MAHIN­DRA & MAHIN­DRA ‘De­mys­tify Sus­tain­abil­ity’

The Economic Times - - Special Feature -

Early t h i s y e a r, when the Mahin­dra Group un­veiled petrol en­gine ve­hi­cles within a cou­ple of months of the ban on big diesel ve­hi­cles in Delhi, it took the es­tab­lish­ment by sur­prise. How did this blitzkrieg-like re­sponse come about?

Only in­sid­ers know that it emerged from an in­tense sce­nario plan­ning en­gage­ment of years within the Group cen­tred on sus­tain­abil­ity and the fu­ture of mo­bil­ity.

Over the past eight years, the $ 16.9 bil­lion Mahin­dra Group has evolved into a busi­ness en­tity with a re­mark­able de­gree of sus­tain­abil­ity think­ing. Petrol and smaller diesel en­gines, ex­pect­edly, were al­ready in the works.

And it helps if the per­son driv­ing Group sus­tain­abil­ity, Anir­ban Ghosh, earned his spurs in sales, mar­ket­ing, and im­por­tantly, strat­egy. Anir­ban, on his re­turn to In­dia, af­ter a har­row­ing stint in the US, lead­ing the trac­tor busi­ness, dur­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial crisis, has been piv­otal in the cre­at­ing the Group’s agri ver­ti­cal.

“My ap­proach to sus­tain­abil­ity is not from an ac­tivists’ per­spec­tive. It comes from hard-core busi­ness,” says Anir­ban.

The Group, seen as a fed­er­a­tion of com­pa­nies, has notched re­mark­able progress in the usual in­di­ca­tors: wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, waste man­age­ment, and energy ef­fi­ciency. The Group has signed up for EP 100 of the Cli­mate Group to dou­ble energy pro­duc­tiv­ity by 2030. “Energy ef­fi­ciency gives us great- er and faster re­turns than many of the prod­ucts we in­vest in,” he ex­plains. Chair­man Anand Mahin­dra champions sus­tain­abil­ity and also re­cently signed up to the global Car­bon Pric­ing Lead­er­ship Coali­tion. The tone from the top is crit­i­cal. Anand is slowly ac­quir­ing a sus­tain­abil­ity mien. He says: “Our ef­fort to erase the per­ceived di­chotomy be­tween sus­tain­abil­ity and prof­its is pay­ing rich div­i­dends.”

Apart from quickly pluck­ing the lowhang­ing fruit in sus­tain­abil­ity, the Group is se­ri­ously look­ing at green­ing its port­fo­lio. Mi­cro ir­ri­ga­tion, so­lar, elec­tric ve­hi­cles are com­ing cen­trestage. It’s around half a bil­lion dol­lars

turnover al­ready and is ex­pected to dou­ble in five years, if not ear­lier.

The run­away suc­cess of the re­cent global launch of the Model 3 elec­tric car by Tesla and its in­ten­tion to come to In­dia is a good au­gury. Mahin­dra ac­quired Reva Elec­tric Car Co. in 2010. How did Anir­ban and the Group’s Sus­tain­abil­ity Coun­cil, take the agenda across its 28 var­ied busi­nesses? It has been a mix of evan­ge­lism and a nudge with pro­cesses. All CEOs are en­cour­aged to lay out a path to sus­tain­abil­ity for which a dash­board has been cre­ated. The dash­board is re-con­fig­ured ev­ery six months and dis­plays each com­pany’s progress.

Anir­ban of­ten pitches in with the ‘busi­ness case;’ crit­i­cal for con­vinc­ing re­luc­tant CEOs, show­ing how adop­tion will in­crease their prof­itabil­ity. Sus­tain­abil­ity is now also in­te­gral to the Mahin­dra way- ba­si­cally a TQM process spread across all group busi­nesses.

He has, in a way, sim­pli­fied or de­mys­ti­fied sus­tain­abil­ity for se­niors within the Group as many hail from a gen­er­a­tion or ecosys­tem not at­tuned to sus­tain­abil­ity think­ing. “It’s spoon­feed­ing,” says Anir­ban, “you plug it into a process and CEOs learn from it.”

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of sus­tain­abil­ity think­ing is ev­i­dent by the re­sponse of Group com­pa­nies. Anita Ar­jun­das of Mahin­dra Lifes­pace De­vel­op­ers, for in­stance, be­gan look­ing for a re­place­ment to sand that is ra­pa­ciously mined, de­stroy­ing river­ine ecosys­tems. She now sup­ports many en­trepreneurs who sup­ply her co. with ‘man­u­fac­tured-sand.’ “The switch has also im­pacted project ef­fi­ciency sig­nif­i­cantly,” says Anita.

Anir­ban, mean­while, is bat­tling a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge which many sus­tain­abil­ity pro­fes­sion­als also face. ‘How do I com­mu­ni­cate sus­tain­abil­ity to in­di­vid­u­als, to em­ploy­ees, to con­sumers?’ This is the ques­tion that be­dev­ils him. He made a small dent last year when he an­nounced a scheme to re­fund elec­tric­ity bills to em­ploy­ees who showed a dip in power con­sump­tion at home over a six month pe­riod. The re­sponse is muted but con­verts are emerg­ing.

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