When one starts their life amidst love and privilege, one does not often wander down the rabbit hole of soul-searching to find meaning in life. This was not the case with Saahil Mehta. Of Indian Gujarati descent and born into the diamond trade in Antwerp in Belgium, he had a happy childhood, going to private schools and enjoying the many benefits of living in a simple and safe European country. He was even luckier with his parents and received love and instruction that stood him in good stead over the course of his life. He learned the trade from his father and when the time came for university, he decided to study engineering at UCL in London after which he worked at CSFB as in investment banker. Despite the fruitful career that lay ahead, he decided to go home to help his father, who not wanting to retire, was starting a business at the age of 54. He got married, had two children and his charmed life continued. At least, it did outwardly. On the inside Saahil was struggling.
The financial crash of 2008 hit the family hard, and they felt the strain. Although their business model was not built on heavy debt or stockpiling inventory (which softened the blow), most of the investments were in illiquid assets causing a serious cash crunch. They were prudent to stay as liquid through their operations and this was the belief system that guided their business dealings throughout. “As traders we did not have a lot of inventory, else things would’ve been quite different. We were also quite a lean operation, so our personnel overheads were minimal as well,” says Saahil thoughtfully. The same advantages kicked in over Covid, as business slumped globally. “Yes, maybe we were not making money, but we were not bleeding money either,” he says, the gratitude evident in his voice.
Over the years, Saahil’s family business focused highly on trust and respect. They were known to always honour their word, and they kept to their commitments with military precision. Not losing their reputation in the market was a crucial aspect of all their business affairs, even if it meant they received the short end of the stick.
The economic shifts taught them very important lessons… They realised, as a family, and as a business, they needed to diversify to ensure cash flow remained inwardly fluid for them, as businesses go through dips and peaks on a regular basis. And so, they decided to start investing in commercial real estate as well as liquid instruments. They invested in the real estate market in Dubai where they already had a presence, from the diamond trade, and they steadily increased their portfolio of properties as they learned to feel the pulse of the market. They invested primarily in retail so that the rental income would be with less headache and longer-term contracts. The focus was to build passive income that ensured the family had enough to cover their annual expenses… enough to keep them content. “Extravagance was not the goal. The idea was to ensure we could pick and choose who we worked with and have the ability to say yes or no based on our preferences,” says Saahil of his family’s investment initiatives.
The clearing out
However, despite the financial comfort and the ease of life that Saahil enjoyed, there was a growing inner discomfort. “I felt all these years I was wearing a mask and trying to please everyone. I was so focussed on avoiding what I thought to be confrontation, and so I ended up saying yes to everyone, even at the expense of hurting myself and ignoring my own needs.”
This inner stress had a severe knock-on effect and Saahil’s gut gave out. It was not absorbing food or vitamins correctly; he became heavily bloated from inflammation and was lethargic at various points of the day. The fall out came to a point when he fell asleep at the wheel while driving one time and almost lost his life – luckily, no one was hurt. Even with the wake-up call, he chose to continue living life as is and just chose to shun his confrontations. The emotional turmoil of wearing a mask for so many years, and living without authenticity eventually became too much, and with the consent of his family, Saahil took off on a retreat in 2016.
It was where the magic happened. In a place where he could just be himself, without impressing anyone, in a place where he could just be. The retreat was an experience that brought him immense joy and, in his words, “a sense of euphoria.” On his way back, on the aircraft, he decided to share the experience with his wife, by writing it all down while it was fresh in his mind, and he broke down in tears as he came to the realisation, “If this is who I am, who have I been all these years.” That was the start of his journey to discover himself.
Saahil came to the realisation that as his cup was empty, he had nothing to pour out to others and so began the journey of inner transformation. He started himself his #1 priority as he understood that only if his cup was full, would he have enough to give to the things that mattered most. He invested in himself through books, online self-development courses and professionals to work on his mental and physical health. He reframed his emotional and mental relationships with body, his mind, his relationships, and his environment. It was not an easy process, and there were many periods of darkness where he questioned if he was on the right path. His personal journey caused a shift in his relationship with his wife, who was suddenly experiencing a different person to the one she knew. There were no tumultuous events to cause a fallout, but they both had to re-establish their togetherness.
“The only way to bridge the gap was through communication. I had always been afraid of confrontation, but I realised that it doesn’t always have to be negative. It can be done in a loving manner as well, and that is what we did,” says Saahil recounting this period in his life. It worked well, and he and his wife began a new journey together, built on greater understanding and openness than ever before. People noticed the change and began to ask him the secret to this inner calm that was manifesting itself to all he came in contact with. And so, Saahil started sharing his process and philosophies with those who were interested. “At first it was small groups, then the groups became larger, and then the large groups became stage events and that translated into a book which eventually led me to start my company, Zanti International, which in Sanskrit means peace,”
The peace process
Saahil speaks eloquently when he talks about inner peace. “It’s what I offer people who work with me. The gift of peace, and I suppose you really can’t put a price on that. You can give people all the money in the world, all the best relationships there are, but if one does not have inner peace, one has nothing. Inner peace is true success.” To underline his beliefs and philosophy, Saahil did several speaker training courses. He got certified as a coach and is accredited by the International Coaching Federation. He is part of Marshall Goldsmith’s inner circle,100 coaches. A lot of positive things have happened in this arena, but the successes have not been the goal, but rather the fulfilment he gets from helping others transform their lives. And even though this aspect of his life is the smallest of the revenue streams, it is the one he is most reluctant to give up on. He loves traveling, talking to entrepreneurs and corporates, he is grateful for the flexibility and liberty he has to pursue his dream, and in his own words, “It’s a beautiful thing when you’re not forced to do something you don’t want to do, but rather you do what you love and gives you the most fulfilment.”
His book ‘Break Free – a guide to decluttering your life’, launched in 2021, was prompted by a need to share his learnings and he wrote it to give himself credibility in this line. “Not everyone can afford to get direct access to me through retreats, speaking or coaching, and this book gives them access to the tools that are needed to change their inner dialogue.” He is also grateful that his father, who passed away two months after the release of the book, was there to witness the launch of the book. The narrative of the book is about decluttering one’s mind and consequently one’s life, ultimately freeing up space to fill with whatever gives you fulfilment and inner peace.
Although Saahil enables leaders to scale their metaphorical summits, he recently started taking leaders to the top of physical mountains to break through their self-limiting beliefs and take them from ‘I can’t to I can, I will and I did’. His first one was in Uttarakhand, India, up to the Nag Tibba peak (3,023m) and a journey of change for those who participated. The setting was informal, taking in the beauty and undistilled purity of the view from the top around a campfire, or just over a break. The climbs are suitable even for those with no mountaineering success.
Climbing has always been a passion for Saahil and his wife and they have gone climbing in Tanzania, Peru, Russia, Mexico, Nepal and India. He is often asking leaders “Your summits are waiting for you … what are you waiting for?”
Saahil wants to continue his journey of inward searching and he wants to continue enabling others do this as well by scaling their summits of success faster. He still has another couple of books inside him, he feels, and is excited to continue to climb the literary mountain, so to speak. From entrepreneur to climber to truth seeker to coach to there are many facets to this man, and we can only look forward to seeing how many facets will emerge as this particular diamond continues to polish itself into a shimmer that lights the world up with peace and self-awareness.