Brands and Creative Capitalism
Friday, March 7, 2008
At the recent annual World Economic Forum, Davos, the redoubtable Bill Gates spoke of ?creative capitalism??an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities. There is an increasing recognition and acceptance of this new and more complex definition of business. And at a different level, it could be the harbinger of a new way of building sustainable brands and corporations.
Unilever group has a tool called ?Brand Imprint? that essentially requires the company to qualify and quantify the impact that its brands have ? emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually, intellectually and environmentally. It?s like a tool to figure out if there is a holistic contribution towards bettering of the communities being served. This recognition is not based on a sense of charity alone, it could actually mean reaching out to a new market that was largely untapped, but has much potential. More often than not, market forces fail to make an impact in many segments not because there’s no demand, or because money is lacking, but because not enough time, effort and resources, are spent studying the needs and limits of those markets.
True, in the current scenario, this may sound like one of those management principles, which has a place in the CEO speeches, union budgets and marketing books only, but, at a deeper level and if practiced genuinely, it could actually be the way forward for many sagging brands? future and fortunes, as it could show a new market with untapped demand.
That there?s wealth at the bottom of the pyramid, nobody doubts, and it has been brought to the fore by C K Prahalad in his bestselling ?The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?. Companies are recognising the needs of that largely unserved market and its consumers, and looking at serving it innovatively. Innovation could take many forms, from the model of co-operative and inclusive growth that is followed by companies like Amul or SEWA, to Hindustan Unilever?s Project Shakti, which is a unique programme that provides micro-enterprise opportunity to rural women in remote villages, making them entrepreneurs and in the process increasing the company?s rural reach phenomenally. Or it could be distribution and packaging-led innovations like Hindustan Petroleum?s low-cost rural pumps called ?Hamara Pump?, to the pastes and shampoos being sold in smaller amounts in sachets, both for value and convenience.