Why Communism makes a good Capitalist better.

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Why Communism makes a good Capitalist better.

Jayaprakash (JP) runs a phenomenally successful modular kitchen store in Trivandrum. He’s an unassuming, gentle soul who could pass off as a government servant in any small town. He runs his highly profitable store with a 25% profit margin on a turnover of about 15 crores. All this from his modest 850 sq.ft empire.

JP is a simple man, with a large heart and an astute business sensibility. At the heart of his success lies his fanatic focus on customer centricity, driven with a zealous purpose. Beneath his calm and humble exterior lies a simmering revolutionary – one who believes he is fighting for the right of his customers. Their right to make the correct choices; to get value for what they pay for; to seek something that makes their lives better.

His enemies, in this world, are the big corporation and unorganized local suppliers. He sees them as operating from a self-centered “push” perspective. One that focuses on selling without understanding customers.

He had the zeal of a communist who was fighting bourgeois zamindars. A righteous cause that would secure the rights of his comrades.

JP spends a lot of time observing and chatting with his customers. Not because he has to but because he knows no other way. He could invest a whole day trying to understand how a lady operates her kitchen – assessing the exact height that makes her comfortable, noting if she is right or left handed, determining which appliances she uses most, footnoting the role of her husband in the kitchen etc. This is followed by a customized solution that suits their need and budget with a lifetime guarantee. This commands a 30% premium that his customers are willing to pay for and endorse his brand. A commitment he earns not because he pushes modular stock, but because he starts by understanding his customers’ pain points.

This sense of purpose has nurtured a highly committed, professionally run organization that large corporations would struggle to match forcing them to see him as an ally rather than competition. It is a powerful position from where he influences them to become more customer-centric .

Every person who joins JP’s Agnikone transforms to a more sensitive and competent professional, in stark contrast to the state’s work-shirking stereotype. The kitchen in an average Indian home is a mission-critical organ that has the power to arrest the functioning of the entire unit, if something were to go wrong.

For anyone who has had to call a service number, punch through multi-lingual recorded messages, get through to a human voice, have them misunderstand your concerns and eventually, usually after more calls and yelling, get a service person whose competence is questionable – the pain of dealing with after sales service is real and personal. In remarkable contrast, JP’s team understands how critical it is to fix what’s broken in the kitchen that he orchestrated and ensure that a team member responds promptly and gets the space operational again in as quickly as just half an hour. JP has imbibed in his army the identity of a charged crusader rather than a perfunctory salesperson.

Multiple entrepreneurs from Kerala like Santha Paint House, Wonderla and Tierra Foods follow a similar philosophy. Marinated in a communist milieu, the mindless pursuit of money is not admired, respected or even considered meaningful. This often prevents people from becoming businessmen. However, there is this group of people who have used this same philosophy of not pursuing this mindless quest for money, to fuel powerful businesses amped by what feels like a cause. In their minds, their enterprise is not just another business. It is community service.

By conducting business in an enlightened way that helps all stakeholders, they become a respected force within the society. More importantly, it assuages the guilt (if any) of making money.

This approach is very different from a typical business, which first starts with the purpose of making money and market pressures force it to do the right things. Both may eventually have similar results, but the starting points differ and they also have different souls.

A world that sees either Capitalism or Communism in their darkest, most extreme and absolute forms is inherently limited. When capitalism borrows a community-centered, ground up approach from communism, it simply makes for better outcomes . It makes for entities that are more sustainable and maximising shareholder wealth is not the only concern. Being responsible for the people it serves and the community it operates in is equally important. This could be the most important ingredient to generate sustained profits and be continually relevant.

JP travels the world scouring for best practices to improve his business while he continues to stay in his 650 sq.ft home. He is the community leader who sees business as a privilege and that it’s his dharma to serve the people.


The Author

Dilip Shankar is a partner at Centre of Gravity. He believes in the practice of conscious capitalism rooted in human-centered thinking.

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