Radek Sali is not a household name in Australia or well-known in yogic circles, although he should be both. He stands as one of Australia’s most successful businessmen and a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness sector. He revolutionised the Swisse Vitamin group by making the category aspirational and pioneered the use of brand ambassadors. As CEO Radek created a positive working culture (twice winning “the Best place to work in Australia for 2015 & 2016) and charted record sales. Then in 2015 Radek helped negotiate the sale of the group to Hong Kong listed Biostime for over $1.7 billion, one of the biggest private company transactions in Australian history, and pocketed a reported $250 million from the sale which he used to set up his company, Light Warrior, with ex Goldman Sachs banker Adam Gregory. In addition to Chairman of Light Warrior, Radek is the Chairman of MAdE Establishment, a Director for Made by Cow, One Giant Mind, Hydralyte, myDNA, Stratosphere, Udify and now Wanderlust Australia. Yoga Journal had a chat with Radek Sali about the Wanderlust, meditation, books, yoga and the festival’s future.
I’ve read you do yoga and meditate regularly. Can you tell me a little about your practice and how you got into it?
I was very lucky to have parents that thought a little bit differently. My father was one of the first in conventional doctors in medical circles back in the Seventies to talk about diet causing disease. My Mother was a medical Scientist, so as a five-year-old, I would go to studios and practice yoga, meditation as well as creative dance, and Japanese ink brush painting. It was fantastic!
[Laughing] Until I got to 12-years-old it was very acceptable, but then when I started telling other kids I at school about it and I got a bit of a hard time so I went into Karate after that. But wisdom and and philosophy has always been a passion of mine. I meditate twice per day and have done for the last 4 years and also Yoga is a big part of our lifestyle. My wife is pregnant at the moment. We usually do yoga together.
Many people in the Yoga Community were adversely affected by the previous management of Wanderlust. What can you say to the Yoga community to reassure it will not happen again under Light Warrior’s stewardship?
The main thing is if you look at the track record of how we have operated in the businesses previously. We have worked in a way to create shared value and an extraordinary culture. You can’t do that by treating the parties that you are working with in a negative fashion. For us, conscious capitalism is what we are about. … So the whole context of what we do is around positioning us as a conscious investment firm. We have to be aware about our responsibilities to everyone in the chart. So it is all about providing that shared value. I am part of the “B” team which is [Richard] Branson’s not-for-profit group that he has set up globally for corporates to be involved with because Plan A is fundamentally not working so we need to go to a Plan B focussed alternate, which is moving away from just this ruthless focus on profits and shareholders returns and it needs to be about that shared value proposition.
What prompted you to take over WanderLust
We had the experience working with WanderLust in the early days when Swisse was a sponsor and I could see the huge opportunity, the quality of events was very good, but the way it was run commercially, there was great room for improvement. It was great to be a situation where we could partner up with Wanderlust and do it some justice.
What is your vision for its future?
I see these events as an essential part of bringing the community together. It is essential part of humanity and our wellness. What I loved seeing at the events was how it was all different shapes and sizes and a lot of people had been dragged along not knowing what they were going to with these events (108 events) and all of a sudden they are doing Yoga and meditation with a huge group of people…These wellness tools have been around for a lot longer than conventional medicine, so we are really looking forward to introducing it to a broader audience.
Will you be doing Festivals in Asia?
Yes, we see it as an opportunity, once we have a strong stable business here in Australia and NZ, yes we will diversify across Asia and there is a thirst for these types of events throughout Asia.
I’ve heard that you will be going beyond the other events, and stores and even clothing. Any truth to that?
There’s great opportunity to do those sort of things. I think fundamentally we have to have a really strong core business which is the festival and events space, so we need to build that up but the diversification for the brand could be obviously, but that doesn’t happen until you have got a really strong core business.
What’s your favourite book?
As daggy as it is, you can’t go past the Alchemist.
Do you have any routines or habits that you perform everyday
Meditation – 20 mins twice per day. And I really look forward to meditating and I don’t feel like my day is complete without it
Is there anything you want to say to the Yogi community?
I look forward to sharing this amazing lifestyle secret that we are all a part of. I think we can make a huge societal impact and if you go back to the original Wanderlust founders and where the inspiration came from – with both their wives running a Yoga studio right where 911 happened and what inspired them was the sense of community that came from people sharing the Yoga experience. So in this time for the need for greater community and greater social function, I think this ancient art form can teach us a lot and serve for a better society and community.