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BW Businessworld

Businesses Have Power To Change People’s Lives

Philanthropy can prove to be a powerful weapon, which when yielded in the right hands can be a purposeful mission that creates lasting changes in societies, cultures and even humanity as a whole writes Ami Shroff

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Philanthropy by virtue is the ability to care for the welfare of others and I think,regardless of our personal constraints,all of us,at some point, have reached out and taken care of others, notwithstanding our ability or extent of help offered. In its simplest form, it is driven by our innate human need to impact the lives of others, while simultaneously fulfilling our own purpose in this world. In a larger context however, philanthropy can prove to be a powerful weapon, which when yielded in the right hands can be a purposeful mission that creates lasting changes in societies, cultures and even humanity as a whole.

Creating impact in a changing landscape
We live in a fast evolving world, which is not only intrinsically connected but also one where people are exposed to more information in a minute than they were in a whole lifetime less than a decade ago. Businesses too, as a result have evolved to keep pace with these changes, shape shifting to envelope information and technology in equal measure to deliver the product/service they provide. However, with the rapidly changing consumer behaviour, businesses do find themselves in a peculiar situation. People no longer want to buy a product for the sake of the product itself. They want to buy into a brand. It’s ideology, its purpose!

Similarly, people working in an organization too, are no longer content with just putting in the hours and taking home a paycheck. They want to work with organizations that resonate with their personal beliefs,that get them excited, that fulfill a sense of ambition that extends beyond just the professional sphere.

As a result, businesses have a far greater opportunity to affect a change on people’s lives while clearly elucidating their unique identity. And it is the most effective business strategy too, in my mind. A sense of purpose can ultimately help businesses build a brand, enhance management-employee relations, and weave a DNA that becomes the essence of the brand no matter which segment of the society they are connecting with. Businesses with solid core values will also attract business from those who share the same principles and vision as theirs.

What’s more, by adopting a philanthropic purpose, businesses can excite, engage and offer more to the world by way of building communities and tackling real world challenges that impact large parts of the population. It becomes a natural extension of what they do, ensuring they are not just limited to the product/service realm alone.  What’s important is that brands identify what they most strongly align with and then run with it, so to speak. This will ensure a buy-in not only from their expanding workforce but also their customers.Success evidently is a by-product when philanthropy forms the core of your business.Now if that isn’t good business sense, then I don’t know what is!

Business and Philanthropy - In close Juxtaposition 
There are many amongst us today who have broken the dichotomy between Business and Philanthropy, merging the two seamlessly and showcasing examples of great success on both counts.

Take for instance the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and the mammoth work they are undertaking around the world to empower the less privileged. When Mark Zuckerberg and his wife declared that they would give 99% of their shares in Facebook away, he commented on the obligation he felt to invest in a better future for the generations to come. Closer home too, we have business stalwarts such as AzimPremji of Wipro, Shiv Nadar of HCL, Narayan Murthy &Sudha Murthy of Infosys,who are well known for their generous philanthropic work.

Recently its been encouraging to see the new breed of entrepreneurs carrying the philanthropy baton resolutely forward, even as they build new exciting businesses, putting India in the global business spotlight. Companies in different pockets of India are now being recognized for their generosity and making a change at a grassroots level through the various projects they take under their wing. Be it in the realm of education, sanitation or infrastructure, there is more movement, there is more interest and there is a larger call for change.

What drives Shrujan too,is its commitment to enable and empowerthe women in the Kutch community by creatingan opportunity to showcase the unique craft they have inherited from their culture while protecting an important part of India’s vast heritage and also teaching self-reliance to those who need it most. Your products & services are ultimately both produced and consumed by humans. It therefore becomes the responsibility ofevery business, to step back and consider; where are we headed? What are the next generations’ skill sets, value systems& orientation of the mind? We all celebrate new growth, new inventions, new technology but while we do it is also important to ensure that we take others along on the new path, that we create an environment of inclusion and opportunity, where none existed before.

The vision behind LLDC is to also preserve the cultural heritage and to create a platform to showcase all that the Kutch craft community beam with pride about; it’s our way of saying “Look what good work you do!Wonderful!”. It’s where we preserve the genius of the Kutch Craftspeople and also stoke a social conscience so that initiatives are taken to train others as well as the next generation. That to me is good business, where everyone is contributive and flourishing. As far as I understand, philanthropy, or in other words, a social-conscience is actually a very good business attitude to cultivate and one that proves beneficial not only from a micro lens but also in the macro view too.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Ami Shroff

The author is Director, Shrujan

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