Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Unilever’

 

Earlier on, we had touched upon the importance of brand equity. One can undervalue the criticality of this attribute only at one’s own risk and peril.

Corporate Brands

Companies benefit immensely from making conscious efforts to keep their brand images shimmering. If asked to quantify the resultant financial uplift though, their CFOs would be found twiddling their thumbs. But it is not difficult to see the kind of benefits which accrue from having a shimmering image, whether in matters of human resources, sourcing or marketing, besides in such grey areas as liaison and government dealings.

Several instances can be quoted from my own stints with the Tata group.

When a INR 5 crore modern leather processing factory was established at Dewas in 1975, the plant was commissioned without any delay, with all necessary government approvals in place. No government officials had to be appeased, whether in cash or in kind. In fact, the then government of Madhya Pradesh went all out to support the complex being set up.

In another case, a senior manager deputed to the headquarters of the Electricity Board to secure power connection for a small manufacturing unit ended up assuring a demanding government officer that a measly amount would be paid upon the issue of the necessary permission. A 50% advance paid to the officer concerned was shown in the manager’s travel expenses claim. A furious general manager called in the manager and gave him a severe dressing down. Yours truly was called in and asked to resolve the issue. My visit to the place cost the company five times the amount demanded. Somehow, I could secure the permission without any further underhand payment and got back to my desk with a feeling of triumph and pride at what had been accomplished. The senior manager soon left the company and moved on to a greener pasture.

Tatas are well known for their sound values and systems. They have a unique way of handling under-the-table demands by all and sundry. When it comes to compliance, the emphasis is on avoidance and not on evasion. As to corporate governance, their 150 year old record is blemish free.

Tatas repersent a fine example of what Alan Wallner is apt to call a Conscious Brand. As one of the thought leaders who happen to be a part of the Conscious Enterprises Network, he believes that branding is not just about physical attributes; rather, it is about the inner presence of a person and of the team that creates the brand of a business – it’s the way we treat other people and work together to create something remarkable.

A Mighty Responsibility

To keep a brand duly buffed up and shining is no mean task. Besides management back-up, a positive culture and clear policies which facilitate an ethical approach to business dealings, it needs extensive training at the front level of any organization.

Experiences of Customer Delight

Sometime during the late 1980s, I once had a problem with a Kodak camera I had bought just about a few months back. Somehow, I had not been careful enough to save a copy of the purchase proof with me. I contacted the shop from where I had bought it and he refused to entertain me in the absence of either a bill or a receipt. But when I contacted the Kodak office in person, they made no fuss. A technician checked my camera and within twenty minutes, I walked out with a brand new fresh camera in my hands.

As a lay customer, I once had a problem with my TataSky direct-to-home service account. When nothing satisfactory happened for a week, I gave a piece of mind to the next person I could manage to speak to. Within a day, not only was the problem addressed but even a senior person called me up to apologize for the inconvenience caused.

Such first-hand experiences restore one’s faith in a brand, thereby giving it a unique advantage – that of free word to mouth publicity!

Converting Ex-employees into Brand Amassadors

At HCL Infosystems, another large company, a separation with a disgruntled star performer was handled very delicately. The outcome was that he ended up being an ambassador for the company, referring candidates for several other key positions in the following years.

Even a massive plant closure involving over 1,000 persons was handled so very decently that there were no protests and red flags of any kind, nor any interference from the local politicians or communities. Key personnel who could not be accommodated were assisted in securing alternative career opportunities, with the Human Resources Department playing a key role.

Caring for the Delicately Nurtured

Unilever recently stated having introduced a policy with zero tolerance towards domestic violence.

 

A ten-year stint of mine with Tatas matched well with my own upbringing. However, by the time the episode touched upon by me earlier occurred, I was in a bubble at the other end of the spectrum of values. I had perhaps permitted my honest visage and sincere disposition to be put to nefarious uses. Sure enough, the fault of accepting a situation of this kind lay somewhere within me.

Personal Brand Equity

It stands to reason that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

Professionals need to step back every once in a while and check if their brand image is bright and shining. Keeping one’s brand value burnished helps in career progression. It is also an immensely satisfying slice of life which promotes self-worth and boosts self-confidence.

My experience tells me that these are the kind of inputs which go into keeping a professional’s brand value burnished.

Under-promise, over-deliver

Being aware of our core strengths as well as limitations helps us to assess our chances of success in delivering on a project. By ensuring that we commit conservatively but deliver zealously, we build up a reputation of reliability. There are indeed times when a polite ‘no’ could save us from denting our reputation.

Honesty and openness in relationships

Our colleagues and team members are equally smart. They are quick to sense a touch of opacity on our part. They detest a lack of transparency in us. Dealing with those around us with honesty ensures that they repose their faith and trust in us. As a result, our capability of getting things done improves.

Being a friend, philosopher and guide

All of us have some expertise which may not be directly relevant to our Key Result Area. It could be an insight into the realm of alternative therapies which a colleague can use for one of her family members. It could be about handling rebellious teenagers at home. If we put such expertise to use by helping others around us, word goes around and others rush in to seek our counsel. We might have the image of a tough task master, but this softer aspect of our personality helps us to build a unique brand for ourselves.

Networking

Whether within the organization or outside, networking goes a long way in building up our reputation. The trick, however, is in avoiding those with a negative outlook, while promoting ties with those who have positive vibes.

Keep learning

Keeping the saw sharpened always helps. By refreshing our knowledge pool continuously, we remain a leader in more ways than one. Often, a dash of humility is all it needs to remain ahead of the curve.

Being genuine

By being ourselves, we enhance our dependability. Others feel reassured and refreshed after each encounter with us. They do not mind confiding in us. In turn, this helps us to understand and address their anxiety and concerns better. Our ability to deliver improves.

A brand is all about reliability and dependability. It offers good value for money. So do professionals who work on the basis of deliverables. Smart ones realize that an image cannot be built up purely based on optics and communication. It needs to be backed by real inputs so one’s brand value remains intact and is kept shimmering at all times.

One of the key factors in building a brand and sustaining its image is the kind of value system it represents; moreover, the purpose which guides it.

 

(Illustration: Keller’s Brand Equity Model)

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/bidding-an-adieu-to-mr-ratan-tata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/building-up-the-employee-brand-value-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law)

Read Full Post »

Businesses all over the world chase profits, and rightly so. However, when they do so at the cost of the planet we depend upon or by usurping the legitimate rights of communities they operate in, there is a cause for concern.

All professionals who care for probity in corporate lives, stand for sustainable living and detest relentless pursuit of profits would heartily welcome the recent initiative taken by some of our far-sighted business and community leaders. These leaders have pledged themselves to work on an alternate paradigm for business which puts people and planet alongside profits.

Planet, People and Profits

Known as The B Team, the initiative is a global nonprofit venture co-founded by Sir Richard Branson, and Jochen Zeitz in October 2012. It brings together international activists and business leaders to “make business work better”. The “B” in The B Team represents the need for a “Plan B” for Business. By implication, “Plan A” is the current framework in which corporates are driven by commercial greed alone.

Branson has stated that business has had many positive impacts on the world but needs to move away from a focus on immediate profit to one where it invests and operates for the long-term good of people and the planet. The B Team intends to achieve this vision by dividing an Agenda into Challenges, which will be acted upon and implemented by B Leaders in their own organizations.

Upon its formation, the group assembled a collection of young influencers and gathered feedback on where and how The B Team could have the most impact and pinpoint the roadblocks that prevent businesses from contributing to the greater good.

The B Leaders

On June 13th, 2013, at an event in London, the full list of sixteen B Leaders was announced:

  • Sir Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group comprising around 400 of its business entities, and Co Chair of The B Team.
  • Jochen Zeitz, Director of Kering and Chairman of its board’s Sustainable Development Committee; Co-Chair, The B Team. He has worked on the first-ever environmental profit and loss (EP&L) for Puma.
  • Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland is an international leader in sustainable development and public health. Under her leadership, the Brundtland Commission had defined the word ‘sustainable development’ in the 1980s. She served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway (1981, 1986–89, 1990–96), and has served as the Director General of WHO. She now serves as a Special Envoy on Climate Change for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
  • Shari Arison, the owner of the Arison Group, is an America-born Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist and is one of Israel’s wealthiest women. She is the owner of several business companies, the largest among them being Bank Hapoalim. She also manages several philanthropic organizations which are subsidiaries of The Ted Arison Family Foundation.
  • Kathy Bushkin Calvin is President and CEO, United Nations Foundation. She joined the Foundation in 2003, following a diverse career in politics, journalism, public relations and business.
  • Arianna Huffington, Chair, President & Editor In Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group, is a Greek-American author and syndicated columnist. She is best known for her news website The Huffington Post.
  • Dr. Mohamed “Mo” Ibrahim is a Sudanese-British mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire. He worked for several other telecommunications companies before founding Celtel. After selling Celtel in 2005 for $3.4 billion, he set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa. He also created the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations’ performance.
  • Guilherme Peirão Leal is a Brazilian billionaire entrepreneur. He is the co-chairman of the Board of Directors of, and owns a 25% stake in, Natura, Brazil’s leading manufacturer and marketer of skin care, solar filters, cosmetics, perfumes and hair care products.
  • Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and chairman, of global telecommunications group, Econet Wireless. He currently serves on a number of international boards including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Counsel on Foreign Relations, the Africa Progress Panel, AGRA, the UN Sec General’s Advisory Boards for Sustainable Energy, and for Education.
  • Dr.  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a globally renowned Nigerian economist best known for her two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria and for her work at the World Bank, including several years as one of its Managing Directors (October 2007–July 2011).
  • François-Henri Pinault, is a French business person and the CEO of Kering. He is the son of the company’s founder, businessman Francois Pinault. Often nicknamed ‘FHP’, he is also Director of Financière Pinault, as well as the President of Artémis’ executive board.
  • Paulus Gerardus Josephus Maria Polman is the CEO of the multinational Anglo-Dutch food and detergent company Unilever. He is committed to transforming Unilever, its customers as well as supply chain partners, into strict followers of sustainability.
  • Mary Therese Winifred Robinson served as the seventh and the first female President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and as the UN Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002. Robinson returned to live in Ireland at the end of 2010, and has set up The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, which aims to be ‘a centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalized across the world.’
  • Ratan Tata, KBE, an Indian business person of the Tata Group, a Mumbai-based salt to software conglomerate. He was the Chairman of the group from 1991-2012. Since 2012 he holds the position of Chairman Emeritus of the group which is an honorary and advisory position. The Tata Group and its companies & enterprises are perceived to represent India’s best-known global brand within and outside the country as per an ASSOCHAM survey.
  • Zhang Yue, Chairman and Founder, Broad Group of China, which is one of the few Chinese manufacturing companies that has been widely recognized for its green policies and commitment to countering climate change.
  • Professor Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. As a professor of economics, he developed the concepts of micro-credit and micro-finance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

Team B therefore draws upon a wide array of skills, whether from business or from social activism side. There is a geographical diversification in the choices made, thereby bringing on board a broad spectrum of regional perspectives.

Challenges Aplenty

All the members want to first start practicing before they start preaching. In other words, they intend to start making changes at their own organizations first and then start motivating others to follow suit.

In an interview on the website of B Team, Ratan Tata touches upon the need to curb corruption in the corporate world. He also points out that 66% of the stake in Tata Sons, the holding company of the group, is held by Tata trusts which eventually plough the earnings back into charity. There is increasing realization within the group that the trusts’ activities should now spread globally, no longer restricted to India alone.

In the days to come, one would watch with considerable interest the way things shape up for the Team B. One hopes that fostering of values at the work place would be taken up as a serious challenge, as would be the task of developing future leaders driven by a strong moral compass.

Green Shoots of Cleaner Businesses

In a dismal scenario where not a week passes without us hearing of some corporate scam or other and where the memory of Lehman Brothers is still fresh in our minds, some recent initiatives sound like green shoots which have the potential of changing the business scenario by modifying the ways in which profits are pursued, as also by utilizing the returns from business for the common good.

Formation of The Team B is one such laudable initiative. In 2006, the World Economic Forum launched its Partnering Against Corruption Initiative. It continues to make progress by roping in more and more corporates from across the world. Earlier, in 2003, UN members had signed its Convention against Corruption. As of June 2013, there are 167 countries, including the EU, which are a party to the same.

If these initiatives bear fruit, most responsible corporates the world over would perhaps be e-publishing their EP&Ls in not too distant a future. More significantly, we shall have the collective satisfaction of handing over a healthier planet to the coming generations!

(Related blogs that you might find of interest on this site:

  1. Getting a Moral Compass would be a Sound Business Strategy for India Inc.’ published on December 9, 2012.
  2. Bidding an adieu to Mr. Ratan Tata’ published on December 27, 2012
  3. What would our Business Leaders be like in 2025?’ published on January 27, 2013.
  4. Combating the Cancer of Corruption’ published on April 4, 2013.)

 

Read Full Post »