Health and Harmony
Despite the frequency with which he is featured
on Page 3, Yash Birla is no dissolute party animal,
as he reveals in a poignant interview with
Certainly, up close and personal, the serious-minded young industrialist is the anti-thesis of the flamboyant jet-setter he is made out to be
in gossip columns – despite his unbelievably boyish good looks, streaked blond hair and
Looking fit and dapper in a dark designer suit, striped white shirt and a flowery Versace tie, Yash Birla, chairman of the Birla Group, could well be the brand ambassador for the wellness programmes that his company plans to launch this year.
Surprisingly for a man who makes the news almost every week even in a sensation-rich country like India, he treats his interviewer with deep respect and speaks with touching candour about his personal beliefs, even delving into his darkest moments which undoubtedly must be the time when barely out of his teens he lost his parents and sister in a plane crash.
Venture into wellness
The foray into wellness reflects Birla’s own belief in healthful living. He is passionate that health should be seen as a whole, not in fragmented parts; hence the multidisciplinary approach to the medical and aesthetic division of his new enterprise.
Putting his money where his heart is, Birla has gone into a joint venture with one of Singapore’s leading healthcare companies – Pacific Healthcare Holdings (PacHealth) – to launch Evolve, a chain of medical and cosmetic centres in India. It will combine the Birla brand names and industry expertise with the high standard of healthcare service that Singapore is famed for.
Speaking to India Se at an exclusive interview after a press conference in Singapore, Birla said that trends in metros of India showed that the middle and upper middle class were seeking higher standards of service and better ambience for their wellness needs and his new chain, Evolve would be tapping into this rich target group as well as tourists.
On good health
The scion of the famed Birla empire is an ardent follower of the mind, body and soul maxim. He equates the body to a jigsaw puzzle, stressing that all parts have to be given equal importance. Health, he says, is a reflection of an inner equilibrium, mental clarity and good habits.
“Life’s essence is in our core values so when there are calamities you can deal with them. In the States, where I was growing up, I used to take a Bhagavad Gita CD and go into the forest. I believe adversity is an opportunity for progress. When my parents and sister passed away when I was 22, I would not have been able to deal with the calamity if I had not had a strong foundation within.
“To foster that, I try to meet spiritual teachers – there is so much of knowledge and positivism that they can give to us. I look for opportunities to meet philosophers and guides. I guess, you have to make a choice – what is longer lasting? Being with an evolved being or going to the bar?
“But ultimately it is a choice and the desire has to come from within.”
On a fitness regime
“I do weights and cardiovascular exercises at least four to five times a week, and power yoga now and then.
“At night, I like to do pranayama and meditation as it helps me take care of the stress factor.”
On inculcating values in children
“It is important to put the right strong values in children like doing pranayama, attending religious satsangs and learning Sanskrit. If you ask me what is my language I don’t say “Marwari”, I prefer to say Hindi – it’s the national language of India and everybody should learn it. Focusing on regional languages like Bengali, Marathi or Tamil, etc is so divisive. We’re all Indians, we should all know the national language. Better still, we should all know Sanskrit
“My younger son is learning Sanskrit and I’ve taken my children to spiritual destinations and we’ve tried to do simple, normal things. I’d rather take them to the cities and villages of India where they can see how other less fortunate Indians live. How much can you keep going to Orlando or Paris? It can be difficult with the influences of big cities and of course, some children may not be ready or may be resistant. Teen hormones may kick in but what you keep reminding them of will remain in their subconscious and come back someday.
“I don’t preach what I don’t follow myself. The way you think is important… which is how we come to health. Health is important. To cultivate clarity of thought, you have to eat the right foods and exercise. Something may go wrong but you can correct that.”
Evolve – the business concept
While the Birla Group will hold 50 per cent stake in the company and Pacific 42.5 per cent, Dr Abhijit Desai, dermatologist, will hold the remaining 7.5 per cent.
The company intends investing Rs 28 crore (about US$6,619,400) in Evolve during the next financial year. It will be positioned as a holistic healthcare solution provider for all age groups and classes of people. The venture plans to set up five Evolve Med Spas in Bombay and Delhi with a stay-in spa at Goa.
The Birla Empire
The Birla Empire consists of diverse industries in steel, chemicals, textiles, telecom, engineering, cutting tools, IT and BPO services in insurance – and more recently health and wellness. The multi-million empire, with a turnover of over US$500 million, is one of India’s oldest and most enduring legacies, nurtured by Raja Baleo Das Birla and his sons, JK Birla, RD Birla, GD Birla and BM Birla.
The Birlas have also supported many charitable institutions and made a name in the field of philanthropy. By supporting Mahatma Gandhi’s ahimsa and non-violence movement, they gave invaluable support to the Indian struggle for
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