Likening a higher corporate purpose to ‘a compass that showed the true North’, R. Gopalakrishnan, director of Tata Sons, on Monday said society desperately needed more companies that saw business as not just about bottomlines but as a tool to serve society, too.

Delivering the second Raghu Pillai annual memorial oration under the joint auspices of Madras Management Association (MMA) and Coaching Foundation India (CFI), Mr. Gopalakrishnan pointed out that it was not just the Tata Group, which under its founder Jamsetji Tata had established perhaps the world’s first charitable trust.

Many other Indian companies too that have become exemplars in showing the way for business to serve society.

“We need more such institutions not only in India but all over the world,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan, who had advanced a career spanning over 45 years by imbibing what he terms the ‘sanskar’ of two corporate groups, Unilever and Tata Group.

Drawing from his experience with the Tatas, Mr. Gopalakrishnan pointed out that if one were to adopt a ‘helicopter view’ of the company as a wise old man, the two distinctive things would be adaptability and employee engagement.

He also pointed to the simplicity of rules that clearly defined the don’ts, a structure that enabled managers to do the right thing and the capacity to be eco-sensitive that helped economic and social progress go hand in hand

According to Mr. Gopalakrishnan, the next 50 years would be seminal for the world of business with the basis of appreciation of a company’s value moving from its knowledge assets to its ethical assets that had already replaced physical assets in the industrial-era evaluation.

Mr. Gopalakrishnan’s book ‘A Comma in a Sentence’ was launched on the occasion.

Later, at a session chaired by Pradipta Mohapatra, CFI chairman, Dr. E.S. Krishnamoorthy, neuroscientist and founder director of ‘Neurokrish’ engaged the author in a conversation about various aspects of the book.

Singer Usha Uthup rendered a few lines from a couple of songs, including the hit ‘Under the Mango tree’ from the film ‘Madhana Maaligai’ as a tribute to the memory of Raghu Pillai.

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