A lesson in long-term brand building

“Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks. Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches.”

Thus wrote Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata in a letter to his son Dorabji Tata about his vision for the township that would eventually become Jamshedpur. He understood the importance of aligning business goals to those of the community around, and had the foresight to bring about sustainable development by creating a culture where employees, their families, the surrounding community and the society at large are actively involved in improving the quality of their lives.

If I were to define Jamsetji to the present generation in one sentence, it would be…

He was India’s first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Smart City and Start-Up champion.

He had actually done all of this much before these terms gained cognisance.

An Enviable Ecosystem

I have always considered myself fortunate for being born and brought up in the beautiful ecosystem called Jamshedpur, that was envisaged by Jamsetji. And to me March 3, which is celebrated every year as Founder’s Day (Jamsetji was born on March 3, 1839), is as sacred as August 15 and January 26.

Jamshedpur was earlier part of Bihar…it became part of Jharkhand since November 2000 when the state was carved out of the southern part of Bihar. Even today if you ask someone who is not a native of Bihar or Jharkhand if they would like to work and live in one of these two states, the answer would generally be a NO. But if you ask them if they would want to work and live in Jamshedpur, there will be a lot of interest shown. The reason for this kind of feedback / response is very simple…the steel city is perceived to be like a cool and comforting oasis in the midst of a hot and arid desert. My own family is testimony to this.

The Family Connect

We basically belong to Kerala. But both my maternal and paternal grandfathers moved to Jamshedpur in the mid-1930s and later got their respective families too. My maternal grandfather was employed with TELCO (now Tata Motors) and my paternal grandfather with TISCO (now Tata Steel). By virtue of this, my parents’ wedding was quite a ‘joint venture’ between TELCO and TISCO. The charm of the steel city was such that my grandparents (both sides) chose not to go back to Kerala (except for yearly trips to visit relatives) even after retirement…and they lived in Jamshedpur till they lived. And just like many from his generation, my father too remained a ‘one company’ employee throughout his work life. After a 34-years long stint with TISCO / Tata Steel, he retired in 2006. My parents continue to live in Jamshedpur. As far as I am concerned, in any form where I am supposed to fill in my ‘Native Place’, without an iota of doubt I fill in JAMSHEDPUR…and I just feel proud whenever I do so.

The Caring Aspect

Tata Steel’s community and employee centric initiatives need no introduction. These initiatives have been speaking for themselves over the decades. So when the company announced pandemic support initiatives for its employees in May 2021, wherein among other things was the company’s commitment to pay the last drawn salary (alongwith housing and medical benefits) of a deceased employee (on account of COVID-19) to her / his family till she / he would have retired at the age of 60, it didn’t really surprise me. Simply because I was aware of the culture and found the initiatives to be nothing more than an extension of that culture.

Over the decades, the company has relentlessly worked towards creating an overall progressive impact on the society around in alignment with its vision, mission, values and culture.

Last Word

Many a time, while implementing progressive initiatives that result in economic, social and environmental benefits for all its stakeholders (both internal and external), companies don’t realise that they are also sub-consciously building a strong brand in the process…a brand that will remain etched in the minds of people for years to come.

Right from my childhood days (‘Bachpan se leke aaj tak…’ as Amitabh would say in quite a few of his movies from the 1970s & 1980s), Tata Steel / TISCO has gradually carved a positive brand image in my mind (and in the minds of many who have lived in and experienced that ecosystem)…and they did this while ALSO MAKING STEEL. Pandemic or no pandemic, consciously or subconsciously, that image will live me till the time I live.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Vijay Shekhar
Vice President at Concept Public Relations
With over 23 years of experience as a communications professional, Vijay has always been on the consultancy side of the table and has worked on a wide slate of accounts spanning across sectors. He holds a B. Com and an MBA (Human Resources) from the University of Pune.

Vijay likes to watch old Hindi classic films and listen to old Hindi film songs, and has an enviable collection of both of these. He enjoys reading autobiographies and biographies, and also short stories, his favourite authors being R. K. Narayan, Munshi Premchand, Leo Tolstoy and Guy de Maupassant. Vijay also has a hobby of collecting news clippings (from newspapers and magazines) of important events across the globe…events that can be truly classified as ‘Breaking News’ or ‘Front Page News’.

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