‘Businesses need empathy, humility’

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on May 08, 2021

Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group   -  Businessline

Kumar Mangalam Birla says crisis has also spurred innovation

The biggest lesson that the pandemic has taught us is that one can’t build businesses with spreadsheets and we need to add other dimensions to thinking, particularly empathy and humility, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group, said on Saturday.

Delivering the convocation address at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Birla said, “The reality is that you can’t build businesses with spreadsheets. The most detailed business plans this year unravelled in the face of factory workers falling sick. Supply chains came unstuck as the migrant labour silently powering them retreated to their communities. Therefore,don’t get unidimensional in the way you think. You need to add other dimensions to your thinking, most importantly, of empathy and humility. I don’t see IQ and EQ as binary qualities, but rather as complementary traits that make a personality wholesome.” Birla is also the Chairperson, Board of Governors at IIMA.

“Hidden behind the stories of loss and valour; agony and awe; ruin and revival; is the power of the human spirit. A collective spirit that has enabled us to wrestle with this pandemic for over a year now. A spirit that has been tested, again and again. But a spirit that will triumph, no matter what,” he added.


Birla said that the pandemic has again stimulated innovation as a broad swathe of companies and consumers have embraced ‘digitisation’. In the 4 months of 2021, the start-up ecosystem in India added over 10 new unicorns whose mix represents everything from interest in financial services to business enablers and the need for human connectivity.

“This class is in a unique position. Having had the ability to take a student’s dispassionate look at a world in turmoil, you are now stepping into it, to leave your mark as a young leader whose intellectual appreciation of business problems is balanced by a compassionate understanding of the people involved,” Birla told the graduates.

Published on May 08, 2021

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