Riding on a Purpose
In the right hands, a business driven by purpose can do wonderful things, and such business leaders can rise to inspire generations
Today, regardless of who we are, we are expected to participate. Whether an armchair activist or an active lobbyist, there is nothing more unforgivable than staying out of it. It is no longer enough to work a routine job, travel to and from duty every day, and contribute to house and hearth. You are but half a human being if you do nothing else, and you are treated as such. Those are your duties, they are the bottom of the pyramid of the modern-age adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You need to grow beyond the base needs, and towards self-actualization.
Introducing the Age of Purpose
The lives of today’s youth have been set apart from all those who came before them by one key element. At one time, a small section of the population worked towards causes, and social impact, and was known as the ‘jholawala activists’ in common parlance. Today, any individual who claims holistic growth cannot afford to distance oneself from strong action towards improving society. With so many things going wrong in the world, with so many problems that must be beaten, it seems like every individual has taken things into their own hands, and decided it is time they do something.
In a world where individuals are taking a stand, so are organizations. Erstwhile corporate ‘social impact’ used to be fairly run-of-the-mill: work with the underprivileged, with tree plantations, with socially outcast sections of people, or with an NGO. That was the extent of the “CSR” that we saw, with some exceptions where brands, spurred on by their communication teams, decided it would be “a good move” to take a divergent approach.
Change of Approach
Today, we see a major mind-shift in the way that people approach social impact. Not only are the larger organizations more cognizant about activities they carry out, but there is also a small set of people who have made a social impact their core business. Empowering women on the go through biking, creating an equitable society through serving and supporting animals, building a home-cooking business based on the comfort of your mom’s biryani… These are some establishments that have the potential to impact society, and these are all thriving businesses today.
Take, for example, the team at ‘Authenticook’. They work with home cooks, bringing travellers into homes to experience unique cultural experiences through food. This not only generates revenue for the home cooks but also breaks the cultural barriers between people. Through this, they are not only working towards a cause but also towards support for those who champion it. A similar notable examples that of‘Two Brothers Organic Farms’, an initiative towards sustainable and organic farming techniques, which impacts not only the end consumer with healthy food options but also the farmers themselves.
The aim of the work undertaken by such business owners will include profit margins, but why should that not be a bonus that comes along with the larger impact they create? They stand to improve farming as a sector, the lives of all those involved in farming and potentially create a much larger impact in terms of quality of food available.
Gone are the days when the social impact was a thankless job, condemning you to a life of difficulties. The intention here is not to make a blanket statement about how easy it is to set up a profitable social enterprise. Creating social impact is still a very tough ask. Not every business owner or young entrepreneur can manage to run and make a success out of a social enterprise, and neither should they feel pressured to do so. The interesting part of today’s world is that commercial and social entrepreneurs can not only co-exist, but they can also collaborate.
A purpose is a strong tool, one that too many ignore, and just as many take advantage of. In the right hands, a business driven by purpose can do wonderful things, and such business leaders can rise to inspire generations. It should be our responsibility, not to drive such initiatives, if we are not of that mindset, but to support them, to watch them grow, and to do out a bit in as small a way as we can. That is when we can each claim to be living in a world where success is within reach because success will be defined by the part we play in the push towards a better world.
The author is a Co-Founder of Mustang Socks and Accessories and also the Vice Chairperson, FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO), Mumbai Chapter