Thursday, August 30, 2007

Give and you will receive

There was a time when capitalism meant making profits, philanthropy be damned. But times, they are a changin’...and how!

This is an area which is not new to Indian business houses. Long before Bill Gates, Microsoft’s Chairman committed millions of dollars for various social causes, Jamshetji Tata and his family have been following the principle of “give back to the people what you have earned from them.” Back then charity was a headache – something that the government was supposed to do. Yet the Tatas worked tirelessly towards the upliftment of the community. They were the first ones to think of Maternity Benefits and got it enforced as a law in 1946. In 2004, they spent Rs.45 crores on social service. Small surprise that India’s most loved and respected corporate house is Tata.

Today, a lot many corporates are understanding the positives of being socially active. Bajaj believes in the teachings of the world’s greatest leader – Gandhi. They have instituated the Jamnalal Bajaj Awards which are given every year to people following the Mahatma’s principles. Not just this, Bajaj Electricals has developed special lighting equipment keeping in mind the people at the bottom of the pyramid. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, myriad corporates stressed that these initiatives were today becoming mandatory for survival, giving them a cutting edge over other brands in the market.

Payback time

Corporates are realising that its now time to give back to the people who have worked for them and bought from them. The soda companies have for long been blamed for encouraging unhealthy eating habits & child obesity. Last year, Pepsi decided to do something about it. They launched the PepsiCo S.M.A.R.T programme whose aim was to provide a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

ITC of India has become a water positive corporation (recycling water from waste) through its agro forestry programmes. The company has made about 30,000 hectares of wasteland cultivable and planted over 10 crore saplings. Its chairman Y.C. Deveshwar is committed to making his company a ‘zero solid waste’ organisation with the help of recycling techniques.

A large number of corporates are today fighting a lot of these social and environmental problems and taking on collective responsibility. They want a sustainable development which takes care of them and their consumers. Today CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has become an important reputation measurement for a company. Maruti changed the lives of million of Indians by providing them an affordable car. It made their dreams come true. Today it’s a company close to the heart of millions in India.

Not just marketing

The home page of Tata Motors website says “We Care”. ITC has launched a “Sunfeast Hara Banao” campaign to make children more environmentally alert, by using less measure of plastic bags, helping make a “Butterfly Garden” and many more such initiatives. P&G has realised that today’s mother values education more than anything else. So it launched a “Shiksha – Secure Your Child’s future” programme. You could now buy any of P&G products like Vicks, Whisper, Ariel, Tide, Head & Shoulders & Pantene and win either Rs.2 lakhs toward graduate education fee of one child or Rs.50,000 as one year tuition fee of a child. P&G wanted to show that it did not only make great products but wanted to improve the life of its consumers too. A novel way to build brand loyalty.

Nestlé came out with a “Stick of Hope” where ice-cream lovers could write a few words of inspiration, a favourite joke on a virtual pop-stick. For every message Nestlé would contribute 25 cents to the City of Hope Cancer Centre to help children with cancer. Banana Republic started a “Drop your pants” campaign where you could donate your gently worn cast-offs. They got an incentive to clean out their closets and felt good about helping someone.

MAC cosmetics does various programmes to benefit children with AIDS. Its “kids for kids” programme sells greeting cards made by children and the proceeds go to benefit children with HIV/AIDS.

Cause marketing campaigns are today transforming the market. Everyone admires and expects from them. After all if you want to grow consistently and be loved by all, you gotta follow the golden rule – give and you will receive!

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