Business houses across the globe are returning to old world values of community service to sustain in the long run, says veteran British business historian Morgen Witzel, the author of 15 books on business and management, including, “Doing Business in China” and “Be Your Management Guru”.
The business historian, a senior consultant at the Winthrop Group in UK, was in India to launch his book, “Tata: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand”.
The book traces the growth of Tata as a business house with sound community ethics to a global brand with foreign investment. It begins with a chapter on the roll-out of Nano to probe the history of the brand- going back and forth in time. “I went through volumes of books and articles on the company to research my book,” he said.
Witzel is currently working on a book, “History of Management Thought”- a book about the people's idea of management: what it is now and what it should be based on the practises in nations as diverse as India, Japan, China and the western nations.
“I think companies across the world at large are looking back at the values that existed before the industrial revolution when businesses saw communities that made up the workforce as stakeholders. Industry houses are gradually waking to the fact that they cannot do business without the involvement of communities,” Witzel told this writer.
“I have come across several articles of late that have been talking about old business values. It is a promising sign. The industrial revolution had changed the business environment into a dominant form of capitalism,” Witzel said.
Old world business ethics – the heart which is service to the working community – should not be equated with corporate social responsibility.
“Corporate Social Responsibility is a terribly overused term of expression. It is the kind of thing the company says when it wants to do something else. The concept of CSR is just an add-on,” he said.
The Tata group fortunately does not have to return to the old world business values because “the house has always lived service to community since it was set up in the early 19th century”, Witzel said.
“The three features that set the Tata group apart are “trust, reliability and commitment to the community service”.
“Every global brand has to deliver on the first two features to build a brand. But it is the third that gives Tata its identity. The group believes in creating wealth rather than generating profits. What comes from people goes back to people,” he said.
Witzel said “he knew of two British groups who adopted a 360 degree business approach like that of the Tata's”.
“The John Lewis Group in UK – one of the fastest growing lifestyle and accessories retail group – and the Cooperative Consumer Retail chain - take this 360 view in their business models,” he said.
Several companies in the 19th century in Britain, Germany, France and US had the same kind of holistic business outlook. “But changes in ownership and political economy drove a lot of that ethos away. Tatas sustained it because of effective leadership even through the years of change in the mid-Nineties when the company built its business brand – by translating its goodwill and popularity into a name,” he said.
It is a like a cycle of destiny with companies once more “falling back on core value system”, he said.
The historian refused to comment on other “business houses in the country because he felt he had not studied them well enough”.