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Branson redefines business: Customer first is passé, its staff first

18-November-2005
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Branson redefines business: Customer first is passé, its staff first

He runs a business empire of over 200 companies in 29 countries.You can call him the manufacturer of brands. We are talking about Sir Richard Branson, Chairman and Founder, Virgin Group of Companies. And when he speaks about creating successful brands and managing wealth, you’d think he is the perfect choice, the most eligible person to talk on the subject. And you are right.

Delivering the 4th Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture, Branson spoke about all these and more. On building a successful brand, Branson observed, giving the example of his own brand, which was considered too rude and raunchy initially, “You’ve got to believe in your brand than anything else in the world, then only others will take note of you.”

While deliberating on what comes first in a business, Branson crushed the age-old idea of customer first, famously quoting Mahatma Gandhi. Branson said, “It is rather the other way. It’s the staff, who comes first for us at Virgin. If you have a happy staff, then you have happy customers and thus, you have happy shareholders. The staff are the people who are the real face of your brand. They must feel proud to be associated with the brand. They must be part of the brand, they must be part of the mission.”

Dwelling on the importance of wealth, Branson said, “With wealth comes responsibility. Huge wealth means huge responsibility. Runnnig a business is not an ethical but a human responsibility.”

Speaking about his company’s humanitarian efforts, Branson pointed out how Virgin played on its part to curb HIV/AIDS through its condom company, terming AIDS as the ‘Living Killer.’ Cautioning India about the increasing threat from AIDS, Branson said, “We have to ensure ‘No Percentage Challenge’ for everybody starting from the child in the mother’s womb having zero-percentage risk from AIDS.”

On India, Branson said, “On my first visit, 30 years ago, India was a mystical and spiritual place to me. It has now become an agile and powerful democracy. I find the people of India very articulate and grounded. India has an emerging middle-class market, at least twice the size that of UK. Now when India speaks, the world listens.”

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