The coronavirus pandemic upended business as usual across India. From office-based corporations to street vendors, businesses not only adapted, but helped lead efforts to combat the virus. Tailors became mask-makers, tech companies created tools to better track and treat patients, and corporations and non-profits helped the government identify Covid hotspots and organise community kitchens to support vulnerable citizens.
It took innovation and India’s world-famous entrepreneurial spirit for businesses to pivot to new ways of working. But it also took collaboration. E-commerce players partnered with brick-and-mortar grocers to maintain their sales as shopping went online. Grocers connected with food delivery apps to bring produce straight to customers’ doors. Doctors offered online consultations and business have gone completely online to support every strata of our society.
Now, we believe businesses can apply the same spirit of collaboration to solving an even greater challenge – creating inclusive economic growth that works with not against nature.
Transformative leadership for new growth models
India’s 1.3 billion people make it a huge market with vast reserves of knowledge, abundant talent, and tremendous scope for technology-driven innovation to bring about new growth. Social-impact start-ups will continue to play an important role in India’s development. But a multi-stakeholder, collaborative approach among businesses will be essential to scale and amplify these start-ups’ social and commercial impact.
This is especially true in rural India. Home to almost 60% of the country’s population, rural areas have immense potential for driving the next big wave of growth for the economy. But to unlock this potential, we need to bring players together from across industries to collaborate with rural small and medium enterprises and empower them to become a part of the national economy as the country recovers from the pandemic.
To do this well, we need purposeful leadership that protects people’s trust by looking beyond short-term earnings alone. A future-fit leader must focus on growth that works with and not against nature; delivers value over the long term; and generates value for the many, not just the few.
The good news is this kind of leadership also makes business sense. A meta-study examining the link between sustainable practices and business performance by NYU-STERN and Rockefeller Asset Management found a positive relationship between ESG and financial performance in 58% of the corporate studies focused on operational metrics or stock price.
The power of collaborative and multi-sectoral partnerships
Xynteo Vikaasa and Tata Trusts believe in the power of partnerships. As part of Vikaasa (formerly India2022), we are incubating and piloting new growth models in the areas of sustainable mining, energy, healthcare, and waste, to accelerate India’s progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Vikaasa partners Xynteo, Tata Trusts and Shell have collaborated to develop the Stages of Development (SoD) Framework, a data-driven tool to help start-ups, philanthropists and investors identify relevant sector-specific solutions, based on development indicators for a target geography. One of the key challenges for rural development is that a lot of work happens in siloes, with limited access to market intelligence. The SoD Framework helps practitioners to identify target markets, optimise their strengths, share knowledge and expertise, and surmount grassroots challenges together.
There are many other great examples of collaborative partnerships in India. We need many more towards this collaborative approach with the close engagement of the rural communities towards ensuring the partnerships continue long time. Tata Trusts and the IKEA Foundation have launched the Sustain Plus platform. Its mission focuses on SDG 7 – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Sustain Plus aims to evolve into an open platform for collective action around capital aggregation, allocation, programme management and knowledge-sharing across organisations and geographies. Conceived by Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), SELCO Foundation and Social Alpha, the platform aims to create an ecosystem that will support and scale-up renewable-energy access programmes and technologies for rural tribal communities.
Scaling impact as the world recovers
We have seen that collaborative efforts can save and sustain lives, even during a global pandemic. We have seen a deeper sense of purpose and mutual respect unite all stakeholders, which will continue to be an essential component in India’s recovery and future green growth.
As we emerge into a ‘new normal’, we must carry these lessons with us. We need transformative leadership to build collaborative partnerships that will improve the lives of millions, restore our biodiversity, and create a sustainable and inclusive economic future for all.