Harish Pant is a business visionary with a fascinating—and unusual—spiritual outlook. A thought leader, columnist, and public speaker, his worldview makes him a global treasure. Millions agree: Harish is among the Top 1% most followed connections in LinkedIn.
Among his other accolades: aerospace, automotive and steel executive; poet; founding member of Make-in-India National Committee (MINCO); distinguished alumna and fellow of Institution of Engineers (FIE); member of the Advisory Committee AIMA Bangalore; council member of the Indian Institution of Industrial Engineers (IIIE); member of the Aeronautical Society of India and SAE; member of the LASSIB Society; recipient of Immai Operational Excellence Award and the Mother Teresa Excellence Award and Award for Industrial Development; corporate member of the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies, UK Trade and Investment and Executive Board of Indian Society for Advancement of Materials.
I recently asked Harish about transcending today’s world of digitally driven accelerated growth models versus creating steady, sustainable business value. His insights were transformative.
MARY OLSON: Harish, your poetry is illuminating. It is unusual that a business executive produces such vibrant clarity of thought to transcend business-speak into something universal and unforgettable.
HARISH PANT: We are human beings, personal beings, social beings and professional beings.
Without human values, all the riches of the world come to naught! As humans, we are endowed with a unique consciousness, which can flow to merge with super-consciousness, or make us aware of our intellectual, emotional, and physical beings.
The personal realm is “Me,” the microcosmic world where we play. It encompasses the immediate vicinity of your life envelope time and space.
The social milieu is “We” and Us”. It’s broader: say, your extended family. Imagine expanding that to your country, and even to all of Planet Earth.
Finally, there’s your professional world, where skills, capabilities and work give you an opportunity to create value for yourself and others. In exchange, this world provides an opportunity to engage others to create value for you!
At times, we float with curiosity and creativity and in another, we cling to our existential being—especially when life becomes challenging. In our most vibrant being, our soul, we experience life’s true amplitude!
“Soul” manifests through the eyes and ears of consciousness. A resonance creates a sound, leading to words and thoughts, which in turn may find expression in the form of a poem. That’s the natural way a poet can shine through.
At every level of human existence, we find people who rise in their evolutionary journeys and also have the grit and tenacity to transform themselves and others. We have potential to transcend, or levitate from one level to another. Notes of all four beings—the human, personal, social and professional—can produce a blissful life’s lyrics, once imbued in self awareness, without tradeoffs whatsoever!
Curiosity and learning pursuits have ushered me to many molding processes, helped gain wisdom in enlightening events and also connected me to wonderful people around the world. Life lessons and challenges have led me to be “Poetic” at times and an Astute professional in others.
NOAA Colorized Satellite Map of India
MARY OLSON: You are India’s thought leader inasmuch as you write about reinventing India’s supply chain, the cloud, and GST for a changing world. What is the state of business in India today, and how do you envision the future of business there?
HARISH PANT: India has barely 2.4% of land area but hosts 17.84% of the world’s population, securing third place in the world’s economy (based on PPP) and seventh place (based on nominal GDP). Multi-faceted in every way imaginable, and rooted in ancient cultures, our diversity and unique demographic makes for a bizarre concoction of humanity.
The economy pouring out of this hotpot puts everything to the test: if you can carry it out here, you can take it anywhere! A critical geopolitical position and vast coastline offer a unique payout for every world economic player, making us a phenomenal trade center for the world.
The world of “Nothingness” and the world of “Everything” coexist in India and these two world forces make any linear move both revolving and rotational. The value proposition in India has to either pass through the grail of “Nothingness” (Value for Money) or “Everything” (Aspirational). With advent of right technology and it’s maturation, evolution explodes when these worlds meet (Aspiration x Value for Money), and growth becomes exponential.
Further complicating the landscape are socio-economic factors like corruption, money laundering, and economic disparity etc., to name a few which will dissipate with a holistic growth framework of services consisting of product and services, ecosystem services, and social services.
The world’s economy reveals its “stretched-borrowed” capital and abusive timelines. We experience over-consumption and related macroeconomic problems; and including sustainability, global warming, terrorism and the nuisance of power games and military might. All are looking towards India to partner for business growth.
DY Photography 2015
In the above context, the country’s position is notably unmatched. Some unusual contrasts promote it as a desirable multi-national partner. To name a few:
It wants to lead the world—but not by might. For example, it remains devoid of territorial or military ambitions.
It aspires to be an economic superpower, but does not have a political or societal mandate for an unchecked, single-minded pursuit, like, say, China.
It has deep-rooted religious and social moorings, stemming from ancient wisdoms. It also has the bandwidth to absorb its many religions and cultures into “One India.”
It aspires for Everything material, but finds peace in the immaterial.
Now, with this positioning, India is at an inflection point on the world stage. Although the global economy struggles, India’s growth potential remains consistently immense.
Digitization, IT, and telecommunication will unleash more innovation, entrepreneurship, and expansion in India in the coming years. E-commerce, GST rollout, and infrastructure development will also help eliminate meddling, for disruptive changes in supply chain management.
India does not have any choice but to leapfrog from “Nowhere” to the center of the world stage, where new games and new rules will be written by new world players.
Falling oil prices, an impetus on solar energy, innovative mobility solutions, better infrastructure and connected smart cities and villages would certainly help in dramatically reducing the import bill and help India with much-needed funds and time to reorient itself on a development path. New economic structure sprouting out of startup, skill development and similar government initiatives bode well for the growth of the nation.
While the strategic investment in defense and aerospace would mark India in the top three, Make-in-India’s drive would have India competing with China. Alternative medicine, life wellness through yoga, social enterprises and education would provide low-cost life support while other growth areas like agriculture and associated industries would provide sustenance.
India is having its moment ripe for world engagement, but with approaches that will create a new world order.
MARY OLSON: You write about business excellence, curiosity, creativity and commitment in an ever-changing volatile world.
With rare exception, every traditional business has been digitally disrupted by what most of us now call the digital economy.
Douglas Rushkoff writes that business disruption is not the “fault” of digital technology. It is the fault of a digitally charged business model that stresses efficiency and corporate growth at the expense of the human beings they should be serving. Somehow, growth has become an end in itself, with human beings its impediments.
If you could change the rules of business today and mobilize everybody you know, how would you implore your colleagues to create ongoing value for owners, employees, and customers? Or, rather than living and dying by business growth rates, how can business value be made truly sustainable?
HARISH PANT: Every human evolution necessitates even greater value and commitment. Now, even a small act has far-reaching implications. We see the travesty of:
Relentless greed that cannot be checked by high taxation and mandated Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives.
The possession of discretionary funds creates many personal, social and health problems.
The principle of “might is right” does not bring peace, or solve world’s problems.
That it’s “not my problem” is a problem! We live in an integrated world.
The ever-expanding gap between scarcity and abundance, resulting from advancing technology, has created an uncertain, volatile, chaotic and ambiguous world. We want to truncate the world, abstracting value to make money—and keep feeding relentless human desires.
As the world (and humanity) matures, we are creating and expanding many economic, social, technological and personal platforms that connect the whole world. It’s time we integrate ourselves: not through a single currency of money—but a green currency of ecosystem services and a currency of social services. Donations and philanthropy cannot solve the world’s problems! Attitudes have to change. Also, government and business need to stop working with contrary and disjointed sets of objectives.
Each economic act has to create wealth in all three of these currencies, and one cannot be earned at the expense of the other. For example, if there is a massive job redundancy due to digitization, then the organization should be required to provide for social impacts, and prove its business sustainable. The point isn’t to create a socialistic society. Instead, human evolution demands a wholesome approach than the singular pursuit of greed. To be able to refrain from creating hell on earth is not enough, we need to structure it anew for generating a holistic wealth positively impacting economy, society and our ecosystem.
We must dramatically change the rule of the game, adopting a circle of human values that can provide endless opportunity to contribute and make the world better. For example, we can invite main stakeholders to be share holders in an enterprise through a new equity structure framework and a minimum debt is financed through green commitment towards ecosystem services and social good.
Welcome to the new world order where the wealth of all three currencies would rule… not money alone!
The next technological challenge is to create an algorithm that relates money, green, and social good, or alternatively take a few best ancient religious books and follows a common wisdom. Or, it can be to be simply human!
What’s your choice?! Let’s pause to understand consequences of our choices and actions not only rationally but relationally as well.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu texts such as the Maha Upanishad, which means “The world is one family”.
The World is One Family
One is a relative, the other stranger,
say the small minded.
The entire world is a family,
live the magnanimous.
lift up your mind, enjoy
the fruit of Brahmanic freedom.
—This verse of Maha Upanishad is engraved in the entrance hall of the Parliament of India. 6.71-75
“Our creations must take people to that wordless world which is the real essence on which the small physical world floats!”
Feel free to connect with Mary Olson or Harish Pant for further information.
My new interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014 includes experts in technology, the arts, marketing, and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of social responsibility; others are creating game-changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.
Scott Mitchell discusses his professional background, current focus, and insights about how the world is emerging.
Profile: A 20 year Sumitomo Chemical Group Company employee, Mr. Mitchell is working to grow the Sumitomo Chemical business in the Americas with a focus on enhancing the Sumitomo Chemical brand, improving the efficiency of administrative functions and developing new business.
The company’s diverse business categories include basic chemicals, petrochemicals & plastics, IT-related chemicals, health & crop sciences, and pharmaceuticals.
C-Suite Blog: Never stop evolving and sharing knowledge.
Sumitomo Chemical’s corporate values and business philosophy extend to the Group Companies of the Americas by contributing solutions to the problems facing the global environment and society, and the enrichment of people’s lives. In order to accomplish these global needs and challenges, Mr. Mitchell is working to achieve a balance of profitable business operations, the preservation of the environment, safety, health, product quality and social activity.
Scott exemplifies the concept of harmony between the company’s interests and those of the public through his long time engagement in the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) work.
Scott is also an active member of a number of United Nations Advisory and Workgroups. These are consultative groups that support the UN Global Compact and Global Compact Lead organizations and engage corporate CSR sponsors to work toward alleviating poverty and sustainable global development.
Through the company’s endeavors in these critical areas, Scott hopes to play a significant role in building a sustainable society and realizing the corporate goals.
Mary Olson: How have your views changed as you look back on your experience?
Scott N. Mitchell: I have enjoyed an exceptional career. I have been on an exciting trajectory for the past twenty years with Sumitomo Chemical Company.
Our philosophical business history is grounded in the concept of harmony between the company’s interests and those of the public including the environment and our global society. I have always taken my stewardship of business ethics and change and innovation to heart.
I am turning fifty in a few weeks. I have a long perspective of global business, social responsibility, and the driving forces of change.
I like to understand everything about change. I especially like to explore the points at which ideas, trends, and behavior cross certain thresholds. What illuminates the best decisions to initiate change?
Although I do not feel that my view is changing radically, I think I am becoming more practical about my/our actions.
Looking back, I was more willing to swing for the fences on every hit. I think I am more reserved and willing to accept smaller steps toward progress.
Having said that, more and more speed is necessary to stay ahead with a brand that faces today’s challenges to meet global needs and enrich people’s lives.
…if you choose to be in the race, you need to lead with change and innovation.
MO: How do you see the way the world is emerging?
SNM:It is an exciting time to be alive! Especially whenever and wherever people share responsibility for each other.
I think the world is emerging with greater complexity.
I believe the world is becoming more multi-modal. We face significant implications based on all the options available.
There are extreme cross-overs between normal and dysfunctional variances controlled by businesses, societies, and governments.
This is a time when moral competitive business processes are challenged by companies who do harm to the environment and our fellow human beings.
Globalization requires a markedly greater need of illuminated corporate cultures that society can trust.
In the global context, there are exceptional companies and individuals demonstrating responsible focus and leadership in every category, on every front.
Through my work at the United Nations, our advisories and consultative groups engage corporate social responsibility (CSR) sponsors to work toward alleviating poverty and sustainable global development.
I am encouraged on another level, because mutual well-being and respect for the public good is capturing the attention of my sons’ generation (Gen Z).
MO: What are your thoughts as you look forward?
SNM: I think we must be open to change…and not just the surface, but real change. Change requires clarity and understanding. Most ignore change because it is very difficult. But we need to make a choice. Not choosing is a choice. There are major implications of change and how we view our businesses and lives.
Defining and/or redefining ourselves (companies, products, people) is required today for going forward.
I wish we had more perfect information to make our choices, but we do not… it is the speed thing again. We must have our antennae up and our eyes open.
It is an exciting time for those of us who have an intense interest in change and innovation and producing new adaptive value—for ourselves and the brands we manage.
I had an OMG moment when Nazario’s book arrived today.
I can speak to one of the most exceptional CSR brand models, Sumitomo Chemical to bring you closer to Nazario’s work. Sumitomo Chemical’s Group Companies of the Americas is based on an authentic business model that seamlessly incorporates 100 years of corporate responsibility into its commitment for a better tomorrow. Just use your imagination to connect the dots with Thomas Nazario.
Throughout my career, I have created global digital businesses and brands not only to drive wealth, but I am increasingly focused on creating business models that care about people as one of the primary ROI factors.
What do I think about the future of branding? Doing good is good for business. Nazario will lead you in the right direction. Just consider the options for increasing the long-term value of your brand.
Learn more about Thomas Nazario and purchase copies of his book for your Board and C-suite executives. Don’t hesitate to engage his foundation, The Forgotten International.
As the 14th DALI LAMA writes in Nazario’s book, “Unfairness in the human condition can only be remedied when people everywhere care.”
My new interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014 includes experts in technology, the arts, well-being and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of social responsibility; others are creating game changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.
Profile: In May 2014, Lisa Goldman Van Nostrand was elected to a second term on the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership Board of Directors as one of two Private Sector representatives. The RBM Partnership is the global framework to implement coordinated action against malaria. It mobilizes for action and resources and forges consensus among partners. The Partnership is comprised of more than 500 partners, including malaria endemic countries, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions.
Since 2005, Lisa has served as Strategic Advisor for Sumitomo Chemical, representing the company in global partnerships as well as developing branding and marketing for the Vector Control Division. Her assignments in the last seven years have ranged from the highest platforms of international advocacy to community-level work in villages across Africa. Key projects include the Olyset photo library, the “Palufoot” PSA campaigns, and the official opening ceremony for Olyset manufacturing in Arusha. Sumitomo Chemical is deeply committed to developing and providing vector control tools for public health, as a core part of the company’s CSR approach.
Lisa is a founding board member of the Youssou N’Dour Foundation. She also produced international partnerships and sponsorships for the Africa Live concert, DVD and CD properties – which was broadcast on the BBC, PBS, across Africa and Europe, and around the world, and helped put the fight against malaria into the spotlight.
In prior years, Lisa founded her own Internet design company and was director of the Interactive Media Festival, an international competition, gallery and exhibition of interactive media.
Mary Olson: How have your views changed as you look back on your experience?
Lisa Goldman-Van Nostrand: Coming from the Internet world of rapid evolution – a Cambrian explosion of innovation over the last few decades – to work on Malaria, an ancient problem that has co-evolved with humanity – I’ve really had to shift my perspective on time frames for action. In the hyper-competitive Internet development world, you have to act quickly on an idea or lose its moment. For malaria advocacy, the horizon stretches out and a project idea may be realized years after inception without being diminished. There is urgency but the time scale is increased by an order of magnitude.
MO: How do you see the way the world is emerging?
LGVN: There is a convergence underway in the global health and development spheres, much like what we experienced as the Internet, media and telecommunications converged in the 1990s. This puts us at a strategic crossroads in the world of malaria. With 2015 we approach the completion of the Millennium Development Goals and the advent of a new set of Sustainable Development Goals. New ideas can come to scale very quickly in a changing landscape, but not all the existing models make the transition. Malaria partners need to move with clarity and consideration through this transition, and work more closely with ascendent development issues while avoiding a deadly resurgence.
MO: What are your thoughts as you look forward?
LGVN:: Transformative change opens great opportunities, but it’s also immensely challenging. Ultimately, the gains we have achieved, cutting malaria mortality in half over the last 10 years through coordinated action, are at risk of reversal. Resurgence is a risk not only for people living in endemic countries, who have lost immunity due to the 50% reduction in malaria transmission over the last decade — but for all of us. The irrefutable link between malaria and poverty means that if we fail to seize this historic opportunity to move to eliminate malaria, the very foundations of sustainable economic development will be undermined. Looking ahead, we will need to find new, creative ways to keep malaria in the foreground of the global development agenda.