Not every change lies at the cusp of shifting epochs. We should not ignore minor deviations from contemporary practices whose import is revealed only as history progresses, and not entirely in the moment of their occurrence. Change anyway lies on the intersection of individual behaviour and institutional limitations, where one cannot say with certainty which part is playing a bigger role.
In this issue, we have taken a measured step of celebrating 22 changemakers and changes which could be categorised as individual actions, institutional philosophy or a combination of both. Invariably, the changemaker gets defined as a person who has brought perceptible social change, especially of the kind that is not possible to be executed while showing usual social behaviour or regular institutional practices.
However, the Outlook Business team, while making this principle as the defining feature of the changemakers it has covered in this issue, has paid attention to processes and behaviour whose outcome may not have yet played out fully. How is a relentless historian of the 1857 revolt a changemaker? What possibly could a historian do to change society? But, what if his discovery of a Jallianwala Bagh type of incident is accepted by his contemporaries after genetic evidence weighs in his favour? This could force scholars to revise the history of colonialism in India!
Can a corporate leader’s experiments with philosophical living have a bearing on business models and job creation? Zoho’s Sridhar Vembu certainly thinks so. He has set up SaaS campuses outside the usual setting of IT and corporate parks because he believes in “transnational localism”. This nomenclature could not have found a conceptual meaning in pre-SaaS days. Only a secure cloud-based business model can let you take your work with you or let Tier II and Tier III workers seek work in top global IT brands. NextWealth is another such changemaker that is bridging the gap between the tiers and taking jobs to where workers live. However, the difference, and maybe the irony, in the two models is that while Vembu wants to develop an economic ecosystem around non-urban centres with a corporate structure, NextWealth has a stated goal of keeping people over profit and wants to be a bridge between the urban job giver and semi-urban jobseeker.
As one builds on the definition of change, business innovation makes a strong entry into the list of qualities that the corporate sector should have to survive and contribute to the economy. This type of change accommodates contrast. While a Siddhartha Lal of Eicher Motors can be credited with smoothening the Royal Enfield product line and business and operational processes for a decade, he is now ready to crack the 500 cc plus market in foreign territories. The inward-looking tycoon, on the other hand, is Anil Agarwal, whose Vedanta Group has brought in foreign direct investment through the Taiwanese chipmaker and manufacturer of iPhones, Foxconn, for a chip-making facility in Gujarat. Agarwal, with his umpteenth attempt at a rebirth, seems to be on the right side of a business philosophy now.
This year’s list includes do-gooders and pathfinders whose impulse to stand out has no larger purpose other than being true to their core values. Saurabh Kirpal is a curious figure, because he has everything going for him in life. Still, he is driven to make a statement for the queer community. Vishal Ranjan Daftuar wants lost people to be reunited with their families, while Bhavreen Khandari wants all mothers to get together for the sake of environment and clean air.
Other changemakers are politicians, industrialists, corporate leaders, social movements and even an app in the form of WhatsApp API that have redefined themselves and society. Their logic for change is mostly good logic and continuity of goodness.