From Sathya to Sai – Lessons for Startups from the Divine Charmer

by on Jan 1, 2023
Lessons from Sathya Sai Baba for startups

I feel guilty for not having any blog posts for the years 2021 and 2022. But this post, and in that one on New Year’s day, should help me overcome that.

It is all in the public domain the humongous work that Sathya Sai Baba, or Swamy, as we fondly and reverently refer him, has done for humanity. So obviously, there should be lessons for entrepreneurs and startup founders.

If you think he has used divine powers to achieve all that, you are mistaken. Swamy, as he himself used to often say, showed his divine powers occasionally, only to prove his divinity. He used to famously say, “they are only my visiting cards, and nothing more”.

Because he came in a human form, he achieved it all the hard way. Once, he had promised a drinking water project to a district in India, but he did not have the funds. So he took a bank loan of over 300 crore INR to keep his promise, and then fully repaid the loan eventually. Let that sink in! Does anyone take a huge loan for charitable goals, when it is actually the duty of government officials to provide those basic amenities? That was Swamy for you!

In fact, he had it MUCH harder than any entrepreneur would. Apart from typical problems faced by leaders and entrepreneurs, he also had a variety of other problems. For example, he was also the author of several books and also series of articles in their monthly magazine – Sanathana Sarathi. When the deadline approached, his editor, Sri Kasturi garu used to be at his door with folded hands, asking for his submissions. Being busy through the day with innumerable activities, Swamy used to write at midnight, not in his room but in his bathroom, while holding a faint torchlight in his other hand. The reason being, if people saw light in his room, they would think – Oh Swamy is already up – and they would also be up.

The purpose of an avatar is not to build hospitals or ashrams or to cure devotees of their disease, as it is said in one of the videos of the Sai Katha series. Such additional benefits may accrue as a side effect, but the purpose of Swamy as an avatar was to connect with every human – one on one. Today Swamy has followers in 146 countries, and they continue to grow. Millions of hearts beat for him worldwide.

Things were far from easy for him in his place of birth. Imagine, a 14-year-old boy from a tiny remote hamlet – Puttaparthi, who does not have a second pair of clothes, stands up and says, “Look, I am God, the creator of the universe.” What consequences he may have faced – from his family, from the upper caste people, from famous egoistic gurus of the time and others.

The story of his earlier years will give you goosebumps, and it is filled with lessons for entrepreneurs. We hear of how large businesses were founded in a garage. To be brutally honest, most of those founders were not really underdogs as we tend to think – including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Richard Branson. They did have an influential parent or an influential aunt who helped them with that push that was needed to succeed. But have you heard of a living deity who himself broomed and mopped the temple floor and then went back and sat at the altar to take prayers of devotees?

This web series produced by SSSMC, is a must-watch for all startup founders and aspiring entrepreneurs – every minute of each of the 36 episodes. There are so many lessons that can be adapted to a SaaS and other typical silicon valley situations.

In this post, I just leave you with a link to the series –


I am not summarising any lessons for the readers (I may well do that later in another post). For now, I leave it to you to watch and see for yourself – the journey of the little boy called Sathya as he went on to become Sai. Happy New Year!

Cover photo: At his Samadhi in Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanthi Nilayam, on his 97th birth anniversary on November 23, 2022.

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