Mplanet Notes: R. K. Krishna Kumar, Chairman Tata Sons Ltd .. Ethics and Marketing

02/05/2009

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at AMA's Mplanet Digital Lab about social media marketing. Then I sat in on the 2-day conference. I have so many notes that it seemed to make sense to turn it into a mini series. This is post #2. Post #1 focuses on Mary Dillion, CMO of McDonald's.

The Mplanet speaker list read like a whose who of Fortune 500 presidents and c-suite marketing VIPs. However the rock star was a gentleman who I'm betting the majority of attendees never heard of before the event. R K Krishna Kumar R.K. Krishna Kumar, Chairman of Tata Coffee and Vice Chairman of Tata Tea and Indian Hotels, Tata Sons Ltd Tata. Tata is one of India's oldest, largest and most respected conglomerates comprised of 96 companies and operates on 6 continents employing 350,000 people.

Mr.Kumar's simple, elegant style held the audience's attention as he told us the history of Tata. Tata often finds its growth by acquistion. Success in merging organizations and corporate cultures begins with defining and then communication the corporate purpose. It is a "gentle process of fusion" that is more than 1 + 1 makes 2.

He went on to explain that for a brand or company to succeed there must be something for people to connect with and that brands must also have corporate processes behind them.

His talk turned to how Tata builds brand trust. It is not only through its corporate values but the actions it takes to support those values. Tata is leveraging innovative, newly developed products to deliver economic support. About to launch is a new fortified and enhanced water that addresses malnutrition concerns; it will be distributed to economically depressed villages and into schools.

For Tata trust is a corporate asset of major value for the company.

All great enterprises must have a soul. R.K. Krishna Kumar

Mr. Kumar went on to explain that a company must balance growth with values and conduct and that the brand must be also be built with ethical engagement for the brand and the planet. He believes that the evolution of the brand ethics is grounded in the intent to help people and to protect the planet; managing the destiny of the brand must take on a global focus.

He believes there must be a balance toward wealth with new systems in place that encourages more corporate responsibilities. For the Tata brand that balance is a part of the company's investment in building faith and trust with its customers. The company also has the responsibility to communicate the way it is doing business to its customers and stake holders.

Tata's corporate goodwill is the result of a significant part of profits going back to the people. R.K. Krishna Kumar calls this "an invisible partnership" between the company and the customers.

I couldn't help wondering what the world would look like if more organizations approached business with the same set of ethics, values and generosity of spirit that Tata seems to approach business.

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