Dr. Harbhajan Batth, President of Lagos Business School, EMBA7, former Executive Director of Prestige Assurance Company; ex-Chief Manager, The New India Assurance Company, Resource Person, Tony Elumelu Foundation and Group Chief Information, Chellarams PLC, concludes his story with a caveat that no one achieves self-actualisation with one skill set.
It was on the heels of a report where I was listed as one of the 10 distinguished alumni of the Lagos Business School. Ever since that publication came out, so many people and organisations always contact me for training, which I offer free. Of course, it’s time-consuming but I am passionate about sharing the blessings God has given to me. I dedicate my Saturdays and Sundays to helping people. Many people go to the church, mosque, and temple on any of those days, but I dedicate them to answering questions from entrepreneurs and individuals who desire growth. As someone who has received much from Nigeria, I am duty-bound to give back. Also, I’m someone, who believes that if you don’t train people, don’t blame them for not doing things according to your expectations.
I believe in the training and development of my colleagues. I have a staffer here who read Banking and Finance. When she applied for a job, which is not relevant to what she studied, I encouraged her to enroll for MBA three years after. I got old MBA past question papers and gave them to her after which she sat for the exams and passed. I also encouraged her to continue reading books. I buy books not to keep in my library but to donate. If a visitor comes to my house and I am impressed with our discussion , I give the person a book that will be relevant to him. When I donate a book, I tell the recipient to read the book three times, because I believe that anyone who has not read a book three times has not read the book at all. I also encourage people to pass on the books I give them after reading, so that other people will benefit from them. By doing that, we would succeed in empowering many people.
Why I upgraded my skills
When I joined Chellarams, I was needed as General Manager, Operations. I had to upgrade my skill-set. I did a six-month course at the United Nations and that empowered me so much that I changed so many things about the company. I was later upgraded to the Chief Group Information Officer, which implies that I will relate with suppliers and investors. I had to do another course at the School of Media and Communication on Strategies for Optimising Corporate Communication Skills. The point is that when you get to certain assignments and you are not perfect, you would not be able to deliver. As I was getting assignments, I was upgrading my skills, because I believe there is no place for generic skills in the boardroom. Every organisation looks for a specialist. Now that I have the knowledge, I’m not hesitating to share it. My model is that one must give back to a society that empowers him much. If I fail to empower my friends, colleagues and other people in my sphere of influence, it will be unfair. That’s why I believe in teaching people how to fish instead of giving them fish. As we speak, so many people have my pictures in their households, because they feel I have done something that influenced their lives. For instance, whosoever approaches me for a job, I try as much as I can within my sphere of influence to assist.
Required skill set
Even if an unsolicited application comes, I don’t ignore the person. I tell my friends in other companies, who could possibly be of help. I feel happy when the person gets a job and if the person doesn’t get a job, because of not having the required skill set, I help the person to acquire skills. For instance, one of my security guards informed me that his wife’s nephew was looking for a job. I interviewed him and saw so many gaps in his skill set. I recommended some things for him to do which he did. The first thing was for him to enroll at Poise Graduate School. I asked him to use my name to get a discount of 20 percent on the fees because I do things free of charge for the school. He did other small companies and fixed him in one of our companies, Woolswhorts which we have closed down. He called to tell me that he no longer had a job, I got him employed in KFC, Enugu. There is a level he could grow in that company and he kept telling me about it, adding that he needed to leave the job.
In a pyramid
His thinking was a natural one because in a pyramid if someone cannot get to the ceiling, the person just has to leave for a place where he can grow. I gave him some links and he eventually got a place in the Chicken Republic. I also recommended him to a new company that just came in and they employed him. Today, he receives a monthly salary of N175,000. His is a journey of four years which started with N45,000 salary. He has not left me since then, because he discovered that I am very instrumental in his growth. I am qualified to offer solutions to people because of the different skill-sets I acquired and the different environments and organisations I worked. I often share my experiences with my mentees so that they will learn from my mistakes and triumphs. There is something to learn from every failure. Nobody should crucify himself for failing, rather, it should be seen as a platform to learn and to be careful not to fail again if a similar situation comes up again.
Growing in difficult times
I recently gave a talk on how people can strengthen their businesses during difficult times. It is very important because a lot of people lose hope when faced with difficulties. It is natural for people to feel like that but businesses can grow in the midst of difficulties. It just requires a positive mindset when faced with difficulties. Of course, some of the challenges are beyond control for the citizens. Of course, every citizen wants a booming economy and good things, it is also important for them to play their own roles in ensuring that they survive difficult times. Citizens have a role to play because all stakeholders have to play their role. Anyone who has not contributed anything to the nation does not have the right to ask what the government has done for him. Nigerians need to be more patriotic by having faith in anything Nigerian. Why are people using Italian made jackets when jackets can be made with Ankara? Why don’t Nigerians give credence to things made in Nigeria? I am an Indian, who lives in Canada and Nigeria but everything I wear is made in India. That is how I contribute to the economy of India. By doing that I encouraged Indian entrepreneurs to grow the economy. But it is not like that in Nigeria where people like to showcase foreign brands. What kind of obsession is that?
N35, 000 or N50,000
Some of my mentees have started local products that now generate income for them. If they had waited for a job of N45,000, they would not have been making the kind of money they are making now. I want to encourage people to think Nigeria and grow Nigeria. This country has the best fruits in the world. I have seen pineapples in Canada, India and other countries, but the pineapple in Nigeria is so good. But nothing is being done to export them and grow the economy from the proceeds. Anything can grow in this land but people are not optimizing it. Agriculture is growing at 1.6 percent, while the population is growing at 2.5 percent. It means that a time will come when the country can no longer feed its citizens. Why would grains and staple foods still be imported? The abundant resources God has blessed Nigerians with is an opportunity for every graduate to grab instead of looking for a job of N35, 000 or N50,000. I have a friend, whose son approached me for a job. I encouraged him to start fish farming. Today, he is a major fish farmer.
Best gift to humanity
Anyone in a foreign land is expected not to just stick to his community but to associate with his host community. The world has become a global village where everyone should come out of his shell. Anything anyone does for the country of his residence, the person does it for himself.
My daughter, who lives in Canada started donating blood at the age of 17. When she freely walked into a blood donation centre, she was asked what influenced her decision and she told them that her father has been donating blood for a long time. She said she learned from her father, adding that I told her that the best gift to any community is to donate blood. She does it every six months. I have donated blood three times this year. Even in our company, Challerams, we donate blood. In my group, MBAE7 of the Lagos Business School, we organised a blood donation camp, but no Nigerian in the group came to donate blood. My staff and friends came to donate blood. After that, I sensitised the Indians about it. It was not the fault of the members of my group, because Nigerians are not used to it. However, it should be seen as a way of contributing to the society. I have lost count of the number of times I have donated blood. When people ask why they should donate blood, I often tell them that they are doing it for humanity. Only six percent of the world’s population has my kind of blood group. It is rare. There was a time a prominent Nigerian called to inform me that her son needed blood but has a rare type of blood group, which happened to be same as mine. I volunteered to donate blood to her son and I succeeded in saving the boy’s life. If someone is doing that in a foreign land, why won’t the host country adopt the person?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
My calling is not to collect money for the things I do because I have attained the peak of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I stopped collecting money for the things I do many years ago because God has blessed me so much. What do I need the money for? There was a time I was invited by the Lagos Business School to speak on Indo-Nigerian Business Relationship. At the lecture, a professor introduced me to the audience as a home-grown tenant. I took it as a compliment because I have learned a lot from this society. That attested to my level of acceptance in the Nigerian society. That is the reason I am in the Governing Council of many organisations. Therefore, Nigerians, who find themselves outside the shores of Nigeria, should do a lot of multicultural interaction. Even the university I attended 40 years ago, has inducted me as a member of its Governing Council.
My father was a source of inspiration. He wrote many books and I read his books whenever I am not happy. I love to read books. I am always ready to read any new book. I draw inspiration also from the Lagos Business School. I practiced Vetineray Medicine for a short while before I opted out because I realised that my growth was restricted to it. Most of my friends, who we studied it together, are millionaire’s today in India and Canada but I needed more knowledge outside that field.