The annual two-day event here where business heads talk of other-wordly matters on a scale they normally aren't perceived to do opened here today.
The Corporate Culture and Spirituality Conference, co-organised by the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) and the Art of Living Foundation of Sri Sri' Ravi Shankar, began its 10th edition at the latter's campus here. Where, for instance, you had sentiments expressed such as this one from K V Kamath, veteran banker and also chairman of Infosys: "Articulation of corporate social responsibility and transparency for the common good is the key to change. An organisation's DNA is its culture and one needs to finetune it in a holistic manner."
The event has been a big draw over the years. The organisers say the idea is for "leaders" from business, governance, academia, civil society and faith-based organisations to come together and "dialogue, network and explore business potentials and discover the benefits of emerging paradigms in leadership".
The exercise, first begun in 2003, does spark a fair amount of synicism from watchers, given the added stated aim of "a platform for leading minds to share experiences and expertise on the value of an ethics-based approach, the impact of this approach on the bottom line and to enable business leaders to understand the integration of spiritual values in business practices".
Ravi Shankar, who has a substantial following here and abroad, sees no need for doubt in these matters. "Just as you need both scissors and a needle to make a garment," he said today, in his address, "similarly, business and spirituality go hand in hand. One cuts and the other joins and both have an important role to make the garment. In spirituality, we tap into the world of intuition, which is an important aspect of success in business."
Whether they agree wholeheartedly or not, the event has seen a good amount of corporate bodies sponsoring the event - ICICI, HDFC, Bank of Baroda, Barclays, Indian Overseas Bank, British Biologicals, Canara Bank, Tata Communications, among others.
Among those who saw it as a good opportunity to mix matters temporal with the more spiritual was the state government - it has found it a good place to highlight Karnataka as a major investment destination. "This will facilitate an understanding of the business environment in the state and enable prospective investors to interact with key government figures and local businesses to gain knowledge of the fiscal and financial incentive packages for investment," said a supportive Shiva Shanmugam, president, FKCCI.