What makes a good entrepreneur?

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Punya interviews Rajen about the skills of an entrepreneur: he is the founder of Bells Associates and Prabhu Music

When I first heard Osho talk about the talent of “creating money” which he uttered in the same breath as to “create a painting, or music, or poetry” (Osho, From Death to Deathlessness), I was quite astonished at first. Many of us, at the time, had come from a left-wing, revolutionary, hippy background. We had demostrated in the streets and factories where the bosses, the ones who had made the money, were the bad guys, the exploiters. But I was clever enough to also be aware that the commune I was living in was physically there because someone else’s money was paying our bills.

I am now pleased to be meeting Rajen from Bells Associates, one “with the talent of creating money”, and that he agreed to be interviewed.


Can you tell me in a few words what makes a good business man, an entrepreneur?

The qualities of a good business man are: logical and creative analysis, the ability to ask the right questions and a bunch of common sense!

Tell me about your business!

One title for Bells Associates is ‘business consultancy’ but it is definitely a ‘business consultancy with a difference’. We do not stand back and consult. We stand back and advise and actually do it. It is very much a hands-on consultancy. With Deva Premal and Miten, we run their business. We do not tell them what they should do and then they have to find somebody else to do it. We actually post up the accounts, run the bank, buy the insurance, do the tax returns. We even set up a company for them in the beginning. We produce, distribute, license and promote their music. We rent a bus which takes them from concert to concert and organise their holiday workshops, like the ones we just had here in Corfu. Everything. This frees them to really do what they want to do – delivering their awakening message through the mantras.

“In the same way as for Deva and Miten, we work for Wildquest (the ‘swim with the dolphins’ place in the Bahamas). When Amlas and Atmo took over they asked me to help with the structure of the business. We look after a lot: from property matters, the boat, the insurance, the finances, the on-line booking system; in a nutshell, all the praticalities, so that they can be free to run the programs, which is what they really want to do and, in Atmo’s case, shoot great underwater photography.

For Tanmaya, to give another example, we help especially with planning her Reiki and Healing trainings and the publishing of her books so that she does not need to get involved in any of the accounting or business issues. I am sometimes involved with Osho Leela where I support them as a non-official director. These are typical examples of how we support our clients.

The ethos of Bells Associates is to help people so that business can fly.

Is your company unique or are there others like you?

In the area that I have chosen, the holistic scene of small to medium sized-businesses, I do not know of anybody that offers quite the same broad-based service. Not with the same range of talented and skilled people like Yashen, Gupi and the dozen or so in offices we have around the world. I think that we are pretty unique.

Do you have space for expansion? Could you take on new businesses?

I am often being asked to take on new ventures and the last year and a half I always had to say: “No sorry, I cannot help you, much as I would like to.” You might wonder why this happens? It is simple: we just need more skilled people. Just to look at a business and see if we can help takes a lot of time. I, for one, need to watch that I don’t burn myself out through enthusiasm.

I always love when someone gets in touch and says: “Hey look, I used to be an accountant (or whatever), I have been hanging out for a while and am looking to get back into business. I am free to move around, I can work on the internet. How about we meet up and spend time together to see if there is common ground: for me to understand what you want and you to understand what I can do.” This is an organic way to expand the business.

What is the structure of Bells Associates?

There are about 15 people involved, mostly part-time, and spread across the planet. We have an office in Boulder (Colorado), Freiburg (Germany), a warehouse in Devon (UK), a representation in Australia and New Zealand.

All the resources (be it legal, financial, marketing, web design, anything that a business needs) can be provided either from our own skill set or we can find somebody to do it for us. The advantage of us getting it done instead of the client searching for, say, a software engineer, is that we may have more experience and can more easily assess quality and price of a supplier.

What we also offer is an ‘education service’ for the client. By pulling together the business data we produce reports and explain what they mean. Our clients may well understand, like in Deva and Miten’s case, that when the concert hall is full it is a good concert and if there is nobody there, there is something wrong. But what I can provide them with is an estimation of how many people might want to attend their next event, how much these are willing to pay and what we have to do for them to book. We then know where the business is going – I cannot say exactly what will happen next year, nobody knows… – but I can tell pretty much +- 10% what is likely to happen for a business.

In that way everybody involved gets a higher degree of comfort and assurance: e.g. they get a good idea of what they can afford to spend.

Now, tell me your personal story!

I studied physics and electronic engineering at University and started my working career in the computer industry. After two years I invented a product which I patented and founded a business which was pretty successful: we grew to 120 people in 10 years. We had four factories and developed into being a major supplier of this particular product. This is how I learned to be a business man! But after these 10 years I got burned out. I achieved material success and a lot of personal satisfaction (and learned an awful lot about business) but reached a point where I knew that there was something missing in my life.

When I discovered Osho in 1982 I realised what was missing. I understood that I needed to add that dimension to my life. After sannyas I went to live in the commune where I immediately felt a lot freer and more in balance. My jobs at Medina and on the Ranch were that of an electrician and also that of an accountant. An interesting mixture!

After the Ranch closed I realised that I wanted to bring my skills back into the ‘marketplace’. I founded Bells Associates in 1986. Soon after I was asked by Purvodaya to restructure his publishing company, Labyrinth, and I accepted the post of managing director. We moved from Italy to London where it became a highly successful business with books and videos in the mid-nineties.

During this time I met Tanmaya. I saw this beautiful woman with such a big heart and a great care to share her work held back just because she did not know how to write an advert or did not want to do her book keeping. All things which I love doing! Like finding venues, preparing adverts for magazines and generating interest in her work. And because I knew the book business inside-out – and I spoke the jargon – I could help her find contacts to publish her books. Her business grew and flourished, as you may well know. She has become the best published author on Reiki Healing worldwide.

A new chapter for Bells is unfolding: we have invested in a property here in Corfu. Part of the bar has been turned into an office, so you will see me and many of our team turn up here, even off-season! It’s a good example of how business and lifestyle can overlap.

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