Would you come to India and help me start this company? The thing is, I can’t trust anybody there, not even my closest friends. If I did, they’d steal from me the first chance they got.
Amit was not the typical student I expected to meet at my MBA program in London. From Mumbai, Amit is a globalized and well meaning, but non-praciticing Jain. I say this because his religion promotes freedom from materialism yet he was staying in a luxury penthouse for the weekend course. His early a.m. partying and pot-smoking hangovers caused late arrivals to class on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, Amit is sharp and conveyed earnestness and sincerity when he spoke about life and purpose. I could tell he was a genuinely good guy that meant well (as we almost all do).
When I first decided to return to school I knew to expect religious and cultural diversity. I wished to be a light but also knew I wasn’t about to stand at the steps of my school with a megaphone. More than straight evangelism. I wanted to see God’s Kingdom and principles stand on their own in a sea of competing ideas. So much of what we take for granted today as “good business practice” has its roots buried deep in Judeo-Christian soil. Trust and transparency are two of those roots.
When I first met Amit he mentioned he was from Mumbai and we exchanged stories from that great city.I could tell he appreciated my fondness for his country and his people. Amit shared a remarkable amount in such a short visit including his dreams and some struggles. I learned that he greatly respects his father who rose from being a gas street peddler to owning an international oil company. “My father taught me how to be corrupt”, Amit said in a way that almost begged approval.
Not knowing if I’d risk our new friendship, I told Amit that I felt corruption was one of the main reasons India would fail to reach it’s full potential. That society needed a foundation of trust to succeed. Though he agreed in principle, he said corruption was necessary for doing business.
Later that day I sat down to eat my lunch but realized I’d left my eating utensils at home. I “borrowed” some from the small business owner who owned a food stall on campus but was later convicted about this seemingly “harmless” act. When I confessed and tried to pay the food vendor, he dismissed by gesture and then offered me a free lunch. Amused, I shared this story with my new friend.
At the pub that evening, Amit asked to share his business idea with me. He confessed that corruption and a lack of trust cost his father unending stress and significant money in his company. Deliveries were often delayed and orders for products arrived incomplete. I remembered similar issues working for a YWAM associated Kingdom company in India years earlier. Amit had a clever idea that would help bring accountability and transparency to these and other issues in the transportation industry. The only problem was he had no one he could trust.
I was honored and at the same time saddened by his offer. His desire to partner with me (a virtual stranger) brought full circle our discussion over the previous three days about trust. This encounter reminded me that scripture isn’t some Pollyanna notion that doesn’t fit reality but a living book that has foundational truth for every aspect of life and that it is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. More importantly, it opened the door for me to share with Amit more principles of the Kingdom and hopefully, one day, the King himself.
Photos: Lauren Malpass, N/A