Sustainability at heart and purpose defines the path: Diageo India's Hina Nagarajan

Hina Nagarajan, MD and CEO, Diageo India took to the stage to define to the audience what purpose means for a brand and how defining and building on that purpose will tremendously help shape not just their own brand by brand India as well.

By  Storyboard18Feb 29, 2024 10:43 AM
Sustainability at heart and purpose defines the path: Diageo India's Hina Nagarajan
She also shared that living her purpose has defined the way she brings her best self to work. This is a formula for success she said. It’s how you deliver a win-win situation.

Storyboard18’s Visionaries’ Bengaluru chapter was a great success. CMO’s, CEO’, MD’s from India’s top brands all gathered under one roof, enjoying each other’s august company and of course their love and passion for advertising and marketing.

In the sprawling ballroom at Taj West End in the heart of Bengaluru, there were brands that sold vehicles, brands that sold single malts, brands that sold biscuits, brands that sold malabar paratha and of course there were the tech geniuses too. They were all there to celebrate a new kind of marketing - one driven by purpose. Storyboard18's Bangalore Chapter of Visionaries was an evening for books.

Hina Nagarajan, MD and CEO, Diageo India took to the stage to define to the audience what purpose means for a brand and how defining and building on that purpose will tremendously help shape not just their own brand by brand India as well.

“During the course of my , now 35+ years career journey – I discovered my purpose - to live and help others live a life of impact and meaningfulness,” Nagarajan said. “Impact was always about delivering fantastic results, sustained long term growth and profitability for the company and long term value for its stakeholders. Meaningfulness was about doing more than just a job- helping others build a legacy for themselves, giving back to them, the communities we are associated with as well as the larger society,” she added.

She also shared that living her purpose has defined the way she brings her best self to work. This is a formula for success she said. It’s how you deliver a win-win situation.

“When work becomes a platform for people to achieve their purpose and build a legacy, then they stretch to their potential and chase goals that they thought were impossible. And that’s when the magic happens! Purpose-led leadership gains even greater prominence in a VUCA world where businesses are facing increasing complexity and demands from a fast evolving society,” Nagarajan said.

She also shed light on what her role entailed when she joined Diageo India as CEO. It was about redefining strategy to deliver sustained, profitable, double-digit top-line growth and long-term value to all our stakeholders.

“But we felt that this was not enough to achieve our goal of being Most trusted and top performing company in India . We reflected that we needed to go above and beyond and really give life to our company purpose of Celebrating Life, Every day, Everywhere’ and with Everyone,” she added.

This meant, not only responding to consumer and customer needs, but leading the positive change that everyone wishes to see in our industry, doing business the right way across the value chain and driving a positive impact for all communities and stakeholders.

“From the farmers we procure from, to the communities across 28 states that we manufacture in, to driving value and giving strong returns to our shareholders and critically, building an organisation of the future where our employees thrive. Sustainability is at the heart of building our business for the future, and purpose defines the manner in which we bring this alive,” she said.

Inclusivity and diversity in an organisation is essential to facilitate streamlined growth. Nagarajan being a woman CEO in the alcobev industry, traditionally a male dominated industry, saw this as an opportunity to change the paradigm of this industry to make it more inclusive and normalise the narrative.

Sharing some statistics she said, “I’m happy to share that our overall diversity has increased from 7.5% in 2015 to 26.4% in FY23. Today, in India 50% of our Executive Committee and 35% of senior leadership team are women. We are by no means done, but the progress has been motivating for all of us involved in making this happen.”

She added, “We continue to champion inclusion with our market-leading, progressive policies around Pregnancy Loss, Menopause, gender neutral insurance benefits and equal parental leave of 6 months. One recognition that I am very proud of is Diageo being recognized as a Gold Employer by India Workplace Equality Index for LGBT+ inclusion.”

Furthermore, doing business the right way is just as important as leading work on progressive portrayal across brands, products and industries.

Nagarajan highlights that, “As one of the best brand builders in the world, our vision in India has also been for progressive marketing to mirror an aspirational and inclusive societal perspective. Our work should reflect a progressive outlook on where society is heading and how we wish it to be portrayed - truthful and inclusive to all facets of society, not favouring one over the other.”

“Recently we supported a study on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in Indian advertising with The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and the UN Women convened Unstereotype Alliance (UA). The study revealed, compared to 33 percent consumers across the world, 48 percent Indians expressed the need for more inclusive representation by brands. Needless to say, advertising in India is far away from adequate representation and portrayal with some notable gaps, for example- there is  less-than-1 percent representation of the LGBTQ+ community. People with disabilities, constituting about 15 per cent of India's population, are also significantly underrepresented in advertising.”

“Our iconic brand JW celebrates the idea of Collective Progress recognising bold boundary pushers who have had an impact on society at large, with Walkers & Co -  the ones driven by self-belief, their identity and the interlinked idea of progress, both for themselves and the world. Such people are defined by their walk: the milestones, the journey, the resilience, and the learning & growth that comes with it.”

“Our campaigns have included ‘Walkers’ such as Rajakumari, the rap artist breaking barriers as a south Indian and a woman, Sushant Divgikar, and LGBT icon, Hanif Kureshi, who makes art more inclusive with progressive themes at the heart of his work, and recently the Aravani project, empowering LGBTQIA+ community storytelling on mainstream media platforms,” she added.

Similarly for the brand  Royal Challenge Packaged Drinking Water’s ‘Naya Shers’ campaign, Diageo had Virat Kohli alongside talent that questioned ideas of beauty, and represented unlikely heroes who challenged the odds with their ‘bold choices’.

Nagarajan concluded by saying that she believes that this audience at Storyboard18 Visionaries in Bengaluru of marketeers and business leaders can build and shape brands and businesses that can change the way the society and its citizens perceive the world.

“I believe its our responsibility to be the voice of the change that we want to see, for an inclusive, sustainable and progress driven world, with the twin rewards of stakeholder value creation and transformative business for a rich legacy that we can cherish,” she concluded.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward”

First Published on Feb 29, 2024 10:43 AM

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