Happiness – another way for measuring business growth
VEEN Scene 008

By Aman Gupta

Finns are the happiest people in the world. Don’t just take my word on it. Finland was ranked first in last year’s World Happiness Report done by the UN – and rightfully so. Yet, instead of celebrating the recognition, many Finns seemed baffled. “Us? Happy?”, they’d say with recognizable dry, sarcastic humor.

As a foreigner, sometimes it might be easier for me to see what makes Finland special. Many things which Finns take for granted – look extraordinary to an outsider. I’ve always appreciated Finnish honesty, guts (the Finnish “sisu”), and their appreciation for nature.

I’ve come to know Finland more deeply when, more than ten years ago, I started working with a premium water company from Finnish Lapland. What inspired me – besides the excellent product itself – was the uncompromising attitude towards the environment. The smoothest water in the world and wanting to keep our oceans clean by opting for glass bottles instead of plastic.

Settling for the ordinary was never the option for VEEN – not even when building the export business, as VEEN had been made available only to the finest hotels and restaurants. Not to mention the deal with Harrods department store in London. No mean feat!

Today, VEEN is available in 16 countries. In addition to the original VEEN spring water, we are a beverage company with a range of Craft Nordic Mixers and a range of Ayurveda based waters and shots. We have also gained popularity in India, my home country.

The story of VEEN incorporates the best aspects of Finland and Finns: the exceptionally pure nature and the courage to do things differently.

Growth? Yes – but not at all costs

Practically every company in existence aims at growth. Especially for companies in smaller markets, going international is a natural option. And as most entrepreneurs know, sometimes there seems to be unsurmountable obstacles in the path toward internationalization.

With VEEN, we looked further than the neighbouring countries. We set our sights all the way to a small nation at the foot of the Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan.

At first glance, Finnish Lapland and Bhutan seemed to be more than worlds apart, both geographically as well as spiritually. However, there are some fascinating similarities. Both have an unspoilt and extremely beautiful nature. To keep up VEEN’s brand, the water we bottled outside of Finland needed to be exceptional in quality. And this is why we eventually invested in the mineral water spring and bottling plant in Bhutan.

Happiness is a common trace in both countries. Tiny Bhutan surprised the world in the 1970s by introducing the Gross National Happiness index to combat the popularly accepted method of measuring the nations’ success through economy. This was a courageous and gutsy thing to do. Sounds rather Finnish, doesn’t it?

There’s a lesson to be learned for every country, company, or individual. It is possible to make a change and work towards a happier world, even if you aren’t the biggest player around. All it takes is something extraordinary.