To be effective, corporate social responsibility should come from the heart.
What is your view on CSR as a binding principle that corporates must execute compulsorily?
_ Mohit Rawal, Nagpur
Mohit, I do not subscribe to forced CSR at all.
CSR must flow as a matter of feeling for the activity rather than as a response to a diktat. Activities that stem out of such coercion do not have the same spirit as those that come out of genuine feeling and effort to do social good.
My firm belief still lies in ISR – individual social responsibility. Mix the time of the individual who works in a corporate organisation with the money of the corporate. You will see great work come out of this. When people put in their time, they value it more than just the money.
The Bill provides for punishment. I only wish there was a reward for good work as well. Why only a punishment?
Any punishment means policing, and policing means institutionalisation of the mechanism at play. The last time we dabbled in all this was during the heyday of the Licence Raj.
In terms of brand strategy, what must a small company look at and keep in mind as guiding principles?
_ Revathi Pandit, Mumbai
Revathi, small or big, the principles are the same.
The environment we live in today, and the environment ahead, is one of constant flux. In such a situation, brands need to keep pace with the flux. Brands need to stay alive, and ahead of consumer movements. Consumers change fast, but brands don't. That is not such a great thing to do today.
Gone are the days when brand-thinkers would espouse the cause of the “constant and unchanging” nature of brands. I espouse a different cause today altogether. Brands need to be alive and kicking. As alive and kicking as the consumer is. In fact, brands need to stay one step ahead of consumer movements, wants, desires and aspirations.
I don't look at the brand as a rigid paramecium. The brand is an amoeba instead. Brands need to behave amoebically in the future, if not right now.
Even SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) is advertising. Why?
_ Pavan P. Baliga, Bangalore
Pavan, why not?
Government and quasi-government bodies are bodies that interface with the public at large. It is important for these bodies to have a soft feel with the consumers they cater to eventually. Bodies such as the SEBI and RBI are behemoths that enjoy a rather B2B imagery with most folk. At times, it is important for these bodies to enjoy a more widespread B2C imagery as well. The reason is a simple one. At the end of the day, these bodies cater to the individual. The consumer is the full-stop point. B2B intermediaries are the comma.
Reaching out to the masses through the process of advertising, marketing themselves and using the PR mechanism is rather important for these bodies. More important today than yesterday in particular, as the nation is getting that much more educated, and that much more transparent in its wants and needs from governmental bodies.
How important is shelf presence for a brand?
_ Shampa Bahadur, Kolkata
Shampa, very. VERY in capitals.
The brand is “real” only when you find it on a supermarket or corner grocer shelf. When the brand is on television, it is “virtual”. While advertising seeds the hunger far and wide in every nook and corner of the country, it is shelf presence that satiates this hunger. Brands must find themselves all across supermarket shelves in both width and depth. They must do it even before commencing any advertising campaign. Regional brands have a bigger stake in this shelf placement game, as they fight lower levels and degrees of awareness.
What is the one big challenge for e-commerce portals today?
_ Sibi Thomas, New Delhi
Sibi, e-commerce in India is in a state of flux today. It should and must be, as these are early days of business discovery. The challenge ahead is to manage change as it stares down your portal. As sharply defined verticals aspire to dissipate their focus and go horizontal, and as horizontals seek definition in more well defined verticals, the future is mixed.
Brands need to seek definition and focus on the aspect of brand purpose. A seamless definition, focus and delivery of it all will decide who sinks and who floats.
(Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.firstname.lastname@example.org )