Karan Bajaj: A Yogi to a Millionaire

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Picture a bestselling novelist with three books to his credit armed with an IIM MBA manoeuvring the corporate world of P&G, Discovery Channel& Kraft and hiking from South America to Europe to the Himalayas during his sabbaticals while dabbling as a Yoga teacher in South India start a company to sell it for all-cash deal of $300 million in just 18 months and all this while he is just 41!

This dream profile belongs to a Yogi at heart, Karan Bajaj, who in conversation with Rahul Singh, Secretary IIMBAA Singapore and initiator of Gyanalogy (a voluntary organisation to guide people find purpose) unveiled his journey which is no less than a movie script in itself.

Born into an Indian army family, Karan sees a boundary less world, both in life and business since his early childhood days. He did his schooling from various parts of India and rarely paid any attention to caste and community of people around him.

At IIM Bangalore, Karan realised that there is no formula of success and he needs to carve his own definition. He follows a Yogic life since past five years or so, with Yoga and Meditation as his lifestyle. The mantra of his yogic life is extreme devotion to his endeavours (abhayasa) yet remaining detached from the outcome of the dedication (bairagya). Karan did his first course in Buddhist meditation technique Vipassana after IIMB, followed by two more such courses. He mentions how Vipassana gives him extreme clarity of what he wants to do and recommends Vipassana to everyone as the silence of Vipassana makes one hear the deep insights within.

Having worked in corporate roles with Procter & Gamble, Boston Consulting Group, and Kraft prior to his most recent role as the GM of Discovery Channel in India, he terms himself the most unsuccessful CEO for Discovery. After IIMB he joined P&G where he was reasonably successful ranking in top 0.1% of the employees and being selected for “Top 40 under 40 US Executives” by Advertising Age. He quit it all to begin his journey as an author in 2008 travelling to Brazil, Peru, Bolivia in quest of his boundary-less world and striving to be a Yogi. He authored “Keep Off the Grass” in less than a month, which became a bestseller with more than 70,000 copies sold in the year of release. Together his three novels have sold more than 200,000 copies. Ironically he mentions his last novel “The Seeker” was a 5-year effort yet in terms of a number of copies sold, it fared the worst teaching him the important lesson that results may not always commensurate with the amount of effort. Today, he leads a life which is detached from result, and believes in giving the best one can without attaching oneself to the consequences.

Karan says, one’s life partner is the single biggest decision one makes and considers himself extremely lucky to have met Kerry in New York at a writers’ event – someone, who being a writer herself, truly understands his idiosyncratic decisions which make little sense even to his in-laws. In 2012, he left his job at Kraft and apartment in New York City to embark on a year-long spiritual and creative sabbatical together with his wife. Travelling from Europe to India, through Iran and Pakistan by road on buses with the goal of taking the cheapest mode of transport available and staying in hostel dorms and other bare accommodations made him realize how minimalist he was and brought about a discipline to reduce attachment to material comforts. In India the couple became yoga teachers, then lived in the Himalayas, learning meditation and hiking. They lived for long periods in silence practicing Vipassana meditation and learning Hatha yoga in the middle of a secluded forest ashram in India with monkeys and snakes as companions. From Vipassana, the rigourous meditation of silence, came the life shaping changes which even made him change his food habits.

Karan believes patience is prime in startup journey, a trait which many IIM trained executive who are used to corporate way of life may find at odds with their experience in a big company.  He sees himself dedicated to WhiteHat Jr. for next 2 to 3 years.

Like a true yogi his life is all about backpacking without owning a house, a car or other materialistic possessions as usually planned by the IIMB graduates of his age. He is currently working from Goa and waiting his wife and kids to join without any plans of returning to city life anytime soon.

He says there is no one path, and do things which are interesting to you, do deeply and then move to the next. If you are not choosing dramatic growth you can never have dramatic output.

Catch the YouTube link to uncover:

  1. The success story of WhiteHat Jr.
  2. How to scale up the business
  3. Tips to be successful with a start-up: Revenue or Client Acquisition
  4. Future plans to make films with excellent output
  5. How to be not too happy with success and not too sad with a failure
  6. Karan’s favourite books on Product & gamification, Growth Hacking, Marketing, Yogasutras.
  7. How his wife Kerry helps him to stay himself
  8. His boundary-less world
  9. Where he calls home
  10. And what happiness means to Karan

Karan Bajaj an IIMB 2002 alumnus is the founder & CEO of Whitehat Jr, an EdTech startup that was bought by Byju's for $ 300M in Aug 2020. Prior to this, he was also the CEO of Discovery networks in South Asia, senior marketing director at Kraft Foods Group, consultant at BCG, and brand manager at P&G to name a few of his diverse echelons. He is a bestselling novelist and Yogi whose “Johnny Gone Down” is being made into a film by Ronie Screwvala productions. His other fiction books include “Keep off the grass” and “The Seeker”.

Rahul Singh an IIMB 2015 alumnus is a banker by the day and writer by the night. He is the Secretary of IIM Bangalore Alumni Association Singapore. He serves as the Principal Corporate Advisory Group, IIM Udaipur and is Academic Council Board member of Jaipuria Institute of Management. Rahul is initiator of Gyanalogy which aims to democratise wisdom. His book "You know the glory, not the story - 25 journeys towards Ikigai" is scheduled to be released in late 2020.

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Photographs of Karan: Courtesy his Social Media

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