the social responsibility of business…is to make ‘profits’

16 Sep


Last month I was invited for a guest lecture at MDI, Gurgaon. The audience was someone I had never dealt with…infact an audience that at some level scares me till date. I was to face a bunch of 40-odd NGO heads! Individuals running highly successful social enterprises who thought that i could be someone who could tell them how to use the Internet to their advantage.

I decided to begin the discussion with a digression…and the first thing I wrote on the board…which set the tone of the next hour…was the title of this post “the social responsibility of business is to make profits” (famously first discussed by Friedman in his pathbreaking 1970 article)

I was amazed at the fact that this concept struck a perfect chord with everyone (well, almost) present in the audience! maybe that why they were all successful NGOs. Because honestly, I find this NGO bit a little stupid. It always has that socialist, Nehru-era hangover which I totally abhor! what good is running an NGO when you are friggin bleeding money day-in and day-out…you cant get a competent team to work for you for a salary…and you rely on funds and grants but never really have a sustainable ‘business model’

i know…maybe THATS what an NGO is not supposed to be, but I definitely dont agree. Humans fundamentally are driven by their own needs…we are selfish beings! so dont expect someone to follow your path if he/she doesnt see convenience and comfort in doing so. So stop making all these NGOs that are urging people to go non-plastic and are urging people to adopt stray dogs! Its not going to work…and why would you want to force someone to do so anyways. why does it take an Einstein to realize that friggin removing plastic bags is not the solution, because the minute you do that, inconvenience creeps in…and no one will want to live with that.

Seth Godin fantastically summarizes my thoughts in a single line…and I love him for that

If your non-profit isn’t acting with as much energy and guts as it takes to get funded in Silicon Valley or featured on Digg, then you’re failing in your duty to make change

You have to read his entire post. Absolute Gem!

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