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Amid turbulent politics, businesses can lead

Amid turbulent politics, businesses can lead
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First Published: Sat, Aug 20 2011. 01 15 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Aug 20 2011. 11 45 AM IST
The recent spate of corruption scandals may be giving India’s political classes a major headache. This lack of faith in politics could, however, be an opportunity for the country’s businesses, something they can turn to their advantage. India’s young people hold up business as the key to tackling some of the country’s socio-economic challenges. And, they have more faith in global business than they do in politics.
One Young World, the global youth leadership platform, which I founded in 2010 with Kate Robertson, chairman of Euro RSCG UK—one of the largest communication agencies in the world—commissioned a series of 25 national reports, completed by people in their 20’s as part of a global consultation process. The results will inform the second annual One Young World Summit, to be held in Zurich in September, when the leaders of tomorrow will meet and debate global issues with leading figures such as Bob Geldof and Unilever chief executive officer Paul Polman. It is the only global summit where big business and government can see the future unfold.
The national report on India (conducted by YouGov) reveals that almost three-quarters (72%) of young Indians in our sample have more faith in global business than they do in world politics, and, 64% think that global businesses are doing more to reduce poverty than governments are. A similar number (63%) think big business in India promotes positive ethics and social values.
Meanwhile, politics is a major source of concern for young people we spoke to—three quarters (75%) say methods of scrutinizing public servants in India are not strong enough and even more (84%) say that politics in India needs major reform.
Furthermore, while many of the young Indians we spoke to feel they can influence their employers (71%) or their own community (67%) in the fight against climate change, much fewer (53%) feel able to influence the Indian government in this context.
This faith in business to be more likely than government to do the right thing and act in a socially responsible way is something India’s business community could leverage.
In the last decade, the fastest-growing trend in business has been the move towards corporate social responsibility and our survey found that 84% believe that businesses that make a profit must provide social benefits and more than three-quarters (76%) think business should play a central role in relieving poverty.
It is because of this demand that most successful businesses of the future will be those that are the most socially responsible because they will derive huge benefit from consumers, employees and the media who will all become powerful advocates for them through social media—the second decade-defining development.
They are often thought of in isolation but they are fundamentally interlinked and far from being two separate things, social responsibility actually drives social media.
Young Indians we spoke to are completely tuned into the revolution in communication that social media has brought about. They overwhelmingly agree (84%) that online social media networks will open and change the global media landscape beyond recognition in the next five years. They are right.
Already we see the massive impact social media can have on business and politics in particular. And although India faces specific challenges in enabling Internet access for more of the population, the increasing availability and sophistication of mobile devices—phones and tablets such as the iPad—will go a long way towards getting more and more Indians online.
This generation of Indians is embracing the idea of entrepreneurship with 79% having the ambition to run their own business and those that are concerned with moving up the conventional career ladder are also concerned with the ethics of the companies they might work for. In fact, 70% say: “I will only work for companies that share my ethics”.
The One Young World research addresses the themes of religion, politics, business, health, media and the environment (the six main areas of discussion that will take place at the One Young World Summit 2011). The attitudes of young Indians toward these themes defines a generation that is actively seeking solutions to social problems by harnessing business and challenging government, that is engaged in promoting an interfaith dialogue and that is concerned about the environment, health, education and poverty.
From the One Young World research it’s clear that young Indians are looking to business to fill the moral gap left by politics. This presents a huge opportunity for Indian business but they must beware; these powerful new advocates fully expect them to be more socially responsible and there may be a hefty price to pay if they fail to deliver.
David Jones is CEO, Havas
Comments are welcome at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Aug 20 2011. 01 15 AM IST