There lies a far deeper meaning to the ritual worship in the Muslim month of Ramadan. Prayers, fasting, giving charity are actually the tools for inner transformation applying all of one?s physical and financial resources.
The essence is to reconfigure the individual?s bearing from being a ‘taker’ to a ‘giver’. Giving or service restores the balance of life. One serves the soul, the body, and the social other by abstaining from extremes and following a regimen of discipline rigorously. The soul is served further if one introspects on the meaning of how the whole month ends up being a great transformative tool.
Monetizing the Ramadan Spirit
But, as soon as Ramadan heralds in Pakistan, one sees a noisy celebration by business companies especially in the FMCG sector. Entire advertising campaigns are built around the month of material minimalism, consumers are offered a string of discounts and told how the company is doing so much for the disadvantaged. There are corporate sponsorships for free food distributions, zakat disbursement campaigns for the NGO sector; particularly hard-hitting health and education, and so on. And as soon as the month ends, the brains behind the ?do good? campaigns seem to heave a collective sigh of relief and hurriedly move on to other ?seasons? eliciting greater consumption. Only the colourful billboards of attractively packaged discounts and the corporate-NGO partnerships remain for a while to remind the consumers of who did what for the holy month!
The phenomenon raises many questions.
If the ‘doing good’ campaigns last as long as Ramadan, are they really coming from an embedded strategy to serve the interests of the stakeholders or are they pitched from an angle of promoting the company?s image – to encourage more consumption and extravagance?
If an individual fasts to be slimmer, prays to secure Divine rewards, and gives charity to show off; then s/he probably achieves all this – yet misses the point: The point of being transformed into a better human being by serving the self and the other genuinely. The point of contributing to the balance of Life.
Likewise, companies that pitch to get more attention and sales from Ramadan end up achieving their targets, and yet do not really use the opportunity to introspect on how they can genuinely serve their stakeholders and achieve enduring excellence. They do not use the opportunity to reconfigure their bearing from the view of an organization out to take, to that which is out to serve? genuinely. They do not transit themselves onto a level that makes them a socially responsible and a highly profitable business through thick and thin. Rather, they remain submerged in a state that concerns itself with seasons that bring in sales!
I do not wish to disregard the seasonal ?doing good? campaigns of businesses during Ramadan. They at least show a tendency to do good, even if on the surface. Even if they give a glimpse into the company?s real intent, they do succeed in reaching out to fill service gaps within the society? at least temporarily.
Intent, Introspection and System Cleansing
So how does a business achieve an enduring transformation that yields excellence?
By introspecting on the Intent with which the company is engaging the stakeholders. A company can begin by earnestly investigating if its intent to serve goes beyond the temporary price reductions which are usually the means to secure more profits and outdo competitors.
Ramadan can be used as a time to devise a master plan for filtering all business processes within the company that are involved in anything that is against the spirit of serving stakeholders and to cleanse the system of any flaws. These could be related to the quality issues, customer complaint handling procedure, manipulation through advertisements or simply introducing an inclusive, egalitarian culture within the company.
The stakeholder again is the best person to ask how the company is doing. Does the company have any measures to see if the new customers acquired in Ramadan have been drawn to the product’s quality or its pricing; and do they stick around for the next couple of months? Does the company measure the amount of money it spends on advertising during Ramadan and how it can instead deliver its marke-ting and charity partnerships information in the least expensive way, siphoning non-wasted funds into more welfare? Can this money instead be spent on improving the quality of products and services, thereby securing more customers in a nobler way?
Ramadan is also a time when most people are receptive to the idea of service. Forums can be arranged within companies to train employees towards better service standards, and to share with employees how their role in the business is doing good to the society and how they are making a difference by their seemingly mundane job. This can be done by identifying the (hopefully) ?benevolent intent? that goes behind a company’s working.
The ideas given above are actually the beginning of a whole new way of thinking and doing for a company. They lead to systemic cleansing of procedures that lead to higher profitability through well secured stakeholder loyalty.