Real Leaders

How India Will Lead the Way to the Global Goals

According to a recently released report by the World Economic Forum and Bain & Company, India will become the world’s youngest major economy, with 77 percent of Indians falling under the age of 44 by 2030.

India will overtake China as the most populous country in the world, the report forecasts, and 80 percent of Indian households will become middle class by 2030. Consumer spending will increase from $1.4 trillion to $5.7 trillion by 2030.

All indications suggest that India will continue on this path as one of the world’s most dynamic consumption environments. This is being propelled by five major drivers: income growth, steady and dispersed urbanization, favorable demographics, technology access and innovation, and evolving consumer attitudes. Mobile phone use is accelerating each of these growth factors.

The question in the minds of many is whether India will pursue, with suitable urgency, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) as a framework to guide this growth. 

Indeed, these trends place a disproportionate amount of opportunity – and pressure – on India to rise to the challenge presented by the 2030 global goals. For India to make material gains against SDG targets, businesses will need to help. 

“Omniwin” production and marketing models connect brand “KPIs” (Key Performance Indicators) with SDG-aligned social impact. New entrants to the Indian market, like US-based 5th Element Group PBC, have opened country offices in India to help brands wanting to align more with customers and unlock funding for causes that matter.

“Omniwin solutions will create great opportunities for both brands and consumers and help expedite India’s progress towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals,” says Sankalp Potbhare, Managing Director for Kraft Heinz. 

How will this happen? In India, the government has enacted legislation requiring that businesses put 2 percent of their profits towards charitable work.  Too often, however, these funds are not reaching the non-profit organizations doing the work.Business is also disconnected from the charitable work being funded. Many are now exploring “Good Exchanges,” a marketing framework launched in the U.S. in 2015 to support global activations for brands such as Unilever, Mars and Mattel. 

Good Exchange solutions tap brand marketing budgets with a new kind of consumer engagement model: brands fund NGOs when consumers take digital action (like sharing content). “Good Exchange models seem innovative and pertinent to India, where consumers are digitally accessible,” says Vinay Shrivastava, Head of New Business and Digital Strategy for Marico.

The implications of accessing marketing budgets – rather than CSR or foundation budgets that are much smaller – represents a significant shift in corporate thinking. Operating performance and grant-making have historically resided in very separate silos in most corporate cultures. 

“I’m excited to see Good Exchange-style solutions that help SDG-aligned Indian brands reach consumers they have never reached before, while lifting millions of Indians out of poverty,” says Udit Jain, Head of Branding and Communication at Airtel Mobility. 

Will business redefine SDG-aligned philanthropy in India? Only time will tell. It seems unlikely that India can play its part in the global community if it doesn’t happen, and the sooner the better. 

“We think India is the most remarkable opportunity for business-led SDG impact in the world,” says 5th Element President Jim Van Eerden.  “Indian companies that engage its growing, young population can lead the way in moving the needle for good. That time is now.”   

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