01 Dec 2013


Give and Take

Ready to bid adieu to a promising 2013 and on the verge of welcoming another lovely year its that time of the year when we reflect upon our key learnings during the year gone by and try to benefit from the same by incorporating them as part of our continuous evolution towards the better.

Rohit Sarin

While an year is a long enough time to have millions of moments of truth to learn from our real life experiences from our immediate environment I am going to share one of the most profound ones since I believe it to be the basis of the functioning of the entire universe of which every life is part of including lesser mortals like us humans.

This learning got initiated with a very interesting conversation that I landed up with one of our oldest clients. The family finds its roots in the old Marwari business community from the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan and had just set up a temple in the land of their fore fathers as part of the family's gratitude towards the divine. The conversation got kicked off by a very amusing comment from the client about the sharing of the offerings at the temple with the temple staff starting with the head priest or "Pujari". The family's role was that of a seed investor providing a platform for a scalable operation while the role of managing and scaling the platform was that of the operational team on the ground. For their part the family's role was aligned with the reward of the ownership of the platform through a family trust and retention of the majority of the offerings in the trust the role of the operational team was aligned with a share in the offerings to the temple.

This was about an year back but my exposure towards the religious ventures was probably going to get deepened further when a dear friend of mine established a temple within an existing temple. I learnt from my friend that this temple in Gurgaon doesn't do well despite paucity of religious places in Gurgaon, its historical importance and excellent location. The reason being the economic model of the temple is not a win win for all stakeholders. The managing trust pays fixed salaries to its religious staff while it retains the entire offerings that the temple receives. Since the pujaris of the temple don't have any stake in the growth of the temple's offerings they don't promote the temple as much as probably others would be doing for others temples and therefore the popularity of this temple is pretty low resulting in abysmally low "footfalls". One of the motivations of my friend was to be a change agent in this temple.

The way a socio-religious venture like a place of worship works is that the religious staff conducts the religious services for the society on the call. Accordingly, they play a significant role of the ambassadors of the institution that they represent and therefore have the power to influence their patrons to patronize the institution either by regularly visiting the temple or conducting their religious services at the temple premises which could result in offerings or "revenues" for the institution. The conventional model is that while the religious staff gets fixed salary every month they get to share the collections at the temple donation boxes while donations to the temple are retained by the managing trust of the temple. If we draw parallels with the conventional business world, while capital receipts are retained by the owners revenue receipts are shared between owners and managers.

The lesson that we pick up from here is that everything that exist and thrives around us is based on the principle of "Give and Take" which is nothing else but exchange of positive energy between two complementing sources or sharing of rewards and risks amongst all stakeholders in any relationship. That's a common thread which runs across everything that we can imagine. While nature is the living example of how this give and take in a delicate eco system sustains life season after season we get to see shades of this in our professional and personal lives as well.

Relationships within families are warm and cordial if the culture and values of the family are based on giving first than receiving from each other. In this process every member of the family ends up receiving more and is emotionally rich. On the contrary where expectations of receiving the emotional or material rewards are paramount such families struggle as the focus is on what they haven't received thus draining out the emotional and therefore intellectual capital of the members. Everyone is waiting to receive first before giving and in the process every member of the family ends up receiving nothing and the fortune goes out of the family.

Similarly in the professional world we have seen thriving examples of this give and take. Professors of the IVY league colleges actively taking up industry assignments is a wonderful example of the symbiotic relationship between the institution and its brand ambassadors. Both have acquired the cult status by partnering with each other. The whole concept of franchisee is built on the very foundation of give and take and has helped McDonalds of the world to scale the world. Businesses which have the value system of customer first and partners first build and retain trust with their stakeholders and thrive while others stagnate or perish.

In a customer-service provider relationship too if a service provider is focused only on maximizing his short term gains it would make the relationship transactional and won't scale. Similarly, if a customer is more keen on optimising his cost structure and less worried about the motivation of his service provider it would weaken the engagement in the relationship. Its not surprising that domestic market accounts for less than 10% of the revenues of the Indian IT industry since they don't get the "price" from the Indian customer.

Few years back I had learnt from the 3rd generation patriarch of a large business group down south what he had learnt from his grandfather in his formative years – No one can profit in a business unless the one you are in business with profits from you – a generational wisdom indeed. In simple terms unless there is value in a relationship for all stakeholders it won't sustain and therefore the only way to grow in life is to make sure that you make a positive difference to the lives of people around you by giving more and more.

Let's give first and receive we shall.

Welcome 2014!

Best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year ahead!

By: Rohit Sarin

Reach at: rohitsarin@clientassociates.com

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