Nisha Qureshi

L Catterton' s Sanjiv Mehta on purpose vs profits

Mehta speaks about the need for organisations to be adaptive and agile in the fast-evolving world. 

In a world that is constantly changing at a rapid rate, it is important for marketers and advertisers to stay ahead of the curve and understand the needs of evolving markets. This was exactly the point of discussion during the keynote address by Sanjiv Mehta, executive chairman of L Catterton India, titled "Navigating The Age Of Adaptability: Leading with Vision, Flexibility, and Purpose" on Day 1 of Goa Fest 2024.

Mehta stated that while most leaders feel satisfied when they have arrived, that is exactly when they should be thinking about their next move of disruption. He recalled the time when he had just shifted to India after handling HUL (Hindustan Unilever) in the MENA market.

“I realised that the 29 states of India have less in common than the 20 countries of MENA. That's when we started something called ‘Winning in Many Indias’.”

Mehta explained that to cater to the different needs of a very diverse India, they focused on differentiation. 

“If you look at Brooke Bond, the packaging and pricing is the same in all the states but its blend varies from market to market. Similarly, if you pick up a Lux bar, the packaging and graphics are the same but the fragrances differ. For Surf Excel, we have different formulations depending on the hardness of the water in that region.”

Mehta further addressed the importance of innovation through several examples. He articulated how visionary leadership combined with the agility to pivot and a strong sense of purpose can drive business success and resilience. “Agility demands spare capacity and the ability to redirect talent towards value creation”, says Mehta.

“We have seen new models of work and new models of businesses emerge. Natural disasters have become more frequent. The companies that will survive in this world are those that will seize the opportunities that the changing and the tumultuous world will bring and those that transform themselves and are able to offer products and services that are simultaneously better, cheaper and getting ready for the future,” he adds.

As per Mehta, flexibility, adaptability and agility are key values for organisations today.

Mehta also pointed out the need for organisations to differentiate between purpose and vision. He says that “vision is a broad and aspirational statement; it paints a picture of what an organisation wants to be. The purpose on the other hand articulates the reason behind what an organisation does for an individual.”

He says both are important. 

He further added that while purpose and mission are important, it is also important for leaders to substantiate the same. “Many CEOs camouflage their non-performance by talking about purpose, that's a distraction and when this happens people lose credibility. The debate between purpose versus profits will not arise if you are able to go on the path of making profits through purpose.

He emphasised the importance of organisations having integrity behind their purposes. “If you forget your purpose when times are tough and come back to them when times get better, you lack integrity behind the purpose.”

He gave examples of the companies he’s worked at, such as Unilever, Danone and Dr. Reddy’s. “Unilever started with a simple purpose which is sanitation and that purpose has survived 130 years.”

He also mentioned brands like Tata Group and Air India. “The purpose of the Tata group is to improve the quality of life of the communities we serve globally through long-term stakeholder value creation based on leadership with trust and they live the purpose every day,” he explains.

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