3 key observations from #WEF2016 that Indian businesses must take note of

The theme for this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum which was ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was rather brave! Brave considering the backdrop of China’s economic slowdown, rock-bottom oil prices, fear of an impending economic recession and growing threat of terror groups. The most critical word in the theme seems to be ‘mastering’. For a business to sustain till the fourth industrial revolution it needs to be master the art of managing risks.
I would like to draw your attention to 5 key observations that Indian businesses need to take note of:
The Inequality Challenge Oxfam launched a report just before the Davos meeting showing the alarming levels of economic inequality in the world. A recent IMF report states that income inequality impacts growth and its sustainability. The report also suggests that the poor and middle-class matter the most for growth. The Global Risk Report launched by the World Economic Forum shows that ‘Profound Social Instability’…

Four Sustainable Development Goals Defining the Role of Private Sector

Leaders from around the world recently committed to 17 ambitious development goals for the next 15 years. These 17 goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replace the Millennium Development Goals which the United Nations committed to in the year 2000. While there are many questions about whether the more ambitious SDGs will be able to achieve what MDGs could not, there are signs of better preparedness. This time around, there has been proactive engagement with various stakeholders. The SDGs focus on collaboration between governments, civil society and private sector, which in itself is unique. The emphasis on the role of private sector in realising these goals is evident from the fact that the UN has actively engaged with business leaders on SDGs. The SDGs are set in a socio-economic environment of rapidly growing economies in Asia and Africa, rising inequality and the impact of climate change. In this post, I will focus on four specific goals which address these iss…

Changing the Change Process

In the State of Civil Society Report 2015 Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation) wrote about the need for a stronger civil society. He also stressed on the need for the civil society to redefine its way of working. What I liked most about the essay was his emphasis on the need to change donor behavior.
Bringing about social change can be anything but simple. But the basis of and belief in bringing about change has to simple. When I read about India’s freedom movement one thing that strikes out is Mahatma Gandhi’s simplicity.  It also shows that if people believe in change even ubiquitous items like a lathi (stick) and a charkha (spinning wheel) can do the job. Imagine if Gandhi had to focus his energies on showing his efficiency, developing monitoring and evaluation reports and ensuring budget utilization. People believed in the idea of change and trusted their leader that’s it.
“In order to better resource civil society - and in order to be better resources for civil society - we a…

Markets Also Discriminate

Originally published on - Oxfam India Blog The unfortunate fact about market based gender discrimination is that it exists across borders and across socio-economic strata. In my blog, I focus on two of the many functions that markets perform - selling and employment. Although markets represent people (and their mindsets) it tends to take an overarching role as an institution in influencing all others who engage with it. In a paternalistic society markets become an amplified representation of a mindset that discriminates against women. For most of us our first engagement with the market is as a buyer of a product/ service or as a viewer of advertised messages. Market actors keep innovating new ways to sell more. Deep rooted paternalistic mindset pushes marketers to find creative ways to promote gender stereotypes through product design and/ or promotions. It’s the market which defines that a girl should play with dolls and kitchen sets while boys should play with cars and action figur…

Wide gap between 2% and 100%

So finally we have a legislation in place that mandates 2% spending on CSR. Consulting firms and NGOs are gearing up their strategies to leverage this opportunity to meet their respective (and perhaps contrasting) goals. Companies are trying to put in place systems to meet this new compliance. All good so far.
What’s concerning me is the fact that corporate responsibility is now compliance driven and not value driven. In essence the mandate implies that a company needs to be responsible only when it is profitable. It may also imply that the 2% compliance will become a yardstick for the balance 98%.

Responsibility is value driven and cannot be determined on the basis of profits. It’s also flawed to disconnect corporate responsibility from the core business. This legislation has perhaps pushed us back by a few years from what was achieved with the National Voluntary Guidelines (NVG). Companies voluntarily complying with the NVGs would have been a much yardstick of corporate responsibility…

The Great Indian CSR Bill

On Thursday Rajya Sabha (Upper house of Indian Parliament) passed the much awaited Companies Bill which mandates for-profit companies to spend on corporate social responsibility.

Companies with a net worth of more than Rs 500 crore or a turnover of more than Rs 1,000 crore or a net profit of more than Rs 5 crore during any financial year shall constitute a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the Board consisting of three or more directors, out of which at least one director shall be an independent director. The Board of every company shall ensure that the company spends, in every financial year, at least 2% of the average net profits of the company made during the three immediately preceding financial years, in pursuance of
its Corporate Social Responsibility Policy.

The CSR activities should preferably be near the area which the companies operate. The law also states states that if a company fails to spend such amount, the Board shall specify the reasons for not spending th…

Istanbul - a cultural and ethnic melting pot

Istanbul is a city that shows a unique blend. A blend of continents, culture, tradition, architecture, people and religion. Istanbul is a city with a big heart and there's enough room for everyone and everything.

It has the right reputation of being a cultural and ethnic melting pot.

Blending continents
As most of you know Istanbul is spread across the two continents of Europe and Asia. The two continents are culturally so different yet in Istanbul the cultural differences blend.

The two sides are separated by the beautiful Bosphorus strait. A 10 minute ferry ride takes you from Europe to Asia. Perhaps, the best view of the European side of Istanbul is from the Asian side.

Blending cultures
The history of Turkey spans across the Byzantium, The Roman Empire, The Byzantine Empire, The Latin Empire, The Ottoman Empire, Republic of Turkey and the Turkey of today. The cultural mix is most visible in the city's architecture.

The Walls of Constantinople from 5th century BC share space…