By Harish Sarma
Amidst the chaos of the Covid-19 crisis, if one thing has become crystal clear in the last few months, it is the fact that only the resilient will survive in a constantly evolving world. But what is it that makes an organization resilient? A cursory look at prior crises – financial, social, political – and their impact on businesses throws up one glaring fact. The ones that have managed to survive (and thrive) are the ones that have been able to transform and adapt quickly while staying true to their purpose.
Why is purpose so important in a profit-driven world? Take a pause to think about the organizations we admire. What is it about them that is admired by one and all in a bottom line-focused corporate world?
The one recent example we all know of is of a leading luxury hotel chain hosting healthcare professionals and supplying food packets to frontline healthcare workers. But is it something new they did this time or is it in line with their legacy? A prominent name in the hospitality industry, their mission statement reads as follows, “We will integrate environmental and social principles in our businesses, ensuring that what comes from the people goes back to the people many times over” – that’s clarity of purpose.
How does purpose help in a crisis? Setbacks in business due to unforeseen reasons are times when organizations can take the easy way out and compromise on the quality of their offerings or charge an unjustifiable premium for their products and services. However, organizations that quickly rally around and look for ways to ensure the unwavering quality of delivery to their consumers are the ones that win. In times of crisis, such organizations look for mission-critical elements, prioritize them, and defer non-essential activities. Their purpose, in turn, drives employees who pitch in and go the extra mile.
Amidst a nationwide lockdown, a premium Indian grocery and gourmet food brand continued operations, albeit with reduced staff strength and reduced stocks, while most other big retailers shut shop. Spreading the joy of food is the stated purpose of this brand, and they kept doing so in the middle of a crisis.
Another example is of a B2B2C company, a leader in digital employee benefits that puts people and communities at the core of its purpose and focusses on improving the quality of life of the people it serves. Children and the youth are the future, and to ensure holistic development for this segment, this organization has teamed up with NGOs to provide nutritious, mid-day meals to school children in 20 government and government-aided schools. Other acts of purpose carried out by this leading corporate include providing free education to underprivileged children in small villages and vocational training to the youth.
There is something inspirational about the purpose of these organizations that appeals to the mind. Beyond the products or services they offer, the values these companies stand for, the purpose they represent, has helped them stay relevant, even as generations of their customers have come and gone.
Purpose-driven organizations that are driven by more than profits are the ones that transform lives, bridge socio-economic divides and build communities. And if their purpose inspires their customers, imagine how proud it must make their employees!
(Views are personal)
(Harish Sarma is the Vice President at Sodexo BRS India)