(October 17, 2022) As a student at the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill, a young Yashovardhan Birla set out one day to explore the gymnasium. Unlike his peers, the then 23-year-old was a teetotaller and definitely didn’t enjoy heading down to the bar every evening.
At the gym, however, the lively atmosphere, the positive vibes and seeing others sweating it out, left a lasting impression on his mind. “This is inspiration,” the youngster told himself and began working out with total dedication. Ten days later, he felt a difference in his physique.
Self-driven and passionate
“Once I start seeing something get better, I don’t like to regress. The intention was to be fit and healthy and also to look and feel good about myself. From there, it progressed into a lifelong passion. I kept working out and now, as I speak to you after all these years, I’m still doing the same thing,” smiles Yashovardhan ‘Yash’ Birla, the Chairman of the Yash Birla group, as he speaks to Global Indian.
Yash Birla needs no introduction. The diligent leader, fitness freak and author, who is known to spend most of his time in spiritual silence, has now come up with another book titled ‘Building The Perfect Body’ which takes its readers through his entire fitness journey.
“I have always admired people who are deeply passionate about fitness, just like me,” says the 55-year-old. “My source of inspiration has always come from within, since the very beginning. I am my own competition and have always worked hard to become a better version of myself,” remarks Yash.
Eight years in the making
The idea, he explains, emerged eight years ago, when his “friend, Ms Shobhaa De, suggested I write a book on my fitness journey.” When the writing began, “she realised there was so much more to my life that people should know about, apart from my fitness journey,” Yash says. The idea changed at that point and the book which came out of it was ‘On a Prayer’.
A partial photo shoot had been done, however – the pictures are in his book Building the Perfect Body. And so, the thought of writing a book on fitness persisted in his mind. Work commitments had also piled up for the scion of the Birla family and it was only about a year-and-half ago that he actually began working on the book.
Keep it simple: Discipline and a healthy diet
“Natural, vegetarian and healthy food has enough protein to help you reach your fitness goals and sustain your body,” Yash says. The industrialist tries to stay away from ‘Tamasic’ foods like meat, fish, onion, garlic and mushrooms, among other things. He sticks instead with a healthy, ‘Satvik’ diet. “One can also try Ashwagandha, which is a highly regarded herb in Ayurveda and contains around four grams of protein per 100 grams.
Dietary supplements and injections, however, are a strict no-no for Yash Birla. “People cannot maintain their bodies properly and are only inviting harm upon themselves,” he says. “I have been into fitness for over two decades now and consistency, dedication and a healthy diet routine are the pillars in my journey.”
Early influences and tragedy at 22
Yash was only 22 when tragedy struck the Birla family. His father Ashokvardhan Birla, mother Sunanda and sister Sujata died in a plane crash in Bengaluru in 1990. Yash married Avanti a year later. His grandmother, Gopi Birla, played a vital role in Yash’s life, starting from his early childhood. She continues to hold an important place in his life, even though she is no more.
“I grew up listening to a lot of stories from her, and they were all spiritual, religious, mythological, and even comical. To this day, I recall a lot of her stories and share them with my children as well,” says Yash.One of the stories that he fondly recalls is the one called “Jamai Raja,”(son-in-law). “I remember that it was a funny story, and I used to make her repeat it at least once a week. I really loved my story-time with her and we created some amazing memories.” Through his grandmother, Yash became a stickler for a strictly vegetarian diet. At one point, however, when Yash began eating eggs, she made her disappointment known.
Life as the Birla scion
It’s no surprise that Yash’s exposure to business started very early in his life. “I admired my father and the work he did. I wanted to be like him,” says the industrialist, who believes in doing everything to the best of his ability, without attaching himself to an outcome. “The journey is beautiful and the destination is immaterial. I don’t agree with any position that is attributed to me, because the journey goes on and on.”
Despite the privileges of being born into one of India’s biggest business families, Yash has faced more than his fair share of challenges. “Every business has its ups and downs, just like life. There’s always something to take from failure and it’s up to us to learn from it and grow,” he says. These situations compel us to remorse and self-reflection and force us to seek creative solutions.
Running a business means it’s not “just about yourself,” says the business magnate. “You’re responsible for other people and affected by markets and the economy. You’re only one part of the whole thing and can affect everything else around you. You have to learn to take responsibility and move ahead.”
The spiritual seeker
Yash has a deeply spiritual side and has practiced many forms of meditation – transcendental, Kundalini and Sahaja Samadhi. “It’s not about luck, or destiny, but I’m a staunch believer in karma,” he says. “It’s a seed that must sprout. Our actions may not lead to decipherable results but every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” When we face the results of our actions, he says, we call it destiny.
“It’s not about a reward-and-punishment system, it is just a way of evolving, progressing and achieving more,” Yash maintains. “We might have to face the consequences of our actions but we can master the latter and attain something greater.”
There is always scope for something new, says the industrialist, although the Yash Birla group has a strong presence in varied segments, including steel and pipelines, education, health, Ayurveda and manufacturing tools.
“We always try to expand into new and innovative ways within our business and experiment as well. As a businessman, you need to be alert to new opportunities, have the passion to grab them and the creativity to make something of them,” he says.
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