I come from a small town and from a close knit family where as a kid I was told that that all beings have a ‘Soul’. I went to Business School about 17 years ago and was highly inspired by two books I read there- ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’ by Robert Pirsig and ‘Maverick’ by Ricardo Semler. I read these two books many a times and owned copies of them and lent them to my friends who never returned them to me, strangely I never asked for them back. I just bought new copies. Maybe deep down I wanted people to have these books and really read them. I’ve had several interesting discussions with friends on these books.
I always wondered if there can exist an organization with a ‘free will’, with a culture where one is free to choose the time that he or she comes to work, where one has no fixed place of work, choose the projects that they can work on and at the same time add great value to the organization as it seems so in Semler’s ‘Maverick’. And also wondered if the concept of exploration and seeking a higher knowledge level as in Prisig’s book can be applied to an organization. Because an organization is not a person, it is a group of people, systems, processes, assets and beliefs which work in a market scenario.
Over the years I had the good fortune of working for many organizations, some local and some MNCs, some large and some small and across different geographies and industries. I experienced different cultures but almost all organizations lacked the inner spirit or inner light – where every stakeholder acts in unison, where there is harmony in all that the organization does and it is to achieve a common purpose which in turn would result in a greater good.
Last year I had the opportunity to attend a senior leaders program at IIM Ahmadabad where I came across a professor who somehow made me realize that the concept that I have always pondered over and questioned, what I was always looking for was actually ‘The Soul’ of an organization . I understood finally that all these years I was actually wondering if organizations could have ‘Souls’. This professor also made me realize that organizations can be seen as beings and can indeed have souls and it is possible for us to build an organization with a ‘Soul’.
And that is exactly what we are attempting to do at ‘WOW Express’, an E-commerce logistics company that I cofounded almost immediately after my IIM-A program. We started by agreeing that it’s the delivery boy who is the face of our company, who is the core of our business. We decided to call him ‘Service Marshal’ thereby giving dignity and pride to his position. We decided to do small things that matter to him. We started a ‘Breakfast at Branch’ concept where the service marshals begin their day with breakfast at work which they look forward to everyday. We decided to be amongst the better paying companies and also offered schemes such as education subsidies for self and kids. We call ourselves the WOW Family and try and share the ups and downs!! We encourage people to take risks at the same time we ask them to do stuff that makes a difference to our society at large.
The journey has just begun and time will tell as to how successful we are in our attempt of building an organization with a ‘Soul’.