Arun Maira is a thought leader and author of several books on leadership, institutional transformation and the future of India. He was a member of India’s Planning Commission from 2009 to 2014.
Prior to that, he was with the Tata Group in India and abroad for twenty-five years, consulted in the USA for ten years with Arthur D. Little Inc., and was the chairman of the Boston Consulting Group, India.
With ARUN MAIRA
Member, Planning Commission
Arun Maira was born in Lahore, Pakistan on 15th August 1943. He received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from St Stephens College, Delhi University. He is a Member of the Planning Commission chaired by the Prime Minister of India. In this ministerial level position, he is responsible for facilitating the shaping of policies and programs relating to industrialisation and urbanisation in the country, and tourism.
He has a combination of hands-on leadership experience, consulting experience to leadership teams internationally, and thought-leadership as an author and speaker on the subjects of leadership and organisation transformation.
He is a frequent speaker at International forums on the future of India. He writes regularly for the Economic Times and other management and business journals. He is the author of several books, which include Shaping the Future:
Aspirational Leadership in India and Beyond by John Wiley’s & Sons in 2001, “Remaking India: One Country, One Destiny” by Response Books in 2004, “Discordant Democrats: Five Steps to Consensus” by Penguin Books in 2007, and “Transforming Capitalism: Business Leadership to Improve the World for Everyone” by Nimby Books in 2008.
Arun Maira was a member of the Tata Administrative Services and worked in several senior positions in the TATA Group in India and abroad for25years until 1989. He was on the Board of Tata Motors (then called TELCO) from 1981 to 1989. He worked with Arthur D.Littlelnc (ADL), the international management consultancy, in the USA from 1989 to 1999, and consulted with companies across the world on issues of growth strategies and transformational change. During this time he was Managing Director of Innovation Associates, an Arthur D. Little subsidiary, Leader of ADL’s North American Manufacturing Practice and Leader of ADL’s World-wide Organization and Strategy Practice. He returned to India in 2000 and was Chairman of The Boston Consulting Group in India until April2008.
Arun Maira was Chairman of Save the Children, India, and Chairman of the Axis Bank Foundation. He has served on the boards of several Indian and international management education institutions. He was also on the boards of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, the India Brand Equity Foundation, and the Public Interest Foundation, as well as a trustee of WWF India, the World Food Program India Trust, and Aspen India.
Sir, your passion for the holistic development of India is validated by your contributions to leading news papers in India and your highly acclaimed books like , “Shaping The Future: Aspirational Leadership in India and Beyond” by John Wiley’s & Sons in 2001, “Remaking India: One Country, One Destiny” by Response Books in 2004, “Discordant Democrats: Five Steps to Consensus” by Penguin Books in 2007, and “Transforming Capitalism: Business Leadership to Improve the World for Everyone” by Nimby Books in 2008.
As a Member, Planning Commission you have been very assigned the challenging domains like industrialization and urbanization in the country, and tourism.
All these are huge development challenges. External inputs in any form from any quarter may catalysethe efforts of the Government leading to possible improvement in outcome and impact. As a Member, Planning Commission, what is your vision about engaging with external actors like Corporates under their CSR to improve development performance in different subjects under your command in Planning Commission ?
I believe business corporations are integral to the progress of societies. They must get more closely connected with society to understand society’s concerns. The Planning Commission provides a platform for stakeholders—corporations, civil society organizations, and government agencies—to collaborate in shaping national goals and to understand their own roles in achievement of these goals. The corporations’ views of their ‘CSR’ must not be limited to their ‘CSR expenditures’. Rather they must shape their products and operational processes to meet society’s requirements for social benefits such as more employment, better health of people, etc and the impact of the processes and products on the environment.
The subjects I am principally concerned with in the Planning Commission are Industry / Manufacturing, Urban development, and Tourism. In all these, corporations can play very significant roles, by way of creating more jobs, and addressing health and environment concerns, with the way they design their products, processes, and business models.
CSR is mostly treated as an adhoc charity activity. Except a few, Indian Corporate Leaders in both private sector and public sector are yet to show serious commitment to CSR and bring CSR in to their strategic thinking process. As per your opinion, in addition to making 2 % of profit mandatory for CSR spending, what should be the proactive action of the governmentto motivate Corporate Leaders to be passionately involved in CSR activity?
I think the Government’s legislation for corporations to spend 2% of their profits on CSR can be a cop-out for many corporations from their real business responsibility to society. Their real business responsibility is to ensure that their products, processes, and business models stimulate the achievement of the goals that society has for its development and have no negative effects, while they make profits for their investors. Their products and operations may cause harm to society, but they may spend even 5% of their profits on so-called ‘CSR’. This is not real CSR.
How do you plan to invite the Corporates to be involved in issues like rural industrialization, Urban poverty and maintenance of urban infrastructure and tourism promotion etc, under your command in Planning Commission?
I have involved corporations, through their many associations, in development of national plans for industry, urban development, and tourism. I meet these associations many times, and we candidly discuss what they must do, and how government can support them.
The trust deficit between Corporate / Business and Society / Community is growing fast , which is bad for both the Corporate / business and the Society/ Communities. The role of government as a middle man has been increasing the trust deficit by forcibly acquiring land for the industry and many similar activities. How do you think, the corporate – community mistrust will end and a corporate –community bridge of trust can be built?
In have already said, in response to your previous questions, that corporations must see themselves as stakeholders in society’s endeavors to improve the lot of all citizens. They must listen to citizens: what do they want, in terms of improvement of their communities, and the environment. And not listen just to their customers. Corporations must let society know that they have heard what is expected of them, and they can do this by regular reports about the impact their products and processes on society and the environment.
The level of awareness about CSR is limited to adhoc charity and corporate philanthropy. The concept of CSR is yet to be clear to the law makers ( MPs& MLAs) , the media and the common man. What need be done to generate awareness among the law makers, media and the common man about the CSR concept to make the implementation process of the section 135 of the companies act smooth and effective ?
Political and bureaucratic space for action is always limited, as is attention span of corporate executives. Therefore we must apply this space and attention to what will have the most impact. I think that by spending so much government and corporate time on the 2% CSR mandate, we are reducing our ability to create real business responsibility, by ‘Triple Bottom Line’ reporting to all stakeholders.
Any message you want to give to Corporate India interested in getting involved in CSR activity?
My message is that corporations must build social trust in corporate conduct. Otherwise there will be more controls, and corporations will have more difficulty in getting social licenses to operate. As it is, corporations are finding this hard in India. Therefore they must concentrate on their real responsibilities to society, whether Government mandates this or not, and not expect that 2% CSR is going to solve their problem of low trust.
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