Post-Covid Capitalism Should Care for People & the Planet

The Covid-19 crisis has shaken up how we view the world. It has shown that many of our political and social structures are built on privilege and inequality, breaking through the clutter and smug self-satisfaction of our times, and turning the spotlight on what is truly important.

We must never forget that during the crisis we have not been desperate for lawyers, actors, athletes or reality TV stars (or, let me add, business people). We have needed teachers, doctors, nurses, carers, shop workers, delivery drivers and countless others whom we usually take for granted. The crisis underlined that the edifice of our prosperity depends on many who work in humble ways and whose well-being is the foundation of our own well-being.

As a business person, it brought home to me how interlinked the cogs are of our economic wheels. The working of a factory in Mumbai, a construction site in Delhi, a tourist hub in Goa and a plantation in Kerala depend on wandering migrants from the remotest and poorest corners of India.

When they flee, because their life has become unbearable, the scaffolding that props up our prosperity collapses. Yet, in spite of their centrality, the underprivileged have disproportionately borne the burden of the virus – not just in India but all over the world.

Covid-19 has also demonstrated the incompatibility of our “normal” lifestyle with the natural world, and how quickly nature can repair the damage we inflict upon it if we change how we live.

In the nine or 10 weeks of enforced lockdown in India, pollution levels have fallen drastically, the Himalayas are visible from the plains for the first time in decades, birds are back in our cities, and the skies and oceans have shrugged off the patina of grey in which they are normally enveloped.

Crises reveal what should be truly important to us. The bottom line is that interconnectedness, of people with each other and with the planet, is non-negotiable. Business leaders who do not get it are going to see their company’s brand value erode before their very eyes.

In our group of companies, we were fortunate to experience this epiphany some years ago. We recognized, from a business perspective, that if we wanted to grow sustainably, we could not rely on a relatively narrow customer base of prosperous Indians. Instead we had to create value collectively for our entire spectrum of stakeholders – colleagues, business associates, shareholders, potential consumers across the economy, local and global communities, and the planet – making them partners in our success.

This crystallized into our business philosophy: “Rise”. Our core purpose is to enable others to rise by driving positive change in their lives. It does not explicitly mention profits, because we believe that if we enable others to rise we will rise with them and profits will inevitably follow.

Read the entire Op Ed here.

Walk, Run, Fly

Following its recent FY-20 financial results the senior leadership team at M&M held a virtual Analysts’ Meet on June 12 to discuss how they planned to drive growth in the ‘New Normal. Among the top leadership at the first-of-its-kind virtual meet were Mr. Anand Mahindra, Dr. Pawan Goenka, Rajesh Jejurikar and Dr. Anish Shah.

Dr Goenka opened the meet by introducing the new management team that had taken over in April this year. In his address, Mr Jejurikar shared a detailed outlook for the Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors. Key priorities for FES include ramping up the core domestic business including farm machinery, turning around its global businesses, focusing on Krish-E, and the ambitious K2 project aimed at adding compact, light-weight tractors to the Group’s global product portfolio.

Dr Shah, in his first presentation as the Mahindra Group CFO detailed the numbers, focusing on the resilient performance of the domestic Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors. He reiterated that the Group had strong cash reserves to tackle unexpected emergencies and that it was taking tough calls to reignite value creation by harnessing the revenue potential of ‘hidden gems’ like Powerol, Rural Housing Finance, Agri, Accelo, Mahindra Electric, Classic Legends, Mobility Services, Susten & the Aftermarket companies.

The Group leaders also provided an overview of the new ‘Walk, Run, Fly’, strategy to drive future growth. This includes:

  • WALK (April ‘20– August ‘20) - Protecting the business today by managing cash, managing margins and managing safety. Cash management includes bringing the core Working Capital back to normal and ensuring Capex optimization. Margin management would include improving the NVM and stringent cost management. Finally, managing safety involves ramping up keeping safety first and ensuring the financial health of dealers & suppliers.
  • RUN (September ‘20– March ’21) - Ramp up with focus. This strategy involves a focus on the domestic core operations, capex and investment prioritisation, building a moat through Krish-e (FaaS) and simplifying the business.
  • FLY (FY-22 & beyond) - Differentiated & profitable growth. This involves building on the SUV Core brand differentiation, launching new Yuvo Star and K2, digital transformation and leveraging platform synergy to optimize capex.

The Future of Design

Silvio Pietro Angori, CEO and Managing Director of Pininfarina S.p.A., regularly provides presentations on the subjects of art, design, culture and entrepreneurship. Here are some excerpts from his essay in the Digital Journal on how the coronavirus pandemic will shape new experiences in different aspects of life through new designs.

History of pandemics and the impact on Design

Pandemics are intertwined with the history of humankind. Through the centuries, viral outbreaks caused the decimation of entire populations, and the fall of long-established political powers.

They equally brought about the creation of new economic orders and growth, leading to the development of new technologies which created the conditions for cultural exuberance. Take for example, the Plague outbreak which devastated Europe in the mid-fourteen century resulting in a dramatic and long-lasting economic depression.

Subsequently, unprecedented economic growth diffused wealth, leading to the Renaissance in Italy and to the creation of masterpieces of geniuses such as Michelangelo, Bernini, Raffaella, Leonardo and many others we admire today. History seems to prove that catastrophes open the path to new beginnings and are sources of unexplored opportunities that significantly increase the well-being of people.

Changing Urban Planning

In the last 30 years, urban planning has leveraged two principles: density and mass transit. From now on, when designing the new town square or concert hall, we will have to face an ever-evolving dilemma: should we favor social distancing, or foster social interaction? While cities are beginning to reopen, a series of precautions to significantly limit the aggregation of people are being implemented, continuing the concept of social distancing. Our responsibility, through design, is to facilitate the experience of interaction but embrace latest AI and 5G technologies (like thermal scanners, pedestrian monitoring, dynamic flow management, rapid access to testing and emergency facilities) to mitigate the risks of contagion, but to “humanize” them through Design at the same time.

Future of Housing

Private housing of the future will be radically different as the boundary between home, office and leisure becomes increasingly blurred. The design will have to take into consideration enhanced needs such as more private spaces, the need for family members to spend much more time in the house for homework, online learning, and open space for individual use. For this reason, tomorrow's homes should favor complex and reconfigurable spaces, adapting according to the different situations of everyday life.

Future of the Workspace

What will the office of the future look like? How will office space change? Retro-fitting the existing cramped office spaces will be a costly battle so quite possibly working from home where possible could be one solution. Where this is not possible, both interior and exterior spaces need to be re-thought. To create a feeling of “reassurance”, personal areas could be created using pre-constructed units which can be dropped into public space areas which make people feel “protected” without them feeling “isolated”. This could be done by rejecting the standard approach of “square space” primarily used in architecture, in favor of “curved space” which is also split vertically to avoid direct contact yet still allow interaction.

Read the complete essay here.

MANA funds to sustain urban agriculture community

Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA) has donated USD75,000 to 11 Southeast Michigan urban farming groups to strengthen the urban agriculture community's ability to grow and distribute food to people in need. The funding was provided from the Mahindra Automotive North America Urban Agriculture Grant Program.

The grants address COVID-19's impact on locally available food supplies in inner-city areas in Detroit, Flint, and Pontiac, especially for households facing the dual challenge of keeping family members healthy and putting wholesome food on their tables.

"We felt that concentrating our 2020 grant funds on strengthening the urban agriculture community's ability to grow and distribute food to people in need was one of the ways we could be of the most help during the pandemic," said Rick Haas, MANA President and CEO.

Since the programme's inception in 2015, MANA has donated more than USD625,000 in cash and farm equipment to 20 unique community-based organisations in Southeast Michigan. Those grant funds have been used to train and equip thousands of home gardeners who grow food for their families, friends, and neighbors.

"Now more than ever, we need to support Michigan's urban farmers who are growing healthy food for their communities," said US Senator Debbie Stabenow. "I applaud the commitment of MANA and all businesses and organisations who are strengthening urban farms in our state."

MANA's grants in previous years also enabled innovative projects, like the development of a cost-saving home irrigation prototype; while others encouraged the preparation of the next generation of urban farmers for future careers and business opportunities. The company's donations have also included three off-road Mahindra vehicles (including two locally built Mahindra ROXORs) and three Mahindra tractors.

  Tweet of the Week

Anand Mahindra

30 yrs ago India had almost run out of forex. Now we have the 3rd largest global reserves. In these uncertain times this news is a morale booster. Let’s not forget our country’s potential & let’s use this resource wisely to get back on the growth path

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