Brand Purpose - The playbook for 21st century CEOs.

 By Dileep Narayanan, Founder and Managing Director of Organic BPS, India’s First Brand Purpose Consultancy. 

Mussoorie, October 2019. As Thomas John Muthoot, Thomas George Muthoot and Thomas Muthoot stepped out of the Conference Room, it was already dark outside, and the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayan Ranges were no longer visible. The Muthoot brothers, promoter-Directors of the Kerala-based Muthoot Pappachan Group (MPG), were at a resort in Mussoorie, the small mountain town in the Indian State of Uttarakhand, for a business retreat of the family members and other senior leadership of MPG.

A post-lunch interaction with consultants of Organic BPS, a brand-purpose consultancy expected to last for just thirty minutes, ended up being the only agenda item for the afternoon session. 

MPG is a pan-India conglomerate with businesses in various verticals like Finance, Real Estate, Health Care, Hospitality, Energy, Automobiles, Information Technology etc. Having beginnings in 1887 when Muthoot Ninan Mathai, grandfather of the Muthoot brothers, started the business, MPG had a legacy of more than 137 years. 

The presentation by Organic BPS suggested that MPG needed to rediscover its higher purpose and bring about a transformation that would make it a purpose-driven organisation, which has triggered intense discussions. The transformation would entail clearly articulating the purpose that would drive everything the Group would do in the future. It would have to be communicated and owned business-wide, crafting new strategies and innovations, launching new products, and changing the organisation's structures, systems, and processes.  

As they stepped out into the cold outside the Conference Room, the Muthoot brothers wondered whether they should embark on this journey.

“Why do we exist? What is our purpose? Is there a higher purpose?” these were the questions they asked themselves. The group’s founder Muthoot Pappachan was remembered as an empathetic person. His quote was: “A debit on earth will be a credit in heaven”.

And the rest is history. They huddled and rediscovered their purpose - To transform the lives of the common man by improving their financial well-being. 

Ingraining Purpose into the organisation was a gradual and ongoing process. Senior employees recognised the company's ability to launch 'responsible lending' to assist people in poverty during their most critical times. Amidst the pandemic, Muthoot FinCorp successfully introduced an authentic product portfolio to meet the evolving needs of the economically disadvantaged as part of the #RESTARTINDIA campaign. Through efficient R&D, customer needs were identified, and value was created for each segment. The traditional sales target review mechanism was replaced with a new focus on measuring the lives impacted. In review meetings, the question shifted to "How many lives did we help transform?" This marked the start of a culture of empathy within the workforce. Today, Muthoot FinCorp embraces a new mantra displayed in all offices, with employees chanting "Let Everything Go Well" during money disbursement.

The current age of uncertainties has brought about a paradigm shift that is altering how businesses operate and how they contribute to society. As we navigate through these changes, one thing is clear: the new normal will never be just "normal." COVID-19 has heightened the social impact of businesses and has thrown a spotlight on their nature, significance, and public presence.

After two years of lockdowns, at-home work, and school, the contract between businesses and society has changed. As a result, the question of why a company exists and how it contributes to societal, economic, and environmental health has become increasingly important. Companies were already embracing the idea of purpose, but now, their core purpose matters more than ever.

Consumers are increasingly self-pressured to make the right choices about what they buy or do. They are no longer loyal to mere brand names, so companies must pivot their assets, capabilities, and priorities to innovate for optimal results. Your brand's purpose is the key to standing out from the competition and speaking most compellingly to your customers.

While a vision outlines where a company wants to get to, a mission defines the "what" the company does to get there, values identify how to operate, and purpose defines the "why" a company exists. It's the existential essence or the reason for being. The purpose is a unifying expression of the commercial and social objectives a business intends to achieve for its stakeholders profitably.

By its sheer significance, purpose defines a brand and sets it apart from the competition. It communicates how a company will help its customers and community solve their problems and helps define its culture. Companies must ask themselves if their core actions align with their brand's purpose daily.

The story of the janitor at NASA who said he was helping put a man on the moon illustrates the power of purpose. NASA had driven deep the pride and power of its purpose even within a janitor. Imagine how powerful an enterprise will be with such an HR force backing it!

Asset Homes, a Kochi-based builder, started as an unknown start-up focused on selling apartments. However, with visionary management and strategic leadership, Asset Homes embarked on a purposeful journey. Their higher purpose became clear. This led to repositioning the brand as a "Responsible Builder" and developing an innovative campaign called "Responsibly Yours" to embed this purpose into the organisation. The program's success was evident in several achievements: securing the top market share in Kerala's realty space, and receiving numerous awards, making Asset Homes the most acclaimed builder in the state. Even during the challenges of the COVID outbreak and a sluggish market, Asset Homes remained committed to its promises. They maintained their DA2+ rating, the highest ever received by a Kerala builder, and became the only real estate developer catering to the lifecycle needs of the customer. Their success and continued growth can be attributed to their unwavering dedication to being responsible to all stakeholders. 

The renowned 'Stengel 50' study of the world's 50 fastest-growing brands found that purpose-driven companies saw 400% more returns on the stock market than the S&P 500.

A recent study by 'Great Place to Work' found that employees of purpose-driven companies reported that their work has "special meaning" and are more committed to staying with their organisations.

A CSR study found that 91% of consumers were likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause. Purpose helps build emotional bonding between a brand and its consumer, which in turn helps to scale up sales and loyalty. A unique purpose will always give an enterprise a leading edge over its competitors. Entrepreneurs around the world are now busy discovering and establishing their brand's purpose for significant reasons.

In conclusion, the power of a brand's purpose cannot be overstated. As businesses navigate the current uncertainties and changes, the purpose will be the key to standing out and contributing to societal, economic, and environmental health. Rediscovering the power of a brand's purpose is crucial for any business looking to succeed in the new normal.


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