Billionaire Manoj Bhargava plans to give away 99% of his wealth to help the poorer half of the world, and he wants to use Singapore as his base of operations. A seeker of ideas, he grabs those with potential and converts them into simple and useful tools to provide basic essentials to humanity. By Kannan Chandran & S. Sakthivel
The world seems to zip along on a variety of stimulants that keeps people going as they try to achieve more with each passing day.
Manoj Bhargava is part of that process of keeping people perpetually on the move. In 2004, he launched his caffeine-based energy drink 5-hour Energy. That was also the shot in the arm for his business, as in the intervening decade, the need for a quick fix in just the US market , netted him billions of dollars.
And he wants to give that away to the poor via a series of creations that will help them function better, by providing them with electricity and other essentials.
He talks to STORM about his ideas and how a drink helped energise his life.
STORM: What’s the story behind 5-hour Energy?
MANOJ BHARGAVA: We have scouts that look for technology all over the world. The world is always more inventive than any one company. So we look for things everywhere and if we find something great, then we see how it can be executed. We found the energy drink concept at a trade show. But it was in a big bottle. My first thought was, if I’m tired, why would I want to drink 16 ounces? The basic concept is really good, so we improved it a few times and all of a sudden it became one of the largest consumer products in the world.
STORM: Do you plan to expand it outside the US?
BHARGAVA: We may bring it to South East Asia. We have so many other projects; it just wasn’t a priority to take it elsewhere. It did well in the US because I know the product really well, and I also know the US market really well and how to do business there. The critical factor in expansion is that I don’t know how to do business in Germany or China and that’s actually a bigger lack of skill set than knowing the product really well. The other thing I asked myself is — are there better things (to do)? Everyday you want to get up and do something better, if there is something better, you go do that.
STORM: Is philanthropy your ‘something better’?
BHARGAVA: I want to do something that is useful. To me it’s a it’s a duty. If you are a mom, you have to take care of your kids. That’s your job, you are supposed to do that, nobody is going to congratulate you for that. Same thing if you are rich. If I have more than I need, by definition it is my duty to help those who don’t. My definition of charity is also really simple; its addressing human suffering, that’s it. Over the years, schools, colleges, and even my alma mater have asked for money but I told them I don’t give money to the ‘rich’. How is it charity if you give money to the rich?
Read the full interview with Manoj Bhargava in STORM V25, available at Allscript, MPH, and Kinokuniya.