We all have certain principles that we live by. These values are what shape our choices and experiences. They ground us. Think back to when you were a child. Much of the person who you are today has arguably been shaped by what happened back then. You too were probably taught by your parents to be kind, to share your toys, to listen and to not break things. Simple, but very fundamental. (Ironically, in many ways, everything we ever really needed to learn, we learned back in kindergarten!) And then, as you got older, you started to learn some newer principles such as discipline, responsibility, hard work and honesty. These probably got reinforced at different times by different people and different experiences. It may have been your teachers in school, your friends and even your partners. Later on, when you became a parent, you may have found yourself passing on many of these same fundamental principles to your own children. You tell them of the stories that you were brought up on, and add some of your own to that collection. So, the cycle continues.
Organisations aren’t that different. It’s no surprise really, because in essence, they really are just a collection of individuals. Of people like us. And by extension, our principles and stories. Organisations, too, live and grow a certain way, and abide by some fundamental principles. This is what makes them who they are.
The Godrej Group has its roots in India’s Independence and Swadeshi movement. Our founder, Ardeshir Godrej, lawyer-turned-serial entrepreneur, failed with a few ventures, before he struck success with a locks business. This part of the story has always been of particular interest to me. What many people don’t know, is that when Ardeshir started out, his first business was in surgical instruments. They were complimented for their precision, but Ardeshir was also told that unless he put a ‘Made in Great Britain’ on them, they couldn’t be sold. No one would believe that such high-quality instruments were made in India. He refused. The business failed. But he continued to persevere. The locks business he later set up became the foundation of the 120-year ‘young’ Group as we know it today.
So, my message today is on The Godrej Way.
The Godrej Way is our story. It talks about why we exist and how we add value together. How we bring meaning to what we do. What will guide our decisions. And importantly, the mirror that we can hold up to ourselves.
Nisa Godrej sums it best when she describes Godrej as ‘antevasin’, which is Sanskrit for ‘one who lives at the border’. Elizabeth Gilbert, explains the concept of the antevasin in her book Eat, Pray, Love as:
“In ancient times this was a literal description. It indicated a person who had left the bustling center of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled. The antevasin was not one of the villagers anymore – not a householder with a conventional life. But neither was he yet a transcendent – not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realized. The antevasin was an in-betweener. He was a border-dweller. He lived in sight of both worlds, but he looked towards the unknown. In the modern age, of course, that image of an unexplored forest would have to be figurative, and the border would have to be figurative, too. But you can still live there. You can still live on that shimmering line between your old thinking and your new understanding, always in a state of learning. In the figurative sense, this is a border that is always moving – as you advance forward in your studies and realizations, that mysterious forest of the unknown always stays a few feet ahead of you, so you have to travel light in order to keep following it. You have to stay mobile, movable, supple.”
Like the antevasin, at Godrej, we too continue to draw from our strong legacy and all the great, good things that have made us who we are, while continuing to adapt to and create the future.
At GCPL, we aspire to become an emerging markets FMCG leader and delight our consumers with superior quality, world-class products at affordable prices. Today, nearly half of our revenues come from our international businesses. This is up from 15 per cent back in 2010. Our footprint now extends to a variety of geographies outside India. In line with our 3 by 3 approach to international expansion, we have a focus on three categories (home care, hair care, personal wash) in three geographies (Asia, Africa, Latin America). Not just that, two-thirds of our team members and a significant number of our consumers are also based outside India. As a result of all these changes, we find ourselves now navigating our way through diverse geographies, diverse cultures and diverse brands. So, as we get larger and more complex, we need to have a clearly articulated compass to guide us.
So, over the last couple of years, we have spent a lot of time reflecting on some fundamental questions. Why do we exist as an organisation? What will build the future of GCPL? What is it that will inspire our team members to come to work and give their best every single day?
Through this journey, we have spoken to hundreds of our team members from across geographies, studied global best practices and reflected as a senior leadership team. Basis these discussions, we have crafted a refreshed version of our fundamental principles, which we call ‘The Godrej Way’.
In over a century, the one thing we’ve never let go of, is trust and being a ‘good’ company. It’s at the heart of everything we do in the Godrej Way. It makes our word stronger than any contract. It challenges us to think beyond limits. And collectively, go beyond what’s expected. It makes us innovate and collaborate to create deeper impact and stronger bonds. It makes us continuously improve productivity and push the limits of service.
As we see it, there are many ways to do business. We choose the Goodness way. So, we have defined our purpose at GCPL as – ‘Bringing the goodness of health and beauty to the consumers in emerging markets’.
To live our purpose, we need to ensure that we are guided by the right values. We have identified six core values at GCPL:
- Trust (It’s the most important thing)
- Be Bold
- Create Delight
- Own It
- Be Humble
- Show Respect
1. Trust (It’s the most important thing)
- We hold ourselves to the highest standards of personal and business integrity
- Our word is stronger than any contract
- We put people and our planet alongside profits
Trust is the foundation that Godrej has been built on; whether it is the quality of our products or the spirit in which we do business. Over 1.1 billion people use a Godrej product every day – a reflection of the trust that our consumers place in us. This is what makes us who we are. You will hear many stories at Godrej about people who have been willing to do business with us, even without written contracts. That’s the kind of legacy that we are both proud and humbled to have inherited. And it is one that we need to protect and nurture.
We believe that a strong culture of trust is imperative for our success as a company. If we can become more trustworthy, it will reflect in our team members feeling more valued, engaged and inspired. Overall, we will be able to build and support a culture which encourages collaboration. So, it is absolutely critical that we foster trust in all our relationships. Never forget that you have to build and earn trust through real actions; you have to consciously work on being trustworthy. And don’t confuse authority with trust. Your team members may do something just because they report to you. But unless they fully trust you, they won’t give their best. Your team needs to believe that you are doing the right things in the best interests – of the company and for them as your team members. If people view you as a self-optimiser, then they are not going to trust you. You can’t be trusted unless you trust others and show it. Trust starts with delivering what you promise. So, be credible, walk the talk and live up to your commitments.
2. Be Bold
- We have bold ambitions. We set the bar high. We outperform expectations.
- We adapt. We are agile and resilient.
- We continuously innovate. We champion new ideas. We take risks.
In our categories, there is significant headroom for growth – both in terms of driving penetration and increasing consumption. Our geographies of focus are also projected to have many more consumers who will be seeking quality products at affordable prices. As disposable incomes increase in emerging markets, we will have millions of consumers who will seek products to look good and feel good.
So, the opportunity is tremendous. However, it requires each of us to have much stronger ambition and stretch goals. We can’t afford to be satisfied by the status quo. We must be willing to take risks and experiment. We must believe in our ability to persevere and deliver. Remember that our future will be only as good as what we do next.
3. Create Delight
- We place our consumers at the heart of all we do
- We obsess over current and future needs of our consumers. And then deliver.
- We offer consumers amazing quality products at great value
Simply put, we love delighting our consumers. This is what inspires us to keep innovating, to be able to offer more superior quality, world class products. Think about Godrej Expert Crème, which has been one of our biggest successes in recent times. Through launching a hair colour crème in a sachet for the first time in India, we disrupted the category and created a new price point that was almost four times lower than existing crème products. Not only that – the product quality, formulation, and the shine and conditioning benefits were better than much more expensive products. We have also kept on improving distribution to ensure that the products are accessible and available to Indians everywhere.
4. Own It
- We are 100/0. Take 100% accountability with 0 excuses.
- We speak our mind. We challenge the status quo.
- We focus on the details, but never forget the bigger picture
This is our company. And we need to take full responsibility for both our successes as well as our mistakes. This is not about blame games or feeling victimised. Instead, if you want to make things happen, or push for change, then just roll up your sleeves and do it.
5. Be Humble
- We own up to and learn from our mistakes
- We ask for feedback. And then grow with it.
- We give credit wherever due
You may have read the quote, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less”. And it is probably best captured in the philosophy of ‘servant leadership’. For some of us, the idea of leaders being servants could be a bit of a paradox. Leaders are meant to be heroes; they are supposed to exude power. But you need to remember that there are two sides to this idea – the servant and the leader – and you are expected to play both roles. As leaders, we are expected to be tough in terms of laying out the direction for our company. We need to be rigorous in defining values, setting accountability and demanding the highest standards of performance. But once we have defined the direction, our roles should be centred around serving our team members – understanding their needs and enabling them to become the best so that they can accomplish the desired objectives that we have set. That is the essence of being a servant leader.
So, share credit for successes, and learn to take responsibility when things go wrong. Reflect on whether you are really able to recognise your limitations and seek feedback. And without humility, you just can’t learn. Ask yourself – How forgiving are you, really? Can you readily apologise when you’re wrong? Do you practice gratitude?
6. Show Respect
- We treat people like we would want to be treated
- We embrace and celebrate diversity
- We foster collaboration
This is arguably the toughest of all our values because there can be so many shades of grey. Like with trust, you have to earn respect. Remember that while people can be respectful of your title or authority, it doesn’t mean that they respect you. Respect is a two-way street. So, be mindful of how you are perceived by others. But don’t mistake this for a popularity contest. You have to be authentic, and fair and take tough decisions.
Respect also links closely to our commitment to becoming more diverse and inclusive. Given how intrinsically this is, not just to our legacy and values, but also our growth strategy and aspirations, we strongly believe there is much more that we need to do as a company. We must be able to change in step with this; empathise with and empower our colleagues, team members and consumers. Without this, we will be unable to tap into the tremendous potential that their diverse perspectives offer. In short, we cannot be effective leaders without being truly inclusive. And we owe it to our legacy, to lead Godrej into a more inspiring and inclusive tomorrow.
Over the next couple of months, our senior team will travel across our businesses, to share our perspectives on The Godrej Way and ask for your thoughts on what we can do to truly live this every day. Last week, Nisa Godrej and I spoke to our team members in Mumbai and Jakarta. We shared stories about individuals and team members who have been great examples of living the Godrej Way. It was great to see how this resonated with our team members. Our HR team has also started conducting small-group workshops to enable more deeper reflection and discussion.
It is really important, as we recommit to these values, that we don’t allow them to become posters on walls.
Our values are both about who we are and what we want to be. So, they aren’t static. They must be lived and tried every day – and we need to keep on improving on how we act on them. They need to be our compass when things are going right, but more importantly, when things aren’t – when we need to make the difficult choices, and have the tough conversations.
They may even cost us at times. But this is how we will keep improving and building new muscle. This is how we will challenge ourselves and find new ways to raise our bar.
As always, I look forward to your perspectives.