Who is Narendra Modi, the man just elected to be Prime Minister for 1.2 billion Indians? Here are 12 things you need to know:
1. He is a clear case of the outsider breaking into the elite sanctum – starting life as the son of a tea seller (Chai Wallah), selling tea himself as a young man and living even today pretty much as a loner.
2. As a young man Modi wandered India, especially the Himalaya region, on a two year spiritual quest – until politics intervened.
3. He begins each day, like many Hindus, at around 5am with yoga practice, following an ancient “pranayama” breathing technique, and then jumps on to the internet for global information.
4. Modi is a true combination of “something old, something new” – he studies ancient texts and loves multi-media high technology presentations.
5. Adhering to ancient concepts of “service”, Modi never took a holiday in the 13 years since 2001 when he was elected Chief Minister of Gujarat and kept his personal staff to as low as three, despite entitlement to a large entourage.
6. As Chief Minister of Gujarat state, he built a pro-business and “can do” reputation – supported by delivering 24/7 electricity (an unusual achievement in India).
7. One of his icons is Swami Vivekananda who inspired him with this saying: “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” This last sentence has clearly worked for Modi, who has been his own man and makes many decisions alone.
8. He is a quiet, introverted writer of poetry and a powerful and outgoing political leader.
9. Although building the image of a modern corporate man, Modi also turned to the old negotiating technique of holding several personal fasts as his own “Sadbhavna Mission” (Goodwill Mission) reaching out to the Muslim community.
10. In a further paradox, he has been seen very much as a leader for doing business at home, but in his quest to create business in Gujarat he travelled extensively, especially to centres of capital such as China (many times), Japan and Singapore, showing he will reach out when capital and business support is vital.
11. On entering India’s Parliament after winning the election, Modi prostrated and kissed the carpet, much like a devotee on entering a temple. He said “This is the temple of democracy”.
12. He fasts for nine days each year as part of his spiritual life.
Stephen Manallack is a published author and cross-cultural trainer. He has led many trade missions to India and is a regular speaker and trainer there. His new book is Soft Skills for a Flat World (Tata McGraw-Hill).