The Karma of Business


I was attending the Global India Business Meeting in Liverpool this week with senior business leaders held against the backdrop of the Indian national elections. The objective of the meeting was to provide a platform for dialogue on the way forward for India, its economy and the world at large.

I was participating in couple of round tables as a panellist one of which happened to be on karma and Entrepreneurship. I had not thought about how Karma and Business are interrelated and the impact bad Karma can have on business. The debate was moderated by Lou Marinoff, Professor of philosophy, The City College of New York, USA and the panellists included CEO’s and co-founders of organisations along with me.

Though Karma is a word not usually used in Business context, it is true that what goes around comes around as per the Hindu philosophy. We have seen numerous examples of organisations small and large suffering over long haul considering how they have abused and manipulated systems, finances and environment for sake of profits.

In simple terms, consider the four stake holders that businesses have to deal with and the consequence of abusing them. You abuse your employees and you can be sure they will leave you at the next available opportunity. You abuse your customers and churn will be the consequence. Abusing the community around which the business exists is sure to breed thugs and criminals. Abusing the law gets you hefty fines and jail term. It is true that what goes around comes around as per the Karmic law.

I took an example from a team of entrepreneurs I was meeting recently in Bangalore who are about  to launch a venture later this year called ourfabulousworld. The name sounded exiting and I asked them about the purpose of their organisation. They mentioned the purpose as “Happiness”.

Ourfabulousworld is a membership driven community with a grand vision of growing to over a million loyal members in five years. Happiness and Community sounded like a social enterprise and a non-profit organisation.  This was not true and ourfabulousworld aims to make a decent profit from its operations.

More interesting was how they have planned to put it all together.  Ourfabulousworld members will pay an annual fee to access products and services from variety of merchants who share the core value of their organisation.  The core values are about creating a conscious community and taking responsibility for consumption and recognising impact of their actions. This is bound by strong ethics and integrity and made all the more special by contributing at grassroots level to the development of a sustainable and healthy community. They plan to contribute 5% PAT to develop the society around them. They have an interesting plan to partner with merchants who can sell  village and tribal products and services to their community members.

This culture will be their brand, and they plan to recruit the right set of people who will represent this brand and to bring it alive. Their challenge will be to find the right people who can grow this culture. They seem to have clear a definition of their purpose and why they want to exist in this business.

Drawing from these examples, organizations small and large cannot get away from being social enterprises contributing to the bottom lines of employees, profits, society and the planet. They should be conscious about the impact their business will have on these four elements. This is what I would call as connected consciousness.

Some participants spoke about positive karma and less of negative karma that organizations should accumulate for meaningful existence.

I would go a step further where businesses should transcend to zero balance karma and ensure duality does not exist. This means that organizations should not see themselves different from employees, profits, society and the planet and should exist as one consciousness.

What goes around will come around.

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