For Arvind, going green was in no way a case of simply jumping on the organic bandwagon to cash in on a popular trend. His agricultural operations have been organic for a long, long time. His business model is similarly progressive, and puts a decided emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A large part of this is ensuring that the farmers who work for him are earning a good wage and not exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals. In turn, this business model has proven so successful that Arvind is now spearheading similar agricultural projects in South America, Africa, and even right next door in Laos, at the invitation of the Laotian government. Operating in such a wide-ranging cosmopolitan milieu comes easily to Arvind, who speaks seven languages and conducts business all over world.
He was born in Bangkok, but had moved around extensively by the time he was in his early 20s. “I went to school in Thailand, Singapore, and India,” he recalls, “and then after high school I didn’t think I needed college, so I worked for a year in Japan. Then I came back to Thailand to work for my dad. He had a trading company largely dealing in chemicals, and steel and cement. While on a business trip to Germany a friend of mine took me to see a college in Heidelberg — Schiller International University— at which point it occurred to me that I wasn’t really that smart.”
He enrolled in Schiller soon after and that’s where he met his wife Karen, a German-American. A year later they decided to move together to Paris, where both of them graduated from Schiller International University’s Paris campus with bachelors degrees in business, before moving on to do pursue their Masters in socio-economics at the École pratique des hautes études, also in Paris. During this time period he and Karen embarked on some wonderful, and occasionally frightening, road trip odysseys. “In 1974 we bought a Volkswagen bus and drove from Germany to Agra, in India,” Arvind recounts. “Our route went through Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The next year we did it again, this time in a VW Beetle that we drove to Tehran. There were lots of adventures. On the first trip someone tried to buy Karen from me at the Khyber Pass, and on the second trip we were held up in Turkey by Turkish soldiers— this was right after the Cypriot war. I sat for 15 minutes with an M16 to my head.”