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  • Writer's pictureRahul Waslekar

Gandhi, Tata and Trushteeship

Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2 strums a chord of patriotism, peace and moral ethics in every Indian’s heart. He reminds us of the struggles, challenges and long hard road he fought for the independence of India. A firm believer of non-violence and truth, Gandhi’s teachings soon formed its own branch of philosophical teachings – Gandhism.

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Among many of his philosophies, Gandhi believed in the philosophy of trusteeship. Being a social activist and a lawyer, he preached for stronger egalitarian means in society. According to the theory of trusteeship, big businesses or big corporations must understand their responsibility to weaker and vulnerable sections of society. They should use a portion of their profits towards these vulnerable sections. This would make them act as ‘trustees’ by serving towards the welfare of society. The redistribution of wealth would aim at making societies more egalitarian by trying to further shorten the gap between the rich and the poor. Even when solving societal and economic issues, Gandhi strictly kept his belief of non-violence and truth close to him.

This philosophical teaching also gave birth to the rise of corporate social responsibility. Today, as per law, companies in India (only after attaining a certain net worth or net profit) have to spend 2% or more of its average net profit towards CSR activities. The Companies Act 2013, reinforced the mandatory role of CSR in companies that have transformed business activities to help them successfully implement activities that would solely benefit social causes.

A fine example of a man who strongly believed and implemented this school of thought was Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy (J.R.D.) Tata. JRD Tata, was born and brought up in Paris, France which is where he attended school. He was also educated in Japan and England. Soon after serving his mandatory conscription in France, JRD gave up his French citizenship and came to Bombay. In Bombay, he was soon appointed as the Chairman of Tata and Sons at the age of 34. From here on, he changed the face of Tata and Sons and soon was idolised in the country. Within years, he converted his business into a conglomerate. He founded Tata Tea, Tata Motors, Air India, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, among many others. He built institutions that would last decades and companies that would be present all over the world.

While JRD Tata changed the face of business in India, he also built a philanthropic legacy. His initiatives and activities towards society has helped the working class immensely. He contributed his profits towards charitable activities that would help build the nation. He was a man of humility with an altruistic attitude. He followed the principles of trusteeship because it was innate within him to care and give back to society.

Hence, the philosophy of trusteeship teaches the rich and wealthy to act as social entrepreneurs, as JRD Tata did throughout his life. As JRD was a great Indian citizen with childhood in France and was also buried in Paris, he is a great inspiration for entrepreneurs in both countries.

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