NEW DELHI: Elon Musk has plenty of admirers in India Inc. Here’s one more thing India’s biggest industrialists can take note of – using your company’s resources to help those caught in a terrible disaster. Tesla’s billionaire founder has sent engineers, deep boring gear and heavy-duty battery packs to add to the rescue effort of the trapped Thai football team and their coach, a story that made headlines around the world.Other blue chip global companies have stepped in similarly. To take just two prominent examples: In October 2017, when hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Google’s Project Loon got over 100,000 stranded people to access internet and speed up rescue efforts.When the 2003 Tsunami ravaged Sri Lanka and Indian coastline, a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Lanka stopped bottling coke and filled bottles with water and used its logistics network to help people get drinking water. India Inc has been somewhat lacking in similar displays of a big heart. Even ignoring infamous examples like Delhi-Chandigarh airfares jumping to Rs 99,000 during the 2016 Jat agitation, India’s corporate majors haven’t stepped forward and extended smartly thought out assistance in a crisis. During the Assam floods last month, luggage limits were waived for flights from Guwahati, a typical example of small thinking.Jessie Paul, CEO, Paul Writer, a Bengaluru based marketing advisory, said, “There’s an emotional pull of a crisis. But response often depends on whether CSR funds are exhausted or the marketing team thinks it’s worth it. Say, there’s a disaster in Odisha. Most companies won’t get involved because it’s a low buzz place. Some emergencies and causes attract more attention than others. Often response is linked to media mileage.”64911572
A senior MNC executive, who did not wish to be named, said, “in India there’s no particular model that companies follow. It America, corporates/individual entrepreneurs naturally come forward. In Scandinavia, the state is expected to take care of everything. India falls between two stools. Overall there’s little motivation for India Inc to respond to a public emergency in real time.”Heavyweights in Indian companies say most CEOs, promoters see CSR expenditure as the limit of their responsibility to society. There’s reluctance to spend beyond and since CSR spend is usually already allocated, there’s often no money even if there’s will to respond to disasters. Some startups have shown evidence of willingness to help, albeit in small ways. During 2015 Chennai floods, Ola offered inflatable boats. And 2017 Chennai floods saw BigBasket offering free food supplies, and Portea Medical supplying free medicines.64911576
“Companies should not try and make a marketing statement,” said Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults, a brand and business strategy firm. “Responding to an emergency helps brands get soft cues. You can’t buy that for money.”Nidhi Pundhir, director CSR, HCL Foundation said, “a formal CSR program can take at least three months. For emergencies we usually respond in 48 hours. The cues to help could from our employees or NGOs. Like we set up a call centre during Chennai floods to help connect missing children with their families.”K Ganesh, partner, GrowthStory, a venture builder platform, believes startups are quicker to respond as decision making is quick. “In the US it’s unlikely that a GM, Ford or Walmart could have responded as fast to the Thai football team crisis as Elon Musk did. It’s easier for startups to take these decisions, as large companies need to go through a process to respond,” said Ganesh.CVL Srinivas, country manager, WPP, global ad and marketing major, says there’s long term benefit for companies with big hearts. “Consumers connect strongly with brands creating a positive impact on society. We will see a lot more brands responding to emergencies to win consumer trust.”But companies must not think branding strategies when they help, as this story shared by a senior corporate executive shows. A company decided to send drinking water by trucks to Gujarat during the 2001 earthquake. The team leader spent a lot of time on where the company’s logo will be displayed, and decided it will be on top of trucks because news TV cameras won’t miss that spot.The delay, while this strategizing was going on, is exactly what companies shouldn’t do when responding to crises.
from The Economic Times https://ift.tt/2u5TTjz