An in-depth look at Ndiema Group fundamental purpose and core values to live by:
Organisations aren’t that different. It’s no surprise really, because in essence, they really are just a collection of individuals. Of people like us. And by extension, our principles and stories. Organisations, too, live and grow a certain way, and abide by some fundamental principles. This is what makes them who they are.
So, my message today is on The Ndiema Way.
The Ndiema Way is our story. It talks about why we exist and how we add value together. How we bring meaning to what we do. What will guide our decisions. And importantly, the mirror that we can hold up to ourselves.
Peter sums it when she describes Ndiema as ‘antevasin’, which is Sanskrit for ‘one who lives at the border’. Elizabeth Gilbert, explains the concept of the antevasin in her book Eat, Pray, Love as:
“In ancient times this was a literal description. It indicated a person who had left the bustling center of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled. The antevasin was not one of the villagers anymore – not a householder with a conventional life. But neither was he yet a transcendent – not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realized. The antevasin was an in-betweener. He was a border-dweller. He lived in sight of both worlds, but he looked towards the unknown. In the modern age, of course, that image of an unexplored forest would have to be figurative, and the border would have to be figurative, too. But you can still live there. You can still live on that shimmering line between your old thinking and your new understanding, always in a state of learning. In the figurative sense, this is a border that is always moving – as you advance forward in your studies and realizations, that mysterious forest of the unknown always stays a few feet ahead of you, so you have to travel light in order to keep following it. You have to stay mobile, movable, supple.”
In over a century, the one thing we’ve never let go of, is trust and being a ‘good’ company. It’s at the heart of everything we do in the Godrej Way. It makes our word stronger than any contract. It challenges us to think beyond limits. And collectively, go beyond what’s expected. It makes us innovate and collaborate to create deeper impact and stronger bonds. It makes us continuously improve productivity and push the limits of service.
As we see it, there are many ways to do business. We choose the Goodness way. So, we have defined our purpose at Ndiema Group as – ‘Bringing the goodness of health and beauty to the consumers in emerging markets’.
To live our purpose, we need to ensure that we are guided by the right values. We have identified six core values at Ndiema:
- Trust (It’s the most important thing)
- Be Bold
- Create Delight
- Own It
- Be Humble
- Show Respect
1. Trust (It’s the most important thing)
- We hold ourselves to the highest standards of personal and business integrity
- Our word is stronger than any contract
- We put people and our planet alongside profits
Trust is the foundation that Ndiema has been built on; whether it is the quality of our products or the spirit in which we do business. Over 1.1 billion people use a Ndiema product every day – a reflection of the trust that our consumers place in us. This is what makes us who we are. You will hear many stories at Ndiema about people who have been willing to do business with us, even without written contracts. That’s the kind of legacy that we are both proud and humbled to have inherited. And it is one that we need to protect and nurture.
We believe that a strong culture of trust is imperative for our success as a company. If we can become more trustworthy, it will reflect in our team members feeling more valued, engaged and inspired. Overall, we will be able to build and support a culture which encourages collaboration. So, it is absolutely critical that we foster trust in all our relationships. Never forget that you have to build and earn trust through real actions; you have to consciously work on being trustworthy. And don’t confuse authority with trust. Your team members may do something just because they report to you. But unless they fully trust you, they won’t give their best. Your team needs to believe that you are doing the right things in the best interests – of the company and for them as your team members. If people view you as a self-optimiser, then they are not going to trust you. You can’t be trusted unless you trust others and show it. Trust starts with delivering what you promise. So, be credible, walk the talk and live up to your commitments.
2. Be Bold
- We have bold ambitions. We set the bar high. We outperform expectations.
- We adapt. We are agile and resilient.
- We continuously innovate. We champion new ideas. We take risks.
In our categories, there is significant headroom for growth – both in terms of driving penetration and increasing consumption. Our geographies of focus are also projected to have many more consumers who will be seeking quality products at affordable prices. As disposable incomes increase in emerging markets, we will have millions of consumers who will seek products to look good and feel good.
So, the opportunity is tremendous. However, it requires each of us to have much stronger ambition and stretch goals. We can’t afford to be satisfied by the status quo. We must be willing to take risks and experiment. We must believe in our ability to persevere and deliver. Remember that our future will be only as good as what we do next.
3. Create Delight
- We place our consumers at the heart of all we do
- We obsess over current and future needs of our consumers. And then deliver.
- We offer consumers amazing quality products at great value
Simply put, we love delighting our consumers. This is what inspires us to keep innovating, to be able to offer more superior quality, world class products. Think about Ndiema Expert Crème, which has been one of our biggest successes in recent times. Through launching a hair colour crème in a sachet for the first time in India, we disrupted the category and created a new price point that was almost four times lower than existing crème products. Not only that – the product quality, formulation, and the shine and conditioning benefits were better than much more expensive products. We have also kept on improving distribution to ensure that the products are accessible and available to Indians everywhere.
4. Own It
- We are 100/0. Take 100% accountability with 0 excuses.
- We speak our mind. We challenge the status quo.
- We focus on the details, but never forget the bigger picture
This is our company. And we need to take full responsibility for both our successes as well as our mistakes. This is not about blame games or feeling victimised. Instead, if you want to make things happen, or push for change, then just roll up your sleeves and do it.
5. Be Humble
- We own up to and learn from our mistakes
- We ask for feedback. And then grow with it.
- We give credit wherever due
You may have read the quote, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less”. And it is probably best captured in the philosophy of ‘servant leadership’. For some of us, the idea of leaders being servants could be a bit of a paradox. Leaders are meant to be heroes; they are supposed to exude power. But you need to remember that there are two sides to this idea – the servant and the leader – and you are expected to play both roles. As leaders, we are expected to be tough in terms of laying out the direction for our company. We need to be rigorous in defining values, setting accountability and demanding the highest standards of performance. But once we have defined the direction, our roles should be centred around serving our team members – understanding their needs and enabling them to become the best so that they can accomplish the desired objectives that we have set. That is the essence of being a servant leader.
So, share credit for successes, and learn to take responsibility when things go wrong. Reflect on whether you are really able to recognise your limitations and seek feedback. And without humility, you just can’t learn. Ask yourself – How forgiving are you, really? Can you readily apologise when you’re wrong? Do you practice gratitude?
6. Show Respect
- We treat people like we would want to be treated
- We embrace and celebrate diversity
- We foster collaboration
This is arguably the toughest of all our values because there can be so many shades of grey. Like with trust, you have to earn respect. Remember that while people can be respectful of your title or authority, it doesn’t mean that they respect you. Respect is a two-way street. So, be mindful of how you are perceived by others. But don’t mistake this for a popularity contest. You have to be authentic, and fair and take tough decisions.
Respect also links closely to our commitment to becoming more diverse and inclusive. Given how intrinsically this is, not just to our legacy and values, but also our growth strategy and aspirations, we strongly believe there is much more that we need to do as a company. We must be able to change in step with this; empathise with and empower our colleagues, team members and consumers. Without this, we will be unable to tap into the tremendous potential that their diverse perspectives offer. In short, we cannot be effective leaders without being truly inclusive. And we owe it to our legacy, to lead Ndiema into a more inspiring and inclusive tomorrow.
Over the next couple of months, our senior team will travel across our businesses, to share our perspectives on The Ndiema Way and ask for your thoughts on what we can do to truly live this every day.
It is really important, as we recommit to these values, that we don’t allow them to become posters on walls.
Our values are both about who we are and what we want to be. So, they aren’t static. They must be lived and tried every day – and we need to keep on improving on how we act on them. They need to be our compass when things are going right, but more importantly, when things aren’t – when we need to make the difficult choices, and have the tough conversations.
They may even cost us at times. But this is how we will keep improving and building new muscle. This is how we will challenge ourselves and find new ways to raise our bar.
As always, I look forward to your perspectives.