Moral Development and Servant Leadership

Servant leadership

The concept of ‘servant leadership’ emerged in the 1970s and has brought about an enormous shift in thinking. The impact was so large that according to James Hunter, author of ‘The Servant’ – when I did an search for servant leadership” in 1998, there were eight titles listed, the majority of those out of print. That number is now (in 2012) 4,600 and rising quickly.

When I began reading The Servant, most of the things that I read there were, for the lack of any other word, obvious.  These were simple, common-sense tenets that we have been taught as sanskaars by Indian parents or as value education lessons in school. Indeed, the vagaries of personal and professional life create complex and twisted scenarios before us, but the basis of it all remains the same. These tenets may be simple to understand but are not simplistic when brought into action.

The key element of servant leadership is meeting the needs and not the wants of the followers. A need is a legitimate physical, emotional or spiritual requirement for the well-being of an individual or a group. A want, often a perceived need, is a desirable state of being and not necessarily a condition of well-being, without any regard to the consequences.

Hunter summarises this attribute in a very interesting way – The great one hug hard and spank hard.

This series of blog posts are the result of reflective journals writer for Moral Leadership in Organizations course conducted by Dr. Zubin Mulla for the students of HRM&LR at TISS, Mumbai. The articles may have a reference to some research papers prescribed as course material or read by me during the preparation of this course. Each of the referred material is duly cited and the reader can refer to the article mentioned in the bibliography (only at personal risk of becoming a better leader and perhaps, a better person).

Religious origins and interpretations of servant leadership

The inherent obvious nature of servant leadership and the article by Ganesathasan on moral development made me go back to the cultural and religious traditions across the world to find whether servant leadership has found expression in ancient works. I referred to a translated version of the Bhagvad Gita and opened the fifth chapter dealing with the Karma Sanyas Yoga (Sitanatha, 1987). I read the fifth verse and I could relate it to Vasista’s concept of Jivanmukta – one who is liberated while living and Aristotle’s eudaimon – one who lives the life of fulfilment.

यत्साङ्ख्यै: प्राप्यते स्थानं तद्योगैरपि गम्यते |
एकं साङ्ख्यं योगं : पश्यति पश्यति ||

The supreme state that is attained by means of karm sanyās is also attained by working in devotion. Hence, those who see karm sanyās and karm yog to be identical, truly see things as they are.

The Servant talks about the inversion of the management pyramid which represents a paradigm shift in management and leadership science. This new model of leadership is an inverted pyramid of the commonly accepted levels of leadership –

Inverted management pyramid

The relation between these concepts got me deeply intrigued in the further spiritual expression of servant leadership and I began to read different interpretations of the Gita. Sri Aurobindo’s essay ‘The Divine Worker’ explores the access to brahman and the dichotomy of action and inaction through the verses of the Gita. The terminology of ‘maha-nothing’ caught my attention while reading the article by Ganesathasan. It is remarkable to note how Rama who has access to all the knowledge to liberate himself is still a ‘maha-nothing’ because he is not able to apply the same through his actions. Sri Aurobindo also speaks of a similar notion of ‘akarma’, stating that ‘a mind that takes refuge in physical inactivity… has mistaken inertia for liberation (Ghosh, 1949).

According to me, the inherent contrast between action leading to liberation is depicted beautifully in many Hindu scriptures as with the metaphor of Purusha and Prakriti. The Purusha is the physical aspect of the action – the actions of a leader and the Prakriti is the benevolent nature of the leader, thus together forming the ‘servant-leader’

I moved on with my search to find elements of servant leadership in different religions. A simple Google search with two keywords ‘Jesus+servant’ revealed articles which extol upon the ‘servant’ nature of Jesus with specific references from the Bible (Roach, 2019).

“ For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45”

During a class discussion, Prof. Mulla raised an intriguing question – If Jesus landed at CST station, how would he start preaching the precepts of Christianity?. Numerous answers emerged from the class on how he could deliver his sermons, where we saw the flaws in our answers the moment we started saying it out loud. Jesus began his way into the hearts of his followers by heeding to their needs and serving them. He addressed the needs of common people by reviving a dead son or turning water into wine. Only when we had served the people and their needs satiated, did he begin to preach and the common people turned into his followers.

The Buddhist text Shantideva, or the Path of the Bodhisattva notes that: “If I employ others for my own purposes, I myself shall experience servitude. But if I use myself for the sake of others, I shall experience only lordliness” (Cochrum, 2013).

The top ten qualities of a leader mentioned in The Servant are:

  • Honest, trustworthy
  • Good role model
  • Caring
  • Committed
  • Good listener
  • Held people accountable
  • Treated people with respect
  • Gave people encouragement
  • Positive, enthusiastic attitude
  • Appreciated people

These attributes are very close to the encompassing concepts of Confucian ethics, such as ren (humaneness), yi (appropriateness), li (ritual), zhong (conscientiousness), and shu (mutuality) (Cheng, 1991).  These multi-cultural references have made me even curious about servant leadership. It is the irony of life that what is most obvious is often the most elusive. I am keen to explore further the aspects of servant leadership because I have realized that it is not only about being a ‘leader’ but also about living a complete human experience.

Ashrama system – A path of liberation

Vasistha describes three stages of development on the path of liberation – the fool, the seeker and the sage. Rama as an exceptional individual may have become a seeker at an early age in his life but the path of a simple human being may be long and arduous. We can draw parallels between these stages and the stages of development as described by Vasistha.

The Ashrama system of life divided the life into four phases – brahmacharyashram, grihastashram, vanprasthashram and sanyasashram. The brahmacharyashram phase is the learning phase during childhood, which is accorded supreme important by both Aristotle and Vasistha.

The grihastha is a ‘fool’ who indulges in all bodily and worldly pleasures and is driven by material desires.  We can consider Aristotle’s idea here that any man indulging in ‘necessary pleasures’ is not immoral unless he pursues them in excess.

The ‘fool’ transforms into a ‘seeker’ during vanprashthashram. The movement towards the forest is a metaphor for detachment from the pleasures sought during the previous stage. This movement denotes that the pleasures were a part of the journey towards eudaimonia but are not ingrained in the character of the individual. The forest provides an ideal environment to abstain from worldly pleasures as prescribed by Vasistha.

The final stage of sanyasashram is akin to liberation or eudaimonia. According to Aristotle’s ideas, this stage of life will lend a certain maturity to the individual to be able to discern the ambiguous nature of ethics and morality with the application of the highest form of intellect. The habituation to the noble conduct is the very essence of sanyasashram and also a characteristic feature of liberation or eudaimonia.

Krishna – A servant leader

While I was reading the Hunter book, I was strongly reminded of a scene from the Mahabharata in the part with the discussion on desire and need.

Before the Kurukshetra war, Arjuna and Duryodhana both approach Krishna at the same time to seek his help for the war. Krishna gives a choice between his invincible Narayani Sena and himself. He allows Arjuna to claim first, who asks to have Krishna. Krishna agrees to participate with the Pandavas but only in the capacity of Arjuna’s charioteer. Duryodhana gets the invincible army, which he was hoping to get.

This one incident denotes how Krishna balanced between the needs of both the seekers who had approached him. We can also apply the Aristotelian theory of justice – Justice means giving people what they deserve. Arjuna had come to Krishna seeking his presence for the war and side with morality and justice. The Kauravas represent the evil and needed force to win the war. Perhaps, Krishna did not consider that the Kauravas deserved to have them on their side and had already anticipated that Arjuna would need his advice when the moment of truth arrived.

We can also notice how Krishna followed the inverted pyramid of management because he consented to be a charioteer. If we look at the contemporary sociology, charioteers belonged to the lower-caste. In fact, Karna was looked down upon and rejected by Draupadi during swayamvar because he was a charioteer’s son.  Thus, Krishna had no qualms about the role that he played as long as the utilitarian objective of the victory of the good over the evil was achieved.


Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (1979). Chapter 8: Moral theories. In Principles of biomedical ethics: Oxford University Press.

Cheng, Z. (1991). New dimensions of Confucian and Neo-Confucian philosophy. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.

Cochrum, K. (2013). Servant leadership across distance and cultures. North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Ganesathasan, M. (2010). A matter of character: Vasistha and Aristotle on moral development. Asian Philosophy, 11(2), 103-123.

Ghosh, A. (1949). Essays on the Gita. Calcutta: Arya Publ. House.

Greenleaf, R. (1977). Servant leadership. New York, NY [u.a.]: Paulist Press.

Hunter, J. (2012). The servant. New York, NY: Crown Business.

Michael Sandel (2010). The lost art of democratic debate

Roach, D. (2019). Characteristics of Jesus as a Servant. Retrieved from

Sitanatha. (1987). The Bhagvad Gita. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.




The Virtues of Eclipse

The moon has inspired the right brained poets and mystics to write odes to its beauty and has equally intrigued the right brained scientists and discoverers to ‘conquer’ it. It was back in 1969 that man first stepped on the moon but the moon still poses enough mystery to all people. The orb of ivory in the inky black sky surrounded by glittering stars is a sight that can help you center yourself on your inner self and explore your depths and surface alike.

The most fascinating sight of the moon is the lunar eclipse, which incidentally happens only on the day of a full moon. When the moon is at its brightest and best, the earth casts a shadow across it causing it to erupt in a red diamond flame like molten gold. The managers and leaders of the VUCA world have to face a roller-coaster of sunny and grim days. The sun when eclipsed becomes even harsher and causes harm to those who view it with the naked eye. On the other hand, the moon wears different costume, beguiles us with its beauty and magnificence; only to inspire us even more.

During challenging times, the leaders are often driven to the walls and fall prey to aggressive behaviours at workplace. Increased conflict and insecurity at workplace creates less cohesive teams; damages morale; impairs judgment and increases response time in a rapid business environment. An eclipsed moon offers us a metaphorical lesson in ‘anger management’ – rise to the occasion. In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins proves empirically that great companies led by true leaders often shine in these times, often because they trash the trend of doom and gloom, and succeed in making their competencies even stronger and more relevant.

The darkness and shadows also eclipse our inner self on a daily basis. As per Jungian psychology, even though we might not want to acknowledge our unconscious shadow, if we confront it honestly, it opens brighter and bigger avenues for us. As the shadow is composed of a part of you that might be unacceptable in commonly accepted social norms, our conscious mind rejects the ownership and association with those feelings, desires and bury them deep down in the unconscious mind.

The eclipse teaches us to accept and release the ‘other’ side of us – just like the bright red side of the moon who would conventionally be assumed to be pristine white. The eclipse is the ‘destiny’ of the moon to express its unconscious energies and shine brighter. It is the energy that the universe has imbued in you and if unexpressed or unutilized, those energies assume destructive forms.

With this eclipse, there’s also an emphasis on understanding that though we’re individuals, we’re all a part of something much greater than ourselves and we have a responsibility to live in a way that upholds that truth. It is an inspiration to unveil the subconscious, make progress toward greater self-awareness and emotional freedom, and to glimpse into your true Self.

The moon encourages us to be open to subdue yourself in the shadows when you are at your best, only to find out that your horizons are wider and brighter. You accept the gift that life has bestowed upon you and comprehend the lessons that life offers you in a wholesome and authentic manner. In order for healing and transformation to occur, you need to bring your shadow into the light. If you don’t believe me, look at the moon a night after the eclipse, it always looms bigger and brighter.

PS. The next total lunar eclipse is on 21st January 2019

HRMIS – Effective Implementation with Socio-technical Systems Approach

National Health Mission (NHM) in Arunachal Pradesh adopted a Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) believed to be the first of its kind in the State. The aim is to ensure transparency in work and timely disbursement of staff salaries through the PFMS platform across all the districts and programmes under the NHM. Timely payment of salaries is intended to motivate the staff working in far-flung areas of the state and ensure that health programs are not adversely impacted only due to low motivation levels of the staff.

The article caught my attention because management information system is largely considered a corporate process management system. Adoption of HRMIS by a government program shows the promise that adoption of such a system brings in the context of a health program in one of the most difficult terrains of India. Having worked in the public policy sector myself, I found that motivation of employees to keep up the quality of health services provided by a government funded program was indeed a novel way of approaching public policy.


The original purpose of HRIS had been to standardize information gathering about and for employees of the organization. However, the scope had been widened by the time; parallel to the efforts of human resources management function to transform into a new dimension, to respond to the dynamism and competitive business environment.

The implementation of HRIS is a sociotechnical challenge and requires using a different approach from other technology-driven innovations. If the benefits of the technology are not clearly delineated for the employees, the implementation can backfire into many psychological issues including a trust deficit.


The technical side of an organization is application of instrumentally logical methods for the completion of tasks; that is namely machinery processes, procedures and a physical arrangement. On the other hand, the social side of an organization consists of the needs and relationships of humans, that is namely people and their habits, attitudes, values, behavioral styles and formal and informal relationships. Sociotechnical paradigm is a holistic view which studies the relationships between the social and technical parts of any system.


Social challenges of HRIS Implementation

User values: Users do not have a choice to use the new human resources information system or not to use it. That choice has actually been already made by the management, in favor of the new system. Due to the ‘forceful’ implementation users may not have a positive approach for the new system regardless of its properties.

User profiles: Potential users of a human resources information system are usually either competent at the previous information systems but are not willing to learn a new system or do not have any computer experience at all but are willing to learn computers in general and the new software specifically. Both user profiles propose a challenge to the implementation and the process suffers from inertia.

In the case of health workers of NHM, the system can have negative effects due to lack of trust in technology and in face reduce employee motivation instead of increasing it.

User perceptions: Unless users have guidance to the objectives of the new information system, they have a tendency to perceive the new system as something bad and stay at a distance as much as possible, either consciously or unconsciously. Human resources professionals have a tendency to worry that the new human resources information system will result in their replacement or they will have critics for not already doing a good enough job.

Perceptions that control over tasks will be less, social interactions will be less or of lower quality, several jobs will be lost, resulting jobs will be worse etc. can worsen the effectiveness of the health schemes. The fact that social interactions are a core aspect of implementing welfare schemes in remote areas, the HRMIS system must not hamper the social interactions involved between different stakeholders.



Usability: Usability of HRIS brings about lower effort expectancy in users and therefore increases user acceptance of information systems with easiness and speed for completion of a task. Users have high level of frustration and anger regarding technology and therefore universal usability should be the goal in order to ensure highest use of technology.

The quality of vendor adopted and the UI-UX of a government approved HRMIS can be questioned based on general experience with government e-initiatives. The abandonment of the HRMIS can yield great costs for NHM which is already struggling for funds in the era of the current government.


Complexity: The introduction of a new system coupled with programming errors, increasing user training needs, decreasing program stability creates the possibility of overwhelming the users. Introduction of information technology enabled novel processes that are distinctively different from the current processes increases the likelihood of resistance in the implementation, especially if the new processes contrast in the assumptions and values of the users.

The HRMIS tool may bring in increased transparency which may not be a value espoused by the government officials and workers. Thus a value-based dissonance may further worsen the implementation efforts of the new system.


Success story and lessons


In January 2000, Hewlett-Packard (HP) CEO Carly Fiorina provided a vision for the @HP Employee Portal, stating, “This worldwide entry point would be rolled out to every subsidiary around the world, connecting employees who can access corporate information, personal data, services, HP resources, and execute internal transactions.”


Analysing the case study using the Leavitt’s Diamond model to examine the critical success factors the following aspects of effectively implementing the change can be drawn out –


Leadership involvement – HP’s hopes for the success and utility of the @HP Employee Portal were demonstrated by the CEO personally and enthusiastically presenting the implementation plan.

Structural analysis and stakeholder mapping – HP staff analyzed its HR organizational structure and involved all groups, broken down into Corporate, European, and Local functions both horizontally (staff) and vertically (in the various divisions).

Communication plan and information dissemination – The HR Director carried out an elaborate communication plan to dispel the fears of HR Executives that they were going to be displaced. The communication plan was even altered to adopt to local cultural requirements.

Actionable feedback and support – The button “feedback/support” at the top of the portal interface was added to collect comments, suggestions, and, most important, proposals for the release of the second version.

Retaining ‘humane’ element – In some cases, employees still wanted to see their HR representative and continue to have face-to-face contact with HR. The HR Managers then specifically began to visit the employees or go on rounds because their mundane tasks were taken over by the new portal. Employees knew the face-to-face relationship was still intact in HR and available in critical moments of HR processes, and this helped to create a more favourable climate.


Thus even a simple technological upgrade in one area of the business will clearly have large effects throughout the organisation. For the change to be successful all the factors stated above will have to be evaluated and addressed.

Omni-channel retail – Charting the way forward

Evolution of retail sector

The scenario of shopping all over the world has changed drastically. The customer browses e-commerce websites while shopping in the store and the store experience in turn impacts the choices made while shopping on apps. As the consumers are integrating different channels, the retail companies no longer have the option of delivering singular experiences through different channels of retail. Omni-channel retailing, i.e. combining mobile, bricks-and-mortars and e-tailing, is the future of commerce. The evolution of retail through the ages has followed the trajectory as shown below:



key impact areas – challenges and solutions

A key aspect of omni-channel retail is to deliver a more interactive, personalized brand experience that is constant across all channels and to go beyond siloed perspectives to reach the consumer through all possible touch points or channels.


Marketing Marketing techniques must be customised to respond to consumer behaviour rather than consumer behaviour being shaped by marketing

The impact of marketing becomes difficult to measure in the short-term as the mode of retail becomes dispersed.

Payment avenues New and in-house digital payment processing solutions can be adopted to control costs, in the light of thin profit margins

Availability of quick, safe and simple payments determines consumers buying behaviour as much as the product itself



Supply chain management Become as agile and lean as possible for customer preferences change very quickly

The supply chain must integrate all channels and maintain consistency – failure of one-size-fits-all approach.

Development of an enterprise-wide system that constantly provides

real-time, accurate information about stock-levels, in-transit inventory, and specific information about the order to deliver customised shopping experience through multiple channels and locations




Human Resources Some omni-retail organizations have adopted a matrix-based structure, while others have appointed an executive to lead omni-channel efforts, responsible for sales across all channels and reporting to the COO (or CEO).

Compensation can be changed to growth-oriented metrics such as sales or revenue growth, increased use of profit or sales measures of a single channel.

Changes to annual incentive plans may also be carried out at the store-associate level, where retailers encourage omni-channel selling by encouraging employees to get the product into the hands of the consumer regardless of the delivery method.

Employee development may focus on creating opportunities such as supporting new projects, contributing to innovation teams and gaining experiences across the company through short rotational programs rather than providing long-term career paths, indicating a gig economy structure.

OMnichannel best practices




Consistent UI from trip planning website to theme parks

My Disney experience tool – plan your entire trip, from dining to securing your fast pass

Magic Band – acts as a hotel room key, photo storage device for any pictures taken of you with Disney characters, and a food ordering tool.


Sales associates armed with iPads that are available to give you on-the-spot, accurate, and up-to-date product information

IPads enable on the spot payment.

If the product is out of stock in the store, sales associate place free delivery order to your address.


Consistent brand message in copywriting, photos, social media

Each of their marketing touch points integrates the same branding but in a unique way. For example, their social media channels are heavily populated by user-generated content.

Brand image relevant physical packing which has hidden coupons for future shopping or free gifts.

Reimagining Retail – design thinking lens



Customers of the 21st century demand accurate information in real time, no matter which channel they are accessing or where in your network they are situated. Whether in a physical store, on a computer or a mobile device, customers require the same high service levels at all times throughout the entire shopping experience. The organization must focus on the real needs of the consumer and not over engineer the omni-channel offer. The organization culture must foster continuous improvement mindset to keep up with fast-changing technology platforms and behaviours of the consumers.


Maharashtra became the first state in India to impose a broad ban on single-use plastics, effective from June 24, in accordance with the central government’s declaration to end completely the use of single-use plastic in India by 2022. The sudden decision by the government has startled the companies that rely heavily on plastic for packaging, such as retailers, beverage makers and sellers of bottled water.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry voiced the lack of viable alternatives as the key reason behind the furore created by the industrialists. Currently, the rules have been relaxed for local grocery shops with certain arrangements to ensure recycling. Multi-brand online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart are demanding a staggered ban over seven years to ensure full compliance and adoption of feasible alternatives.


Change questions

  • How to balance business and environment sustainability?
  • What are the viable, eco-friendly alternatives to use of single-use plastic, which will not reduce the efficiency of business?
  • How should companies respond to a drastic change in legislation?
  • How will the interaction of the environmental lobby and corporate lobby ensure the best way forward?

Global Change scenario

Plastic is an important and ubiquitous material in our economy and daily lives.  The theme for World Environment Day 2018 was “beat plastic pollution” and India was the host country for the occasion. The greatest impact on the psyche of consumers was made by the National Geographic Magazine cover page which raised the single-most important change question in this context ‘Planet or Plastic?’

The image of a plastic bag-as-iceberg has stopped many people in their tracks by conveying the size, scope, and severity of the issue surrounding plastics pollution with jarring clarity. Global production of plastics has increased twentyfold since the 1960s, reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015. It is expected to double again over the next 20 years. The largest market for plastics today is for packaging materials. That trash now accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally; most of it never gets recycled or incinerated.

In 2015, the European Union identified plastics as a key priority and committed itself to ‘prepare a strategy addressing the challenges posed by plastics throughout the value chain and taking into account their entire lifecycle’. In April 2018, U.K.’s biggest supermarkets, food manufacturers and processors — from Lidl and Aldi to Nestle, Unilever and PepsiCo — unveiled an industry-wide promise to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic by 2025 and ensure all remaining plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by the same date.

Beijing’s decision to halt imports of plastic waste in January, which had a knock-on effect on the rest of the world, since China has been a major outlet for recycling trash.

There has been an international avalanche of pledges by countries and companies alike to respond to this imminent challenge:

  • Paper carrier bags pilot in Iceland
  • Complete microbead ban in UK
  • Burger outfits Burger King and A&W Canada declare a straw ban
  • American Express to release ocean plastic credit card
  • McDonalds promised that by 2025 all of its ‘guest’ packaging will come from recycled, renewable or certified sources, and that this will be recycled in 100 per cent of McDonald’s restaurants globally.
  • Ikea is to phase out all single-use plastic products from its stores and restaurants by 2020
  • Lords Cricket Ground has swapped plastic bottles for canned water for Test Matches
  • Drinks company Evian pledged to adopt a ‘100 per cent circular approach to plastic use’ by 2025, looking to redesign its packaging using purely recycled plastic


The Indian response has not been less enthusiastic but has mostly emerged from government sphere than the corporate sphere –

  • Karnataka banned plastic of all thickness in 2016
  • Tamil Nadu government banned plastic manufacture and use of water bottles, bags, cups, straw from January 1, 2019
  • Indian Railways has started using fully biodegradable packages in 4 Shatabadi and 4 Rajadhani trains from Delhi

Online retail and single-use plastic

Online businesses such as Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm Mall will be required to upgrade their packaging material in Maharashtra to corrugated (cardboard) boxes, which are about 30% more expensive than plastic packaging material. Packaging costs presently account for 1-3% of the fulfilment costs – the price of shipping, delivery and compensating sellers for discounts. In the food industry, alternative packaging for delivery will increase restaurants’ costs by 20% at least as per industry sources. The ban on single-use plastic bags and cutlery has negatively hit food-delivery platforms like Zomato and Swiggy in the state by suspending delivery of items such as gravies that need water-proof packing.

Maharashtra-based FMCG companies selling water and beverages in PET bottles have blatantly refused to comply with the ban on PET bottles below 500ml capacity. Coca-Cola, PepsiCO and ParleAgro have reportedly denied having any strategy to respond to the situation.

The lobbyists of the ban have come up with statements and statistics to dissuade the government from its bold move. They claim that the ban could cost up to $2.2 billion annually and almost 300,000 jobs. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, made a dramatic statement that such a ban “will not be without its own share of adverse environmental impacts which are largely driven by issues associated with the use of alternatives”.

Way forward

An estimated $80 billion to $120 billion of plastic packaging material is lost to the economy each year, which creates a financial incentive for business to reuse plastic.

The poll of 2,007 consumers in UK found that 42% of consumers want plastic-free aisles to be installed in supermarkets and 83% are keen for product refills to be more widely available. A study by Greenpeace found that 72% of consumers think supermarkets are not doing enough about packaging to tackle the problem of plastic pollution and 55% say they would choose a shop that does not over-package goods. These aspects reveal that there is a great scope for change in the functioning of the retail industry

The change in law has created an antagonistic reaction from many spheres. Considering the importance of the cause, such antagonism can lead to the detriment of the intended impact. In such a scenario it is also important for the public sphere – government and civil society organizations to incentivize the adoption of sustainable measures.


  • Companies, governments and environmentalists should develop a holistic, evidence-based approach to the role of plastic packaging in the retail supply chain
  • Government should review legislation to assess and address gaps in the policy by looking at certain city-level best practices
    • San Francisco – complete ban on plastic bags, additional 10-cent fee on single-use compostable or recycled paper bags that customers need at supermarkets
    • Chile – fines of up to $300 USD on businesses that continue to distribute plastic bags; government-coordinated beach clean-ups
  • Use market-based instruments to prompt behavioural change towards avoiding plastic waste and keeping resources in the economy. This includes using green public procurement (GPP), extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, deposit refund schemes and possibly progressive taxation on virgin plastics.
  • Encourage technological development to harness biology to chemically breaks down any plastic into basic chemicals that can then be used as a feedstock to make more bottles or even used as biofuel
  • Provide greater investment and funding for waste prevention systems, including zero and reusable packaging systems
  • Leveraging social media campaigns to sustain change and encourage organizations to respond to consumer demand for a greener supply chain
  • Retail companies can leverage the current ‘mood’ of the consumers; adopt a more sustainable business strategy and create a favourable image for their brand. They can adhere to the following best practices adopted by retail organizations across the world.
Company Measures Impact
Tesco Removed all polystyrene from all its perishable goods packaging

Replaced two layer plastic trays with single layer plastic

Reduced 92 tonnes of plastic usage in a single year
Saintbury’s Remove all plastic cotton buds in stores

Recycles carrier bags

Redesigned its two-pint milk bottles

33% reduction in its own brand-packaging

Saves 580 tonnes of plastic a year by redesign

Asda Introduced “skin” packaging on some of its meat products

Made its two-litre own-brand water bottles lighter

reduced the weight of its packaging by 27% since 2007
Morrisons Recycles its carrier bags and uses “returnable bins” for fish products to reduce the use of poly boxes

Banned microbeads and plastic cotton buds in its own-brand cosmetic products

Keeps 95% of its store waste out of direct landfill
Aldi Sources all its pulp-based packaging from certified forests

Recycles 100% of its cardboard and plastic

Not sent any waste directly to landfill since 2014
Marks and Spencer More than 90% of all its UK packaging is recyclable, and less than 1% (by weight) of all its packaging can be traced back to polystyrene Reduced its total packaging by 25% and food packaging usage per item by 10%.
Waitrose  Thinned its prepared salad bags and reduced smoked salmon packaging by 50%

Charges 30p or 40p for its food to be delivered or collected in plastic bags

Introduced a new sandwich wrapper, the plastic and cardboard of which can be more easily separated for recycling than other packaging


In addition to these measures, retail organizations can:

  1. Trial dispensers and refillable containers for own brand items like shampoos, house cleaning products, beverages
  2. Install free water fountains in-store and water re-fill stations
  3. Trial reusable packaging and product refills via home deliveries
  4. ‘Co-opete’ to create synergies for recycling and packaging material manufacturing



Kurt Lewin’s Change Model



Chatterjee, Purvita. (2018). Despite plastic ban, FMCG companies unwilling to discard 250 ml PET bottles. Business Line. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].

European Commission (2018). A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].

Meier, Becca. (2018). What are supermarkets doing to fight plastic?. BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].

Only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled. (2018). The Economist. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].

Parkar, L. (2018). WE MADE PLASTIC. WE DEPEND ON IT. NOW WE’RE DROWNING IN IT. National Geographic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].

Srinivasan, S. and Bansal, V. (2018). Plastic ban: E-commerce may win extra time. Economic Times. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].

Suliman, A. (2018). Rising tide of innovation at Davos to keep plastic out of the sea. Reuters. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].


‘Customer’ization of HR

Reports by the American Customer Service Satisfaction Index show that leaders in customer service outperform the Dow by 93%, the Fortune 500 by 20%, and the NASDAQ by 335% . However, according to The Consumer Conversation 2015 report, only 37% of businesses surveyed said they were “able to tie customer experience activities to revenue and/or cost savings” . In fact, half of companies’ CX initiatives do very little to retain customers . With the market for customer experience management services and technology predicted to be worth $13.2 billion by 2021, the customer-comes-first focus is massively resource-intensive. A study by YouEarnedit found 77 percent of employees said the impact and appreciation they feel at work affects their ability to deliver a high-quality customer experience.

In the contemporary context of dynamism, it becomes more a necessity than adherence to a fad to focus on culture and engagement in order to realise the full potential of the investments into the human capital. Temkin Group reports a correlation between employee engagement and success in customer experience. In its 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, the firm showed that companies that excel at customer experience have one-and-a-half times as many engaged employees as customer experience laggards do. Gallup has found that a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged, but companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.

If a company wants employees to make a meaningful contribution, it needs to invest in and treat employees as if they were customers. This customer-centric approach to human resources can be referred to as “consumerized employee services” — a ‘one-stop-shop’ for managing employee needs by coordinating points of contact across the organization to deliver a smooth and consistent experience (Eaton and Tambe, 2015).

Applying customer experience strategy to employee experience begins with needs-based segmentation, grouping employees into clusters based on their wants and needs. Just as customer experience design requires a more nuanced understanding of customers than simple demographics or economic value, employee experience design should be based on employees’ drivers and desires, than simplistic hierarchical or functional segmentation (Lee Yohn, 2016).

Companies should design their workplace to align with the priorities and differentiators of their brands. For example, if a company wants its brand to be known for automation and speed, then the employees’ workplace environment, benefits, performance reviews, and so on should be technology-enabled and fast. Thus employees experience the benefits of the brand firsthand and are better equipped and motivated to reinforce and interpret them with customers. It also helps to cultivate a distinctive culture in the company, which in turns helps attract and retain employees who fit with the culture and are more likely to thrive in it.

Organizations like global retail leader Tesco and technology giant Adobe have gone a notch ahead and integrated their customer and employee experience metrics to deliver a holistic experience to both internal and external customers. Volkswagen’s customer experience function works closely with the people function, has introduced an enterprise-wide insights platform that brings together the employee and customer experience.

One of the best examples of driving their brand through their employees is the employee-centric policies of Starbucks. While most retail companies set health insurance eligibility at 30 or 35 hours per week, Starbucks has offered health insurance to part-time employees working an average of 20 hours per week since 1988. Starbucks also pays for college tuition for full- and part-time employees through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a partnership with Arizona State University, which launched in 2014. Eighty-seven percent of the company’s brand affinity is driven by the way Starbucks treats its employees, according to a 2014 Starbucks customer survey.

As Sir Richard Branson puts it simply, Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.

A Feminist Man’s Ideal ‘Women’s Day’

“One is not born a Woman, But Becomes One” – Simone de Beauvoir

It was 8 March 2018. Just like last year, I went for lunch with my female colleagues to accompany them. I was just thinking what changed between these two lunch sessions? It didn’t take much time for me to answer- nothing! Everything was same, the discounts, the way places were decorated, the colours and the way we think! There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we celebrate such days. Ideas of celebrating women’s day by organizing some games, taking female employees out for a lunch are classic cases of mediocrity and shallow thinking.
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UX, CX… it’s time for EX

Most organizations attribute their success to a ‘consumer first’ policy. In today’s world of personalization it means developing a superior user experience with an access to highly customized products and services, and proactively addressing problems before they have been raised.

The millennial employee wants individualised rewards, development opportunities and roles through a quick and convenient access of the workplace. Each employee differs in the manner in which she expects the organization to respond to her needs.
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Wonder Women at Workplace

Diversity and inclusion is the buzzword in the circles of HR. The 3G of diversity comes from – gender, geography and generation. Gender-based discrimination is an outcome of norms and values which have become so deeply entrenched in the institutions that their presence often does not meet the eye.
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Be successful, but be happy first

At the beginning of our career, we look up to certain figures for inspiration and dream to reach as close as we can to the heights they achieve. It was a moment of great pride and opportunity when the students of TISS HRMLR (Batch 17-19) were addressed by Prabir Jha, Global Chief People Officer, Cipla on 4th August,2017.

‘It is a wonderful time to be in HR’
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