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Breathing Out: Why Success Should Not Be Take, Take, Take

19/01/2015 11:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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We have to breathe out as well as in, that is how life works.

It is also how businesses work, a matter of give and take.

And it is similarly how success should work, sharing good fortune with those you profit from, and even those you do not.

As an individual, the measure of success is often defined as your value, how much you are worth. The same goes for businesses.

We talk in terms of revenue, turnover, profit. We assign positions on the corporate hierarchy by measuring pecuniary stock.

Like many of the wealthiest businessmen, these top businesses take, take, take, from the world.

This is partly because the traditional theory of business purported that we are driven by straightforward self-interest, such as financial incentives or advancements.

However, people are prosocial creatures. We want to help each other.

Pennsylvania's Professor Adam Grant proved this with his detailed research into the strategy of 'Give and Take'. Those who give are often far more successful than their peers. He said in interview with the Huffington Post, that he "would love to redefine success to say it's not just what you achieve, it's also what you help other people achieve."

I concur wholeheartedly. I fully believe giving back is a greater measure of success, and success is more measurable when you share it.

However, I believe that giving back does not just refer to direct financial aid. It is about social responsibility, creating opportunities, making life for others easier and more efficient.

For example, one of the most vital areas in which to give back in business includes the return of power to consumers, giving the everyman a stakehold in matters that affect them.

In today's digitally-enhanced world there is no excuse not to do this.

Two ways of enabling this kind of power-transfer are greater transparency and openness to collaboration. For example, giving people insight into the way your business works creates trust and respect, allowing them to contribute or interact with that business make it even more open.

What many forget is that acts of social good take companies out of the office and into the local community. It means success spills outwards in a ripple effect that eventually leads to greater fortune.

In my own industry, that of money transfer, this is particularly poignant.

Fees for money transfer are so scandalously high that the industry would have a GDP bigger than Argentina or Iran if it was represented as a single country. This extortionate rise in costs is primarily due to user's lack of access to the banking systems they are dependent on and lack of transparency in the market.

Inherently opaque and inaccessible to most consumers, it has shut out those dependent on the ability to send money home and consequently lost their trust and their business. Many would rather send money home in an envelope than go through a bank, despite risks to safety.

Success that should be indubitable, is therefore questionable. The take, take, take attitude has drawn ridicule from prominent philanthropists such as Dilip Ratha, who called it 'unethically expensive' as well as inspired disruptive alternatives to boom.

To repair the industry and for businesses to succeed again when it starts to collaborate with those who send money home to their families, and to think about what it can give back to the communities it has taken so much from.

If the remittance industry became fair, it could become a genuine power for social good.

And the same goes for any industry, any company. Whether their interests are local or global, making the decision to give back can have a seismic impact on communities and organizations. There's no better way to earn the trust and admiration of a customer base, invigorate the workforce, or change lives for the better than by sharing success.

In other words, doing good can also be good for business.

So I leave you with a story:

The first time I cut a birthday cake I was thirty-years-old.

Growing up in Indore, my birthdays were not about me. They were not about feasting on food my mother made.

Instead, it was about taking freshly prepared delicacies to people who needed it, giving them to people less fortunate than my family.

It is an ethos that I have clung to throughout my adult life; from the time I left India for London with £200 in my pocket right up until today as an accomplished entrepreneur, good fortune has been something I have wanted to share with the people who need it most.

We all need to make a difference in this world. We cannot be consumers forever. We have to get the balance right, and have a responsibility to other people and to society.

We have breathed in. Now we have to breathe out.

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