Earlier last week, Arianna Huffington announced the launch of her venture – Thrive Global in India. Thrive Global is a well-being and productivity platform that offers corporate services, a media platform and technology.
Speaking to Inc42, Arianna Huffington said, “Indians have always known what it means to live a good life. The Bhagavad Gita describes three different kinds of life: a life of inertia and dullness with no goals and achievement; a life full of action, busyness and desire; and a life of goodness, which is not just about ourselves but about others. It’s that second life that much of our modern lives seems to be based on, but more and more people across the globe are realising the emptiness of that approach to living. And modern science is validating the ancient wisdom, so we now know, conclusively, that to thrive, we need to combine it with the third kind of life.”
Arianna launched Thrive Global in New York in November 2016 after she quit The Huffington Post, the news organisation she cofounded 11 years ago in August 2016. The India launch has been initiated a partnership with Times Bridge, a division of the Times Group.
Thrive Global will begin assembling its team in India and will be bringing Country General Manager onboard soon. Interestingly, Gul Panag, health activist and co-founder of Mobiefit, has been roped as the inaugural member of Thrive’s India Evangelist Network.
Thrive Global’s mission is to end the global stress and epidemic burnout by offering businesses and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance well-being and performance. The core elements of its programme include corporate trainings with leading business partners. It also has a media platform designed to be the global hub for the conversation about well-being and productivity and feature new role models of success. Lastly, it boasts a suite of technology products that helps individuals make sustainable behaviour change in their lives, including their relationship with technology.
Lastly, it boasts a suite of technology products that help individuals make sustainable behaviour change in their lives, including their relationship with technology.
For her, India launch means reviving that old special connection with the country where she came as a 17 year old to study comparative religion at Visva-Bharati University, outside of Calcutta. She remarks, “I’ve been in love with the country ever since. India faces many challenges with stress and burnout. But it also has many of its own solutions. India’s ancient spiritual traditions, in addition to traditional Indian practices like yoga and meditation, have been validated by modern science, and form the basis for many of Thrive Global’s tools and strategies.”
It is these tools and strategies that Arianna wants to bring to the stressed, sleep-deprived, and burnt out Indians. Or As Arianna says, “Our target audience is the millions of people across India who are feeling stressed, tired, and burned out and who want to be able to succeed in their lives without sacrificing their well-being.”
Thrive Global’s programmes are designed to address the people as a whole – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – and improve both well-being and performance across all dimensions. It is working with companies including Accenture, JPMorgan Chase, Safaricom, SAP and Uber to improve employee well-being.
Thrive has also successfully raised its Series A funding in August last year from high profile names such as Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s venture fund Blue Pool Capital, Greycroft Partners, Bridgewater founder and CEO Ray Dalio, and tech entrepreneur Sean Parker, among others.
The funds will be used to help in expansion, hiring, developing new technology, and expanding to more international markets. The monetisation strategy is centred around its two core pillars: corporate partnerships, in which Thrive works with companies around the world to improve employee well-being and transform organisational cultures; and its media platform, which has sponsorships from brands like Quaker Oats and Sleep Number.
“The seeds of Thrive Global go back to 2007, when I collapsed from exhaustion. After that I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and productivity. And that led me to write my two books, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. As I went around the world speaking about them and the issues of stress, burnout and sleep deprivation, I saw how deeply people want to change their lives and redefine success beyond money and power,” tells Arianna.
Arianna wanted to go beyond just speaking out and raising awareness. She felt the need to turn this passion into something real and tangible that would begin to help people change their daily lives. “It was a call to action I just couldn’t ignore, and so I founded Thrive Global,” she added.
In an emailed conversation with Inc42, Arianna Huffington spoke more about the endeavour and what it achieves to do in the coming future.
Inc42: What does Thrive Global basically aim to do?
Arianna Huffington: Thrive Global’s mission is to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals science-based solutions that enhance both well-being and performance. We’ve been living under a collective delusion that burnout is a necessary price for success. The nice thing is that we don’t have to change that on our own. All of the latest science is validating that in fact, individuals and organisations do better when they prioritise well-being. And it isn’t about work-life balance. Employee output and employee well-being are actually directly connected. You don’t have to balance them or choose one over the other. They’re one and the same: if you increase well-being, you increase output, engagement and retention.
It’s true that much of the global business world, including in India, don’t fully realise this yet, even though the science is clear and conclusive. In our experience, once businesses begin to recognise this, they’re eager to put it into practice.
But it’s not just the business world. More and more people around the world are realising that the “always on” culture, fuelled by our addiction to smartphones, isn’t working for anybody. And that’s where our media platform and new role models come in. We’re looking to accelerate the culture shift by featuring leading Indian voices in business, film, music, sports and culture who demonstrate that you can be successful without burning out.
Inc42: What kind of Corporate Workshops and Coaching will it offer? Who will be involved in conducting these workshops, specifically in India?
Arianna Huffington: We offer products and services for companies of all sizes, from startups to small businesses to large multi-nationals. Our services range from one-day training to 28-day challenges to multi-year engagements, with content, internal marketing, and online learning available to help teach employees the science around the link between wellbeing and performance and tools and strategies to implement it in their own lives. We also conduct research (cultural assessments and focus groups) to help diagnose a company’s pain points and tailor our offerings to each organisation we work with.
We have a team of facilitators around the world led by our Head of Trainings, Joey Hubbard. We’ve actually already started working in India through our global partnership with Accenture. We’ve led workshops for their leadership in Bengaluru, and we’re looking forward to working with more companies across India to bring Thrive to life there. The training will be led by a mixture of locally-based facilitators certified in the Thrive methodology and some of our facilitators from other parts of the world, depending on the engagement.
Inc42: What is Thrive’s media platform focussed on?
Arianna Huffington: Thrive Global’s media platform is an incredibly important part of our overall mission. It’s the global hub for the conversation on well-being and productivity, with an emphasis on highlighting new role models who demonstrate that you can succeed without burning out. We also feature the latest science, especially neuroscience and psychology, which shows the link between wellbeing and performance.
Content is an important piece of our corporate offering as well. We create customised content around well-being for our partners to help make our training sustainable and give employees both the science and tools to implement it in their day-to-day lives.
The topics we focus on – energy, focus, decision-making, productivity, and performance – are all of the interest to both startup and established corporations. We can make the scientific case that prioritising employees’ wellbeing gives any business a competitive edge.
Inc42: How does a partnership with Times Group fit into the picture?
Arianna Huffington: The Times Group is India’s largest media company and Times Bridge, its global partnerships arm, is the perfect partner to bring Thrive to India. Their mission is bringing the world’s best ideas to India, and we’re excited to bring Thrive to the market alongside them. Together, we will build a leading enterprise training and media platform that can Indians reclaim their lives and move from merely surviving to actually thriving.
Inc42: What are Thrive Global’s future plans for the wellness industry?
Arianna Huffington: Right now, a lot of the wellness industry is focussed on downstream harm reduction, working only on the symptoms. But the vast majority of healthcare costs go towards treating preventable, often stress related conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. So what we’re doing at Thrive Global is focusing upstream, on the root causes – stress and burnout.
We’re also following the science to come at it from a different premise. It’s not about work-life balance. Thrive Global is based on the truth that work and life, wellbeing and productivity, are not on opposite sides — so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other, which is what the science clearly shows. And finally, we’re also using science to drive behaviour change that can be sustained and incorporated into people’s daily lives.
Inc42: Why do you think Thrive will appeal to Indian startups and corporates? Any India specific workshops/ products planned to be launched on Thrive?
Arianna Huffington: Thrive Global takes the Indian market very seriously, and we are so excited to expand our work there in a serious way. Stress and burnout are a global epidemic and India is no exception. Many employees report multiple physical and psychological disorders due to work stress. 30% of employees have developed insomnia and 40% of employee’s report depression as a main consequence of workplace stress. Indian employers rank stress as the number one lifestyle risk factor, and their employees complain that their companies don’t have a stress management program in place.
But what excites me personally is the opportunity to draw on all of the uniquely Indian traditions that offer a solution to the stress and burnout epidemic. Because as much as India has a problem with stress and burnout, it also has the solutions. We will be tailoring and customising our workshops for the Indian market and draw on everything from your spiritual traditions to yoga and meditation.
With Thrive’s launch in India, Arianna Huffington aims to wake up Indians to thriving in their lives and not merely surviving. How readily will stressed Indians take to will be interesting to watch out for?