A culture of enough

Via livemint

Is something heady brewing, some infection catching among smart young corporate professionals in this country?

Recently, Arghyam, a foundation I have set up to fund initiatives in water and sanitation, needed to hire for a senior position. We put out an ad on a mainstream jobs site, in addition to using development sector channels. To our great surprise, we were absolutely flooded with enquiries.

Professionals with the kind of resume that could easily be taken very seriously in any blue chip company were telling us that they were looking for meaningful change. They were saying that they did not want to work in the corporate sector any more. That they were willing to take home half of what they were currently earning. That perhaps they were getting too much anyway. That instead of working so hard to ensure that someone bought one brand of something instead of another, they wanted to use their acquired skills to work as hard to ensure social outcomes.

Yet, over the past couple of years, I have been sensing a seminal shift. This is not just a trickle of people opting out of cushy jobs. This is more like a leak. Will it become a flood?

Why are some of the brightest corporate minds turning their attention to social projects instead of the business of making money?

From my point of view in the social sector, this inflow of talent is a great thing. We do need more creativity, more capacity, more financial accountability and also people with different skills and experience to join the work of creating a more equitable society.

Yet, I also think this might be a wake-up call for the Indian corporate sector. Why is a sense of dissatisfaction spreading? Maybe success has become its own failure in some sense—in that so many brilliant young people rose up the corporate ladder, quickly made their money through Esops or other means, and had many choices to opt out of the daily grind.

But a more troubling question is whether the agenda of the corporate sector is beginning to look too separate from that of India as a whole. Could this be a reaction to an insensitivity to ecosystems and also to some poor business practices that are far too prevalent in our society?

There is a deepening sense of unease over social divides, along with overarching evidence that this is a different kind of century. Terror, global warming, poverty and disease, ironically, are reminding us of our common destiny, perhaps as never before. There is bubbling angst about what kind of world we will leave for our children.

Wonderfully, this trickle-turned-leak suggests that the message is hitting home, where the heart is. People are asking the key question—what message is my own life giving? And that can only be good news.

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