Bala Shety, thoughtSeeker
He lives in Singapore.
We met accidentally in December 2016.
If he had the greatest powers in the world, he would first begin to change himself. But here is the story of Bala Shety:
After finishing their due time, convicts often have a difficult time finding a job and reintegrating themselves into society.
Not if they work for Bala, who found his passion in building a social business with their help and donating the profits to the elders in need.
What is your favourite quote?
Truth and Freedom – these are the two guiding principles of my life. If you have truth on your side, you will always get freedom. If you have these two, you do not need anything else.
What do you do?
I always wanted to be a chef, this was my dream. I have been thinking in this direction for many years. I was a publishing engineer in the printing industry for 25 years and worked as part of the staff for The Economist. Finally I decided to become a private Chef.
What I launched here is a small coffee place, where we serve only a handful of products, with ingredients from the region (rice cake, sweet cream, fermented coconut milk, rice and so on). The foods we serve here have very affordable prices, between 50 cents and 1.50 dollars, so that everybody can afford it.
The fun part of this is that it is subsidized: people who can afford to give me more; they will just come and give me more. I had CEOs giving me 100 dollars for 1 piece. With the money I receive I prepare free food and give it to poor people. Right now I feed around 250 people a day; my next goal is to feed 1000 people a day.
All in all I have 3 charitable activities now:
1. I hire ex-convicts to work in the business
2. I hire disabled people
3. I provide for elderly people
My chef is a very talented cook who served a few years in prison. I asked him if he wants to work for me and hired him. He does an excellent work. I have hired an injured worker, in his previous work he had fallen and had a back issue. There was an issue with the insurance and he was not fully recovered, so I asked him if he wants to work together. Both of them are doing exceptionally well in my shop.
When I saw I can change 2 people’s lives, I went on. I work now only with ex-convicts, trying to help them. The first one I hired is already the manager of all the rest. For the injured workers I started a campaign with people who give me donations. Concerning the elderly people, you find even in Singapore, who is a developed country, old people abandoned by their children. There are these homes with elderly people, where I go and bring them food. For them everything is a luxury. Even a smile is a luxury. A touch is a luxury. A piece of food or a bit of time makes a huge difference for them.
The 3 magical words are “God bless you”.
With every opportunity I get every day, this is what I say.
What is your motivation?
I was very poor once and I do not want to be poor again. At the same time, I see very rich people who destroy their lives. I do not want to be poor, I want to earn enough money but not too much, the rest I want to give the ones in need. This is what motivates me.
What is your success recipe?
The secret of success is very, very simple: you follow your heart; you follow what your passion is. What is that helps me to wake up every morning, come to the shop at 5 am and work through the day? Every day is a holiday for me. I found out what truly fulfils me, that’s my secret. You need to find what you truly, deeply love. Once you find it, you do not need anything else.
What do you feel when you work?
I feel excited, I feel depressed, and it’s a mix of very good and bad feelings. When I have many customers I am very happy. Sometimes there are hardly any customers. Sometimes I do not know how long I can carry this, how can I manage to pay costs, etc. Sometimes magic happens and there are more customers. I like the magic, but anything is fine!
What are the highest challenges?
The biggest challenge is finding what I want to do. Was it a salary? A job? A corporate career? Or just being a chef? If you ask me, I would tell anyone to answer for oneself this question, before deciding for education, before deciding for a job, etc. First find it; once you find it, than nothing can stop you from achieving it.
What is your message for the reader, in a nutshell?
To ask yourself what do you want. What is that what you want from your life? From your career? From everything you do? Not how much, not where, but WHAT!
Find out what you want to do!
If you had absolute powers, what would be the first thing you would change in the world?
With absolute powers, the first thing to change would be me! The change has to begin within me. I had hard times, I also neglected health, used to weigh 40 kg more, I was almost obese and had many health problems. I lost the kilograms again and now I am very careful with what I eat. The first priority is health.
Second priority is wealth. I spent a lot of money on many things in my life; I earned well but also spent a lot. Now I am very careful with my expenditures.
The third is very easy: keeping yourself happy, you will find a way out of anything easily. In my case is giving back to people doing charity, this keeps me alive.
What is your legacy?
I like the movie “pay it forward”. I want my employees to start thinking like this. I help them, they help somebody else. And so on. You just need to help in order to be happy.
I need only around 4-5 dollars/day to live. 2-3 chapatti-s and that’s it. But you have an obligation,
you ought to help somebody like you or worse than you, until the person becomes stable. You actually need to make your neighbour richer than you are!
Make your neighbour richer than you are
What are your three core principles?
Freedom, and within the freedom I mean physically free. Second, to be financially free: if you are not financially free, it is not so much point in having physical freedom. Third is to be spiritually free: you have to be aware of what you are, what you believe in. Animals think for themselves, humans think of others as well.