The pivotal role of social media in the popular uprising in Egypt, known as the Jasmine Revolution, in raising massive support for social activist Anna Hazare in India and in coordinating attacks by the rioters in London last week spawned an unlikely idea in the mind of Anand Mahindra, the vice-chairman of utility vehicle-maker Mahindra and Mahindra.
Why not tap social media to take his company's profile up a notch?
Mahindra, an avid user of micro-blogging Website Twitter, is working to lay down a ‘must follow’ path for companies of tomorrow: “co-create community-driven ideas”.
“The most powerful companies of the future will be those which not only create value for the shareholders but also for the community,” said Mahindra.
His plan is to mould the image of his $12.5 billion, tractors-to-aviation company to appear as a purpose-driven and socially responsible firm, and is gearing up to unveil a two-way global dialogue campaign ‘Spark the Rise’ with consumers.
The move seeks to ‘crowd-source’ ideas for change, and then fund the translation of these ideas into reality.
Mahindra claims his company is taking a calculated risk with this move by putting the firm and its products directly in the line of public fire — but feels it is a risk worth taking.
“We are certainly taking a risk as we put ourselves out there for criticism,” he said. “Consumers around the world have lost the trust in the corporate world especially after the meltdown. What we are doing is starting a movement. We are looking at connecting like-minded people who have genuinely good community driven ideas and want to make a difference but lack a credible platform.”
Over the next six months Mahindra will accelerate discussion and invite ideas on the social media in categories that include technology, energy, agriculture & rural development, infrastructure and social entrepreneurship.
Mahindra and Mahindra will give away a total of 48 grants with a total outlay of around R4 crore as seed capital to ensure that the programme gets into the right gear from the word go.