Don't equate social responsibility with writing large cheques: Deep Kalra


India's leading online travel company MakeMyTrip recently revealed what it does with the five-rupee contribution that customers make while booking travel on the platform. The company recently announced that it has supported plantation of over one million trees over the last ten years in Rajasthan with its NGO partner Seva Mandir. ET Panache caught up with MakeMyTrip Founder & Group CEO Deep Kalra:

1: Sustainability is not the word associated with new economy internet companies in India? What made MakeMyTrip start thinking about it some ten years ago?
 
I have always believed that every organization, irrespective of size, can be a force for good. Contributing to the well-being of communities or environment we operate in doesn't have to be the preserve of super-sized corporations or global business behemoths. As India's one-stop travel shop, we felt it was incumbent on us to promote responsible travel. Today, with the tiny contribution that some of our customers make while booking travel with us along with employee and organization's contribution - we have managed to plant over a million trees. This is a unique example of a corporate-community partnership to make a social impact and we are glad that we decided to dive right in, just a few years into our journey as a business.


2: Can start-ups put purpose before profit?

It's possible to put purpose front and center if you don't equate social responsibility with writing large cheques. If you want to commit to a cause you can start small, use your operations savvy, involve stakeholders - be it employees, customers, local communities or all of them. Choosing the right partners is a very important aspect of doing it well because you may not have it all that is needed to do the job. We have experienced how this work energizes the workforce, especially if you are working with millennials and Gen Z who wish to work with purpose-led brands. We have also witnessed how customers want to partner with brands to help make a difference. So, the belief that you can make an impact beyond core business has nothing to do with whether you are a start-up or an MNC.

3. What's the business case for a company as young as MakeMyTrip to start thinking about CSR?
 
While revenue growth and profit maximization are important markers for businesses, taking care of the environment we operate in is critical for long-term value creation. And that is just how it is whether you are a big business or small. In the context of pollution-choked Delhi, I have often said whether your business has any impact on the quality of the air you breathe or not, the quality of air can have an impact on your business. While companies can have passion projects that they may support, to do some real needle-moving work you have to make a sustained effort.


4. What is the one thing you wish more companies step forward to do?

There is no dearth of issues that one can commit to care for. If you are running a business out of Delhi, I am sure the air pollution worries you. If you are running a business out of Bengaluru, I am sure frothing lakes and what it does to the groundwater bothers you. While building out this program that would allow our customers as well as employees to be a part of the solution, we wanted to make sure we commit ourselves to drive something that is incumbent on a travel company of the size and aspiration we are. The same way, I would wish for more and more companies to step up and think about ways in which we can make an impact beyond the immediate.

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