfortable conversation only renewed our faith in the initiative. At Coca-Cola, we truly believe in the potential of youth to transform the world around us. Being a relatively new entrant to the Coca-Cola family, I can say with confidence that more than a century old Coca-Cola is as youthful as it gets. Since its inception, it has stood for positivity, hope, and youthfulness.
The iconic campaign of the ‘Hilltop Song’ in 1971 commences with simple yet profound words, “I like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love, I’d like to teach the world to sing and sing in perfect harmony…” These words stand true even today, all the more so. The Ramadan campaign ‘Labels are for cans and not for people’ humbly urges us to rethink stereotypes and unconscious prejudices. Our “Ummedon waali dhoop, sunshine waali ashaa” campaign celebrates triumph of faith over cynicism.
Earlier this year, when I was invited to share my thoughts with the “you” (the Yatris for 2016) in Delhi, I could not resist sharing the same advice I give to my children. I told my adolescent son to “Fall in Love” when he asked for my advice on his birthday last year. My wife was apparently not amused and looked at me quizzically. I explained to them that it is a state of mind that transcends you into an extraordinary relationship with the purpose, hobby, or person you fall in love with. It can happen between you and your hobbies, country, work, or anything that you fall in love with. The opposite of love is ‘indifference’ and when I told my son to fall in love, I exhorted him to start caring strongly about a purpose. Love, as they say, knows no bounds and it can overcome all apathy. By falling in love, we become extraordinary by levitating into an extraordinary relationship between ourselves and our beneficiary of love. Indifference is not just an ordinary feeling but it is toxic and contagious too. I believe that the world has only two kinds of people—the extraordinary and the indifferent. As we embark on the journeys of our lives, the real difference is made by the choices we make—either to live the life that is extraordinary or survive the one that’s indifferent!
My second piece of advice was that regardless of what you do or where you land up, the journey of life is a rollercoaster. There will be moments of hating life and of disbelief (I have had them in abundance), all we have to do is to continue to believe in love, fall in love, stay in love, and take the ‘sting’ out of life. The sting at times also comes from an unfounded assumption that you and only you own the truth. There have been times when I was subjected to uncomfortable situations and conversations leading to moments of self-doubt. We are left to judge between “our truth” (based on our limited experiences) and the “universal truth.” Such sweeping generalizations could have implied my allegiance to the limited clan that spreads violence in the name of truth. However, it’s the unconditional love and acceptance of people who believed in the larger truth that made me what I am. As youth, it is important to know that while we can pursue one truth, there can still be multitude of parallel truths that co-exist in this world, each of which is equally powerful and relevant.
The last advice I gave was to shoulder the responsibility of using the information prudently in the face of incredible information overload. It is critical that we are able to process the information we receive, put our own filter of wisdom and logic, and then deal with it objectively. In a world that is seamlessly bonded through the World Wide Web, this vital practice will make us the voice of reason—a lighthouse in this vast ocean of unprovoked internet trolling and misinformation.
It is so heartening to see you gearing up to create a world which you aspire to create. Be good, stay kind. Make friends and fall in love.