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Past Issue • Oct-Dec 2013

Triple Bottom Line Performance: The Role of Business in Nation Building

YC Deveshwar is the Chairman of ITC Limited, one of India’s leading private sector companies with a market capitalisation of US$ 45 billion and a turnover of over US$ 7 billion. Deveshwar was conferred the Padma Bhushan and was recently ranked among the top ten best performing Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) worldwide by the Harvard Business Review. Under his leadership, ITC has institutionalised an approach for triple bottom line performance that augments social and ecological value generated by the company’s operations even as it enhances financial value creation. In this far-ranging conversation with Nalin Srivastava, researcher and formerly Director of Operations and Sustainability at the Indian School of Business, Deveshwar challenges management precepts and discusses the basis of ITC’s remarkable success.

Let me take you back to 2008 when you were here in ISB, and you made a comment about the bottom of the pyramid.
That the only way to make money out of it [bottom of the pyramid] is to write a book? I remember that. When it comes to the base of the pyramid, renowned management experts like CK Prahalad have essentially looked at aggregation of the meagre purchasing power at the bottom of the pyramid and argued that it can be a big market. However, viewing the bottom of the pyramid merely as a market for low cost products would only mean taking away from someone’s meagre resources without enlarging his or her capacity to spend. This does not empower the people living at the margins of society. So enlarging incomes and thereby empowering the purchaser at the bottom of the pyramid should be part and parcel of the business contribution, rather than merely cutting the product to suit a small pocket. It is more important to first create a fortune ‘for’ the bottom of the pyramid before seeking to tap the fortune ‘at’ the bottom of the pyramid.

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