Inside, we are welcomed by Karthik, the senior general manager of corporate brand management, who takes us to a conference room. We are soon joined by Anand, who enters with a purposeful stride and a big smile.
“We’re impressed by what we’ve read so far about the Mahindra brand,” I say as he warmly shakes our hands. “And curious to learn more!”
“Well, we are of course all very proud of our company and it is one of our daily challenges to keep it that way,” says Anand. His air is calm and relaxed, even though his words speak of great ambition.
“That’s exactly why we wanted to meet you,” I say. “To find out the secret of the success behind the Mahindra brand.”
“We are many companies,” Anand replies proudly. “We are more than 180,000 people in over 100 countries. Mahindra’s success lies in the way we do business. Of course there is professionalism and quality, but most of all we do business with a larger purpose. Actually, we always have,” he says with a smile. His tone is confident and modest at once.
“We read about that,” I say. “I am particularly interested in understanding how an Indian company, founded in the 1940s, was able to grow so big, even internationally, and still manage to hold on to its core purpose. Can you tell us about that?”
“Well,” says Anand. “When I took over as captain of the Mahindra ship, in the early 1990s, ‘good corporate citizenship’ was already part of our DNA. But I felt we had to reformulate it, to revive it and incorporate it into our daily operations.
“What I found was actually the same as our founders believed in: ‘India is second to none and we will prove them right’. This slogan dates back to the company’s founding in 1945 when India had little internationally known industry and there was a general feeling that we should prove that we could compete and hold our own.
“So what we did, was to take the purpose we had always had but which had been used more as a footnote, and turn it into a header.
“We worked hard and by the mid-2000s we had established a strong presence in India and started expanding our business internationally.
“And what happened to your purpose, which was very much focused on India?” I ask.
“Good question,” says Anand. “This growth and change of scope led us to question our purpose. We had created an international company, with people working with us all over the world. An India-focused purpose doesn’t appeal to Americans or Europeans, so we had to change. We decided to do an exercise to find our current purpose.”
“How did that work?” I ask.
“We started the exercise in 2008, a decisive year globally,” says Anand. “We involved different groups of stakeholders from all over the world to first find out what they find important. We found amazing similarities in different parts of the world. People realized that the world had changed, there was a trust deficit towards big companies, people wanted brands they could trust, brands that are good for consumers, brands that go beyond profit.”
“So you noticed that people wanted companies to be more stakeholder-value driven than shareholder-value driven?” I ask.
“That’s right: people are done with corporate greed and companies that just look at the next quarter’s financial results,” says Anand. “When we went back to the drawing board with the knowledge we had gathered, we found surprising similarities between what people want and what we, at Mahindra, are.”
“And this is how ‘Rise’ came about,” I say.
“Correct,” says Anand. “We want to drive positive change in the lives of our stakeholders and communities across the world, to empower and enable them to ‘Rise’.”
© 2014 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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