News from Cass Business School

Cass professor points to trusteeship as the building blocks of reputation

Professor Ajay Bhalla joins senior business leaders at launch of BRIC Index.

TLG Communications launched its inaugural BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) Index of Thought Leaders at an event in London last week. Held at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), several guest speakers, including Professor Ajay Bhalla, discussed how future global leaders could establish themselves as 'thought leaders'.

The BRIC Index of Thought Leaders was compiled from a survey of over 300 opinion leaders and examined factors such as adaptability and communication. According to the CBI, a company demonstrating good thought leadership is able to modify and pioneer strategy according to different global and local factors.

Thought leaders are defined as "businesses that change attitudes and behaviours of customers, employees or stakeholders", says Professor Bhalla, who specialises in global innovation at Cass Business School.

Professor Bhalla joined a panel including Jim O'Neill, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and Tracey Corrigan, Editor of The Wall Street Journal. They discussed the key factors involved in developing a reputation as a thought leader and to what extent global brands will come from emerging or developed markets.

Professor Bhalla posed the question "How can you build reputation, which is sustainable and bridges the divide between internal and external stakeholders?"

He continued "What does it take for a firm to go beyond viewing corporate reputation as part of deliberate planning and become one in which reputation comes naturally without relying on the media machine?"

The answer lies in trusteeship, he argued. Using Indian companies as examples he pointed out that the leading Indian firms in the Thought Leadership Index are family led. "Leaders in these family-owned firms see themselves as trustees for the stake-holders they represent: family, society, employees and customers".

At the top of the BRIC Index of Thought Leaders is Ifosys Technologies, a firm which has emerged as one of the top five technology services globally, and reported a turnover of $6.5 billion last year.

Professor Bhalla pointed to its Chairman and Chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy as an example of the ideology of a good trustee, and quoted his foreword from the Infosys 2011 annual report: "The crucial things we have to do in the future are: recognise our weaknesses; be open-minded about learning from people better than us; learn from our mistakes and not repeat them; be humble, honest and courteous; benchmark with the best in every dimension; use innovation to perform at global levels and create a worthwhile vision and improve every day".

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