Synopsis–By documenting and publicising the narratives around their legacies, companies are indirectly committing themselves to guard their reputation and heritage from getting tampered.
Earlier this month, pharma company Cipla launched a book to commemorate 85 years of its existence. In December, a book chronicling Wipro’s 75 years’ journey from a vegetable oil-maker to a global IT major was released. A book on how Uday Kotak built a valuable Indian bank was also published this month. These are not one-off instances.
A slew of Indian companies such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), HDFC Bank, IndiGo, Hero MotoCorp, Titan, Bandhan Bank and Haldiram’s have books written about them, capturing their phenomenal success. Even new-age startups such as BigBasket and Flipkart have joined the bandwagon. Some of India’s oldest business houses such as Tata, Godrej and Bajaj have invested resources to set up museums, or build their family business archives.
In documenting its achievements for posterity, India Inc seems to be evolving on the lines of ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’, a theory of motivation proposed by psychologist Abraham Laslow in 1943. After the initial quest of survival and tribulations, the best of Indian business is now seen celebrating its success and letting the world know about its struggle to achieve success. And it’s a gesture that’s not unjustified.
Surviving through India’s notorious ‘unease of doing business’, sustaining competition and working one’s way up through the numerous challenges of securing finance, negotiating the bureaucratic mires and gaining market share… these are no mean tasks. These companies have done most things that are worth writing home about.
Besides, enshrining one’s history also points to the coming of age. It hints at the emergence of companies that are self-assured and confident businesses, which are ready and willing to be measured according to global benchmarks. It conveys a positive signal to domestic as well as foreign investors scouting India for growth even as they seek to protect their capital.
This legacy development by India Inc is also timely and handy for India’s youth, who are being encouraged to take up self-employment and become entrepreneurs. The first-hand account of the founder of a large business empire can potentially have a much stronger impact on a young mind than a course on entrepreneurship.
However, with reputation cometh the risks. By documenting and publicising the narratives around their legacies, companies are indirectly committing themselves to guard their reputation and heritage from getting tampered. It becomes pertinent that they deter themselves from engaging in business malpractices, or taking any decisions that go against the vision and mission set forth by the founders. Having built an envious reputation, the companies will have to strive to protect it. And this is no mean task.
With business complexity rising, regulatory compliance increasing and stakeholders becoming more conscious, companies have a challenging path to tread. Compliance to environmental, social and governance (ESG) norms is emerging as a discerning factor of responsible investing. Cross-border suits are fairly common, and Indian laws now provide for class-action suits.
Over the years, a weak board, lapse in collective judgement, lack of effective control mechanism or poor execution can snowball into a fullblown crisis. The world then may not be forgiving to those who have blown their own trumpets and not danced to the sounds produced.
Little wonder, then, that reputation management is fast emerging as a key component of corporate risk management. The focus and investment being showered on to gaining reputation makes it worthy for a company to ensure that it is managed well. This raises hope that more such companies — and their owners — with well-chronicled histories shall be inspired to be living up to their past credentials.
This could deter them from being involved in dodgy things like insider trading, corporate governance lapses, tax evasion, money laundering or misrepresentation of any kind. Their legacy management efforts could also push them to be transparent with their stakeholders, and to do good as well as to do well.