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Lokvani Talks To Dr Rajendra Sisodia, Co-Founder, Conscious Capitalism Institute

Nirmala Garimella

In my conversation with Dr. Raj Sisodia, a founding member of the Conscious Capitalism movement, terms like karma, contemplation, purpose, value, trust are liberally sprinkled throughout our interview. But what is interesting is they are associated with the hard-nosed world of business and capitalism. How can these two co-exist?  How do you power profit with purpose? To Raj Sisodia, the answer is obvious.  If you consciously adopt a philosophy of value and purpose and are passionate about how your company is contributing to improving the lives of its stakeholders you will build stronger connections, more loyalty and ultimately higher profits.

This is elaborated best in his latest bestselling book “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business”. In it,authors John Mackey and Dr. Rajendra Sisodia profile the business philosophies of market leaders, revealing fundamental principles and practices that business managers can adapt to enable conscious leadership and a caring business culture.

Dr. Rajendra Sisodia is Professor of Marketing at Bentley University and cofounder and Chairman of the Conscious Capitalism Institute. Dr. Sisodia has an MBA in Marketing from the Bajaj Institute of Management Studies in Bombay, and a Ph.D. in Marketing from Columbia University. His current research focuses on conscious capitalism, leadership and change management. In 2003, Dr. Sisodia was cited as one of “50 Leading Marketing Thinkers” and named to the “Guru Gallery” by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Bentley University honored him with the Award for Excellence in Scholarship in 2007 and the Innovation in Teaching Award in 2008. He was named one of “Ten Outstanding Trailblazers of 2010” by Good Business International, and one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior” by Trust across America for 2010 and 2011. Raj lives in Lexington with his wife Shailini and their three children.

Share with us your personal journey into Conscious Capitalism? What prompted you to think about business this way?

The journey started almost 10 years ago quite accidentally. After my undergraduate degree in engineering at BITS Pilani, I enrolled in the management program at Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Science. In business school, I naturally gravitated towards marketing. It was creative and interesting and a good career choice at that time. I came into academia quite accidentally and while doing research on productivity and the image of marketing, I found that 85% of people had a negative image of marketing associated with gimmicks and not real value creation.

To me, marketing therefore needed reform which lead to a project called ‘In search of marketing excellence”. The reality was that most companies are spending more on marketing than they used to but getting less out of it: in terms of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and return on investment. Yet there were also some companies that were getting it right. We started identifying companies that were spending less on marketing but had much better results, in terms of customer satisfaction, loyalty, trust and profit. Companies like Whole Foods, Southwestern Airlines, Google, Apple had satisfied customers, but they also had a strong emotional bond with their employees and stakeholder and were deeply tied in with their communities.

What are unique or special about these companies?

We found they fitted in the model that we called as  Conscious Capitalism. They have a special passion and reason for existing – beyond profit ( higher purpose). Their leaders are not your usual CEO’s, they are motivated by sense of purpose, deep personal passion. They cultivate a culture in their company based on authenticity and trust and have a positive outlook.

This process of discovery led me into to write a book ‘Firms of Endearment’. During this period, my co- author and I met with the CEO of Whole Foods in October 2007. I had in my mind a map that I had created and was very excited about this new concept  which I  called it the Institute of new capitalism (Inc).When we met him and told him about this term, he said this is exactly what he believed in but called it conscious capitalism. The term was first coined by Muhammad Yunus of Grameen bank in the 90’s. He was of course defining it differently.

Business has a bad narrative based on greed and selfishness. Yet, you are saying that is not a case?

We believe business is a powerful, positive extraordinary force. What Conscious Capitalism says is business is good because it is based on value creation. Business is ethical because it is based on value exchange. Business is noble because it can elevate our existence beyond subsistence because Capitalism had enabled people to enrich their lives and be creative. Business is heroic as it lifts people of poverty in a sustainable way. Billions of people have been lifted not because of government or nonprofits but because of business. Per capita incomes have risen only in the last 200 years thanks to business. Part of the narrative is you can do right with a higher role for business

Is the concept gaining credence among companies?

This has been a century of extraordinary change. There is a general awareness all around the world. “The old ways of Business as usual doesn’t work”. People have changed; Much had happened, collapse of communism, creation of the World Wide Web: Telecommunications has transformed the world,  advent of social media  now allows people to share and connect. The world has also become more intelligent –an  average person is smarter than hundred years ago. There has been a rise in education, women roles have been redefined. There is also a rise of consciousness to not accept things as they are and question the world order.  As Steven Pinker commented this is also the most peaceful time in this world. All these are positive trends.

How do you promote this concept?

We hold 10 to 12 conferences every year .We have an event coming up on April 5th at San Francisco. We also have a CEO Summit. We also hold events in In India, Australia, South Africa, Germany etc. Where-ever we go, I find that people are hungry for a positive message and these ideas resonate with them. If you are told you are part of a noble endeavor then as an idealistic young person getting to Business there is no better way to make a life. We also hope to build an educational  and a research site to build a new generational of entrepreneurs by presenting a new set of ideas on leadership.

So how about people in their daily lives? Can they practice this?

You cannot have this without people become conscious. We have to start on our own consciousness . The most difficult person to lead and manage is our selves. We have to develop our emotional intelligence, through meditation and other practices, have a sense of meaning and purpose and the interconnectedness of the world around you.. These are all things for personal growth and development,  self-awareness and intention. We have a system where CEO’s are driven by quarterly profits disregarding the human elements. It is crippling because research shows that 75% are employees are disengaged and hate to go for work. They cannot be creative and inspired. We also found that the conscious capitalist companies perform 9 to 1 in the marketplace over a ten year period. They make a lot of money. They are also creating all other values. It is the theory of Karma in Indian Philosophy - If you focus on the right action, the right outcome will follow.

Lastly what has been your community involvement and hobbies?

I am primarily focused on the non-profit Conscious Capitalism Inc. I am also part of a similar group in India called Chittasangha, or The Consciousness Collaborative. I also support Pratham, which offers educational programs for under-privileged kids in India. My hobbies include music (old Hindi songs), writing and photography.

Thank you!



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