Pradeep Kashyap, founder and CEO, MART and also known as the father of rural marketing, sits down to have a brief chat about his work and what keeps him going.
You say you do not do charity, but you also say you do not rip poor people off their money, so how do you strike this balance between need and greed?
We charge big organizations like the World Bank our regular consulting fees, but if a small NGO approaches us saying they would like to use our services but are not able to pay our fees, we are willing to negotiate and offer them a fair price; because we believe that just because a few people do not have the ability to pay, it does not mean that they should be deprived of quality consulting.
That is wonderful, however, the big consulting firms are not really known have the same level of social conscience that MART does. Do you think they can also develop a social conscience?
The 2008-09 recession shook up the world economy. Before that, CEOs would be paid 200 times the salary that the lowest rung employee in an organization would be paid. After the meltdown, the salaries of the people in the higher echelons came down a few notches. So one does not say that such big firms will be transformed overnight. It takes time, and events such as the recession will expose them to the realities, and in today’s world a Bill Gates or a Ratan Tata, who give a lot to charity have a lot more respect than people richer than them but without a conscience. Slowly and steadily, we are moving to that point where everyone develops this conscience.
You’ve pioneered the concept of ‘Inclusive Marketing’. Would really like to know a bit about the same.
C K Prahlad had come up with the concept of fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. It really did not make a lot of sense to me, because what he said was that corporates could sell products to the poor; products that they do not even need. What I am saying is, don’t just exploit them by taking their money away, first get them a livelihood, like what ITC is doing with its eChoupal. That is inclusive marketing for everyone’s benefit.
Are there any learnings from Rural Marketing that can be applied in the sector of Urban Marketing or vice-versa?
Oh! Definitely. A lot of products made for rural market have found their way into the urban market, for example Nirma washing powder or Ghadi detergent, ultimately because they deliver value at a lower price.
Among the so many projects that you’ve worked for, what is the one project that you would rate as your favorite (because of either personal or professional reasons)?
I would say the one that I won the maximum visibility for is Project Shakti. It became a Harvard business school case study, every global business chairman of Unilever that came to India was always talking about this project. It was also the one that was the most challenging, because there were a lot of stakeholders in it – there was Unilever, the women groups, the state bureaucracy and NABARD the bank for giving loans.
You have a workforce of 75 people, what keeps them away from pursuing their career at bigger firms where they could get fatter paychecks?
Well, first thing would definitely be the meaning that they derive from their work here, since they are contributing to their society. Second thing is that the work pressure is not very high. We close office at 5:30 PM and there are a lot of learning opportunities. So the learning curve is very steep. We also do not hire too many people because we do not want to dilute the culture that is already there. So that is the tradeoff that we make, and in return we have a very close-knit family atmosphere amongst our workforce which motivates them to continue working.
Interviewed By: Himalay Reddy
Picture Courtesy: Himalay Reddy
Behind the scenes / Research: Vishaal Pathak