For quite sometime I have been talking to people and writing, emphasising that innovation will have to be a vital contributing factor when you want to improve the lives of millions of people. And there are efforts and projects which do prove this point.
You have to innovate in technology, in processes, in ways to reach your target group, in ways of communicating with your target group...but sadly for every social effort which involves innovation of some kind or the other you come across tens of projects and initiatives which either smack of plain opportunism or of stale ideas.
The Shiksha initiave by P&G in partnership with CRY is one such initiative. Put in one sentence "Buy P&G products and you can contribute to a child's education".
I feel buying decisions should be influenced by the quality of the product - even in cases where the product itself is the USP e.g. organic products i.e. You cannot tell a person that since you are buying eco-friendly clothes they would be a bit rough on your skin (unless that is an unaddressable product characteristic). From a business point of view too, not many would be willing to buy a product not matching his/her expectations just because it has a social aspect to it.
Coming back to this initiative. It is simple silent (lack of transparency - should I say!) on how much exactly am I contributing (real money terms) when I am buying a product. What exactly is the model of financing and contribution in this project? How much is the company paying for every Vicks Vaporub that I buy?
Where is the innovation? A company so huge and with an enviable market reach and penetration came up with this plan to contribute to the society. A plan with a condition "You help us grow and only then will we be able to give back to the society". What happened to the MBAs and other experts you have hired?
Aishwarya Mishra, then you tell us, since you are harping on innovation time and again.
Aishwarya Mishra: I do not claim that every proposal that I make will be successful or is entirely unique but at the same time I feel it will leverage the company's strengths and reach to a higher potential.
- Socially relevant messages on(the wrapper)/in(the form of a booklet) your products. One may equate it to lip service but I would rank it alongwith the message on a cigarete packet idea - rather one rung above it. With the kind of sales you are having, your product reaches a huge number of households - what better way to communicate messages like cleanliness, hygiene, education than a booklet inside a waching powder packet.
- Loyalty points which can be redeemed as contribution to a group of organizations or an umbrella organization like GiveIndia. Two points of importance here
a. Loyalty points are subtly (but surely) different from the contribution made by purchasing a single unit of a single product. In case of the former you are dependent on the quality of your product for the scheme and product to succeed. It is a much more engaging project and also has a much longer timeline.
b. Freedom to choose the organization to which you want to contribute.
I am sure there are many more ways in which a company can act responsibly and not just "act" responsible. Such things however happen because of the reluctance of many organizations to recognize social responsibility as an integral part of their company structure and objectives/goals. In many places, HR personnel are logically made the CSR peronnel too - whatever gave them the idea.
Bottomline, innovation and freshness of thought is the key to ensure that your company's social goals are inbuilt into the company's overall objectives and not merely superficially aligned.