BEIM's Member shares his experience at the recent International Conference on Business Ethics in India


Making Business An Engine For Sustainable Growth

Asia Plateau, Panchgani, India
January 22 To 26, 2016

My first journey to the Caux Conference in Asia Plateau, Panchgani, India was an extraordinary, enriching and an inspiring experience . It was an excellent conference in every sense. The conference was very inclusive, highly engaging, and offered one of the most diverse learning and networking experience. It was a great opportunity for meeting peers and leaders in their respective professions from around the globe and sharing views. Subjects and plenary sessions covered throughout the conference were interesting, innovative and well delivered. Venue and support were perfect. The superb organization of event made for a relaxed, productive opportunity for knowledge exchange stirring up ones inner convictions and commitments at a personal level. The plenary sessions and open discussion interactions with experienced speakers provided a safe and privileged space to inspire, equip and connect individuals and groups from around the globe to engage effectively and innovatively in the promotion of trust, ethical leadership and sustainable living.

It was exciting to discover that more than 100 delegates, speakers and volunteers from over 15 countries, including Canada, USA, Fiji Islands, Germany,  Kenya,  Malaysia, Japan, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tibet and the United Kingdom  attended the conference bringing together a true diversity of people and culture.

The theme of the conference “Making Business An Engine For Sustainable Growth”, I presume, was selected on the understanding   that   sustainable   development   of   the   emerging economies will depend on how prepared they are in tackling the contemporary issues of business ethics and corporate social responsibility among others.

The first day (22 January 2016) of the conference began with a traditional Indian welcome and the most fascinating moment of the day was the lighting of the inaugural lamp by representatives of various countries. As dusk descended on the plateau, it was time for soup and food, mint tea and informal  chat.

The day two (Saturday, 23 January 2016) and day five (Tuesday, 26 January) of conference witnessed a  solemn  beginning with multi-faith prayers led by Mrs. Asma Shah, Volunteer, Asia Plateau  where participants sat in a circle around a lamp to offer prayers from their respective faiths and sang hymns, poems and chants in different languages. This was a unique spiritual awakening experience where you find people of different faith and culture respecting and accepting other beliefs and religion.

The second day of the conference began with a very inspiring talk by Dr. Ravindra Rao, Resident Trustee & Director, Friends of MRA, Panchgani on Inner Governance which is a driver of corporate and public governance. Inner Governance lets us change ourselves and helps us become change leaders through two simple tools. The first is through Absolute Moral Standards covering aspects of Purity, Honesty, Unselfishness, Love (PHUL) and secondly by listening to our Inner Voice. Listening to the Inner Voice reveals a purpose and meaning to life by giving us clarity where there is confusion or a dilemma; gives courage, confidence and strength; shows how we can lead others to change; and to think strategically to make a difference in society.  This was a very inspiring and thought provoking session whereby I discovered  that change occurs when someone begins with himself and the inner voice in oneself can guide us in answering our predicaments on what is right and what is wrong?.

The Bollywood style experience narrated by Mr. Ramesh Ramanathan, Chairman, Janaa Group in his struggle marrying his wife, studying while his wife was waiting on tables supporting him and working arduously in achieving his aspirations and goals were very inspiring.

As the   sun   rose   in the     valley     overlooking  Asia  Plateau on the third day (Sunday, January 24) and fourth day (Monday, 25 January 2016) of the conference, a  dozen  participants opted  for yoga  and pranayama in  the  foyer, with  Ms  Vinita  Saxena, Director, Outbound Management      Consultancy, Panchgani.  These activites together with the spiritual sessions clearly define the vibrancy and dexterity of the organizers in nurturing a healthy and compassionate mind.

Other inspirational stories included Kenyan Johnson Mwakazi, Editorial Director, W TV Nairobi, who has come a long way in his career from pushing handcarts to carrying water for sale, to working as a manual labourer and his desire to make a difference in peoples lives through mentorship and fighting corruption created a precedent which encouraged other Kenyans to refuse to submit to corrupt norms. Mr. Prasad Chandran, former Chairman, BASF India ltd. from India courageously pursues in his quest to fight corruption and promotes ethical eadership in India.

The most enriching and tintilating experience of the conference were the many popular Initiative of Change (IoC) songs which set the tone  for  the  many plenary sessions. The participants were struck by the powerful words of the song such as ‘It‘s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness‘, ‘To bow and to bend we shan‘t be ashamed’,                                                                    ‘Walk a mile in another man‘s moccasins’ and the many other songs led by the Asia Plateau Interns especially Masaki Yamada and musician Leslie Nazareth. Indeed, during the conference sessions, from dining room service to technical management, the operational side of the centre is also mostly run by volunteers and young participants in the Caux Interns Leadership coming from all over the world.

On day four at  the  Global  Nite,  people from  various  countries,  many  in  their  traditional  costume, came forward to present their best, through song, dance, music, or story. Many of us participants joined in the traditional Japanese dance and lastly the vibrant Bollywood number. This picture was an unique show of comradeship and breaking the barriers of human silos and idiosyncrasies. This diversity of age, background and culture is a core aspect of the Caux experience.

Some features of each of the conferences are common: each day starts with a time  of silent reflection to process the experiences of the previous day and to gain fresh perspective. As dusk descended on the plateau, it was time for soup and food, mint tea and informal  chat. In between, the days are filled with exciting plenary sessions with various notable speakers delivering insightful perspectives on leadership and business ethics, followed by open discussion interactions with CEO’s from major established industries in India sharing their experiences and thoughts on making business an engine for sustainable growth in their respective industries. These plenary session’s and open discussions are interspersed with many popular Initiative of Change (IoC) songs which set the tone  for  an eventful day.

The distinction between a good conference and others is whether it keeps an open mind to the entire subject, stays humble about solutions and improvements, is grounded in real life experience, involves diverse perspectives, and vigilantly prevents the program from being dominated by any one voice or personality. All of these things were accomplished at this conference.

I am deeply convinced that Asia plateau provides a unique and privileged space, for those who wish, to take on more responsibility in civil society, the economy and in politics to build a greater future and to uncover new paths that might have never been walked on before.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Business Ethics Institute Of Malaysia (BEIM), its Chairman and Executive Director for extending the invite to this excellent organized Conference. Much has being said in the Conference and it came out clear that the Malaysian chapter has to formulate its own fundamental ethical principles to create the kind of society, government and business it requires for sustainable growth. In this context, I would do my utmost best to commit my labour and thoughts to BEIM    in playing a very significant role in the subject matter of Moral Rearmament in Malaysia.

Thank You.