I belong to a generation that has faint memory of the most charismatic leader our State has seen - MG Ramachandran, late actor-turned-politician and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
We grew up with good and bad politics from the two Dravidian parties, played by his successor and protégé J Jayalalithaa and DMK main man M Karunanidhi. Between all the extended families, extravagant marriages, prostrating party workers, never-ending traffic snarls due to their convoys, the countless scams and disproportionate asset cases, we as people of Tamil Nadu over the years grew fond of both the parties whereby, we keep alternately voting them in, with last election being the exception.
Little did Tamil Nadu know that we had voted Jayalalithaa to power for the final time in the 2016 State elections. Our generation has heard stories of her as a successful actress who blossomed into a reluctant but strong and confident politician after the death of her mentor and leader MGR.
MGR had identified in her a protégé and propelled her as a future leader, much against the wishes of many in his party. What MGR foresaw was a woman who would go on to become a towering leader. In male-dominated Dravidian politics, with all odds against her, she went from being a rank outsider and underdog in politics to challenging veterans in DMK.
Her life is a great lesson in courage, determination, willpower, leadership and success against all adversities.
She has been a great administrator, right from ensuring law and order, to public safety to implementation of schemes at the grassroot levels to ensure that the benefits reach the poor and needy.
Jayalalithaa’s life and the way she conducted herself offers many life lessons to us entrepreneurs and here are some of them:
- Never shy away from responsibility:
A brilliant student, Jayalalithaa had to cut short her education for financial reasons, and enter the world of films. At the tender age of 16, she went on to become the breadwinner of the family. She had always maintained that that was a reluctant decision forced by circumstances but she had never shied away from taking responsibility for the family as a youngster. This speaks volumes of her attitude.
- Claim your rights - never give up:
At MGR’s funeral Jayalalithaa was treated with little respect, ridiculed and even pushed off his cartage. She never gave up the position that MGR had given her. From under the shadows of MGR she moved out of her comfort zone in his absence. The easiest next step would have been to continue her acting career, but she felt a responsibility to fulfil the promises made as MGR’s protégé, and claimed her right as his successor.
- Learn from your mistakes
Her early days were marred by mistakes in managing public perception, administration and display of wealth. The foster son’s marriage and other displays of wealth earned her a bad reputation initially but she was quick to learn from her mistakes and keep personal life at a distance away from public glare. She ensured that she never repeated the mistakes for which she was criticised.
- Life is all about ups and downs
With four terms as Chief Minister packed with huge successes and multiple failures, Jayalalithaa did go through her share of ups and downs, but her fighting spirit never gave up on the situation and ensured she bounced back stronger than before.
- Build your own brand and identity
She was conscious of the fact that she could not bask under MGR’s glory forever and worked at creating her own identity, as the ‘Amma’ of the masses. This is a name that became synonymous with her even though her political title was ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (Revolutionary Leader), akin to the ‘Puratchi Thalavar’ title given to MGR.
She kept reinforcing and reminding people of the Amma brand through her various initiatives and welfare schemes, be it Amma Canteens, Amma laptops, Amma Water, Amma Medicines etc. These initiatives made her a cult figure among the masses.
- Find your purpose:
With her sense of determination and seriousness of purpose during the later years it was very evident that Jayalalithaa had found her purpose in life in serving the people of Tamil Nadu. Her memorable words being "Ungalaal naan, ungalukaaga naan (I am because of you, I am for you),” resonated with the masses, who saw her as someone who selflessly dedicated herself for the welfare of the people.
Chennai has been mourning the last 24 hours and will continue to miss her leadership and her presence. It’s the end of an era.
Some of Chennai’s leading entrepreneurs and businessmen and women pay their tribute:
Anil Jain, Managing Director, Refex Group, leading industrialist and angel investor
“Full of dynamism, boldness, entrepreneurial approach, keeping in mind the welfare of economically-backward people. She will be missed by the Tamil Nadu people, business people, entrepreneurs, her party workers and the country as a whole. May her soul rest in peace!”
Durga Das, Co-founder, Wassup, serial entrepreneur and angel investor
“An entrepreneur par excellence who took to new roles despite life's many challenges—and there were many—with a determination and will to excel and succeed. Every wannabe entrepreneur would be wise to emulate her qualities of leadership, perseverance, patience, courage, responsibility and dedication to goal in their own life.”
Kishore Reddy, MD, KK Corporation
“The final journey starts for the Iron Lady, J Jayalalithaa. May her soul rest in peace. Even a critic can't help but feel a lump in the throat and sincere admiration for how she fought against all odds and carved out a place for herself in male-dominated and biased fields of films and politics. Hats off to her. Rest in peace, Jayalalithaa.”
TS Ashwin, Founder, Odyssey chain
“Jayalalithaa was a very inspiring leader, genuinely caring for women and the poor of the State. It felt great to have such a strong, learned and intelligent Chief Minister who stood for rights of this State always. She will be missed.”
Jai Subramaniam, Founder, Landmark bookstore
“She was an avid reader and she would regularly send a friend to pick up fiction from Landmark, Nungambakkam. She left us too early; we will miss the brave woman.”
Vinod Krishnan, Founder, TVSi
“Madam Jayalalithaa was passionate about her people, gave power to the administrators and focussed on uplift of the poor. She was not swayed by what the media or, for that matter, anyone thought. She truly was the Iron Lady of Tamil Nadu.”
Tariq Akbar, angel investor and entrepreneur
“Our late Chief Minister exemplified what it takes for a woman to succeed in a patriarchal society and field. She was a human being with tremendous drive, grit and focus, achieving a near demigod status. She has done more for gender equality in the last century in Tamil Nadu, than anyone.”
Vijay Bysani, Founder, Home Serve
“As an entrepreneur, you need to believe in your dream and visions despite what people around you say. You need to be forthright and direct. You need to be able to handle things with an iron hand, but be grounded as well. As an entrepreneur, your life is a rollercoaster ride and there are so many ups and downs. While the positives are shared with everyone, the tough times are spent alone.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)