What’s your story_journey_through_the_aisles_of_india

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This paper uses the examples of a range of Indian brands to argue the value and importance of authentic corporate social responsibility. Amul is a co-operative of small scale dairy farmers, many of …

This paper uses the examples of a range of Indian brands to argue the value and importance of authentic corporate social responsibility. Amul is a co-operative of small scale dairy farmers, many of them women: it enjoys a strong association with the empowerment of women and of paying a fair price for materials. The example of Fabinda, a high-end clothing brand that employs traditional handloom workers, is also given. Larger companies can also maintain a socially responsible positioning: Tata, a conglomerate with business in many industries, enjoys a strong reputation with consumers for being socially responsible. In each case the brand/company is successful because social responsibility has been incorporated into the business from its start. Making social responsibility a core part of the brand's identity helps it to be consistent and authentic.

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  • 1.   What’s your story?: Journey through the aisles of India Preriit Souda Admap Admap Prize 2013  
  • 2.      Title:    Author(s):    Source:    Issue: What’s your story?: Journey through the aisles of India Preriit Souda Admap Admap Prize 2013   What's your story?: Journey through the aisles of India Preriit Souda TNS UK Read more essays on CSR in India and related case studies on the Brands and Sustainability in India page I recently moved to London from Mumbai. Indians are very peculiar about their groceries and getting them requires one to go to far off lands, say suburbs, like Kingsbury or Wembley. Yet my first visit to Kingsbury's Indian store was marred with sadness and extreme levels of despair. While I got everything needed, there was one thing missing from my purchase, and that one thing spoiled my remaining evening. There was one question constantly popping in my head - how can I live in a country where there is no Amul? A cousin of mine lamented the unavailability of Amul butter in the UK and said that his sons and daughters have never known the real taste of butter as they were born in the UK. Someone reading the above might be wondering what Amul is, and some techy guy would have already Googled it and found that it's a mere dairy brand. But for millions of Indians and Indian expats living in different parts of the globe, Amul is more than a brand. It represents a bit of India, an assurance of quality, a value-for-money product and a co-operative movement that brought a revolution (White Revolution) [1]. For me, a pack of Amul butter reminds me of millions of village women who get up early in the morning, bathe their cows, milk them and then proceed to sell that milk for a fair price; money which has helped thousands of poor kids of my generation to study and come out of poverty. This money has given these women a financial equality with their husband and their husband an ownership stake in India's largest cooperative and most trusted brand [2][3][4]. While Amul butter might not be very different from the ones available at local Sainsbury or Tesco store, it's the story behind this brand that makes millions like me adore this brand. Amul does not need to hoard its corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities as social good; it is engrained in its very existence. In a philosophical context, I often call Amul an idea and believe that calling it a brand is an insult, because often brands are created by marketers to create a world of euphoria to fool consumers and making them buy stuff at higher than reasonable prices. Amul is an idea of a world where companies stand for the lesser privileged farmers by giving them a fair price for their milk, an assurance of best quality products at the lowest possible price to consumers and, at the same time, continues to grow its revenue and expand into new markets and categories [5]. Turning my eyes away from the aisles of mass appeal to a niche appeal, a brand that pops up in my head is Fabindia. Coming Downloaded from warc.com 2    
  • 3.   from an area known for its handlooms, I have seen thousands of handloom artisans turn poor as Indians changed to machinemade clothes. FabIndia gives a view of the world where talented, poor artisans in rural India are able to sell their craft directly to high-end, urban customers without having to deal with array of middlemen known for unfair buying practices [6]. While Fabindia is known as a high-end clothing brand for the intellectual types with an eye for fashionable hand-woven clothes, it's also known for its inclusive capitalism. Though Fabindia continues to grow significantly in revenue and store footprints, the company is also bringing thousands of craftsmen out of poverty by moving them up in the value chain and helping them upgrade their skills to meet the growing needs and changing tastes of the urban Indian elite [7]. While some may argue that Fabindia is a costlier version of state-owned handloom houses, I differ on such a belief. Fabindia symbolizes everything that co-operatives can achieve with the right capitalist ideology. While state-owned-handlooms are often known to be very slow on catching up on the latest fashion trends, for unprofessional store management and unreliable product quality, Fabindia stands as a winner. On the other side, thinking like a typical capitalist marketer, I believe that FaiIndia has a story that attracts and binds its customers in a way no other fabric brand in India does. While readers might argue that Amul and Fabindia have different organizational structure than the ones of a typical multinational corporation, turning my eye to a different aisle gives me an answer in the form of Tata. Tata, a salt to software conglomerate, is one of the biggest corporations in the world yet invokes respect in the minds of its consumers in a manner very few generate. While CSR may be the buzzword today, it was practiced by the Tata group from the times of Jamshedji Tata around 150 years ago. From granting scholarships to talented students, to supporting Mahatma Gandhi's campaign for racial equality in South Africa, to building some of the finest academic and scientific institutions, Tata group has had its share [8]. Today, Tata commands the respect and awe of people sitting on roads of Mumbai to those sitting in post bungalows in Delhi. While Tata does talk about its CSR activities [9], it's the employees who promote its goodwill acts the best. I have never worked for, or with Tata companies, but I know a lot about its pro-worker policies and social acts courtesy of its employees, which I believe are Tata's biggest promoters. Jamshed Irani, director, Tata Sons, believes that, while western companies may afford to concentrate only on profits as their governments take care of social security, India has not reached that stage and hence corporations need to fill that gap [8]. While Irani may be right in regards to western companies in the western world, when western companies do business in poorer countries, I believe that they need to think like the ones in poorer countries. I believe that several western companies fail to understand their social responsibilities and often look at it with ulterior goals. There is no goodwill till you don't sacrifice and I believe that the biggest sacrifice that corporations need to make is to sacrifice the hope of return on investment (ROI) from their CSR activities. Several brands get involved in CSR activities in order to gain awareness in the minds of the lesserprivileged rural populace of India with a hope that, sooner or later, they will get addicted to their products. While these tactics do work sometimes when accompanied by gluey emotive ads showcasing caring acts, often the very poor populace understands the motive and shows it the thumb. This leads to shareholders questioning the ROI of CSR activities. I believe that measuring the ROI of CSR activities is a flawed concept. A better metric can be what I call Impact of Social Investment (IOSI), which can encompass a set of social parameters rather than financial or accounting metrics. And while social-good activities may not give immediate monetary returns, it's a long-term investment that pays in different forms for years to come. These include respect for brand, and hence a higher brand commitment, employee pride, which can lead to higher retentions and lesser human costs, and all of the above leading to stable profits. Management and shareholders need to learn to be patient to see the impact of their social investment, which I feel is rare in today's fast food world. Downloaded from warc.com 3    
  • 4.   I believe that if a company or brand decides to stand for a cause they need to be honest in that commitment and make that cause a part of their inherent value system. Recently, I came across an interesting picture on Facebook which mocked several fashion magazines for having articles explaining why being fat and round is okay, followed by three ads on weight reduction for getting a zero size figure, Companies need to stand firm on the causes supported irrespective of the tides of time. Often companies switch their causes as soon as some other lucrative cause appears. Consumers do notice such flip-flops. Companies also need to understand the society they work in and respect it as it is, rather than impose a selfish idea alien to that country. The above issue reminds me of a company that committed itself to providing free breakfast food for poor slum kids with a hope that one day these kids will grow addicted to their breakfast foods, and shun that country's age-old traditional foods. That's not CSR but a promotional activity. In conclusion, I'd say that companies need to be honest and unselfish. It's better not to be involved in any social acts until it is backed by firm, unselfish ideological beliefs engrained from top to bottom. If companies do decide to traverse such a path of unselfish social good, its impact will be more than measurable. If that's not possible, then corporations need to accept that profits won't be maximised by doing social good. References: 1. White Revolution http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Revolution_(India) 2. Story of Amul http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manthan 3. Story of Amul http://www.amul.com/m/about-us 4. http://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/report_amul-five-others-among-india-s-most-trusted-brand_1799851 (DNA on Amul) 5. Amul Story http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM33687J-Q0 (CNBC TV18 on Amul), http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=qbc1I1Mabpc (CNBC TV18 on Amul), 6. FabIndia Story http://www.fabindia.com/intl/company/ 7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXEfZAr6sTQ (NDTV Profit on FabIndia's Business structure) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFO6Pshq4qw (NDTV Profit on FabIndia's Business structure) 8. http://www.tata.com/company/Media/inside.aspx?artid=ZYTmDvfrGd4= (Jamshed Irani on Tata) 9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfhboYjc5Cw (Tata Ad on its Social Responsibility). Please note that my article is a bit critical of certain CSR activities carried out. While all the activities mentioned above are true, I don't wish to include any brand names or references (it will reveal brand or corporations) because I believe that adding brand names will add controversies to my article with the reader either going on defense or support. Only reason I am mentioning these activities is to show the misuse of CSR and hence to make a point of refraining from such acts. Read more essays on CSR in India and related case studies on the Brands and Sustainability in India page © Copyright Warc 2013 Warc Ltd. 85 Newman Street, London, United Kingdom, W1T 3EU Downloaded from warc.com 4    
  • 5.   Tel: +44 (0)20 7467 8100, Fax: +(0)20 7467 8101 www.warc.com All rights reserved including database rights. This electronic file is for the personal use of authorised users based at the subscribing company's office location. It may not be reproduced, posted on intranets, extranets or the internet, e-mailed, archived or shared electronically either within the purchaser’s organisation or externally without express written permission from Warc. Downloaded from warc.com 5