Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)

In Search of Organisational Soul–II (Part 4)

Blue flower



Authors: Suhas Mehra & Beloo Mehra. Published in the February 2017 issue of Sraddha, Vol. 8 (3), pp. 104-119.

Organisations where Soul Feeling/Seeking Predominates

This growing tendency to seek a subjective communal consciousness is predominantly seen among new business organisations and those struggling to rediscover their identity or redefine themselves in some manner. Sri Aurobindo explains why this may be so:

“For these need more to feel the difference between themselves and others so that they may assert and justify their individuality as against the powerful superlife which tends to absorb or efface it. And precisely because their objective life is feeble and it is difficult to affirm it by its own strength in the adverse circumstances, there is more chance of their seeking for their individuality and its force of self-assertion in that which is subjective and psychological or at least in that which has a subjective or a psychological significance.”[i]

This could also explain why in spite of the odds of success stacked up against many start-up organisations some of them end up becoming highly successful. (Another possible reason for the success of some start-ups could be that in their earlier stages of development, many organisations are usually highly driven by the energy of some new or innovative idea they are trying to execute.) We can find several examples within India such as PVR, which completely changed the movie-watching experience; MakeMyTrip, which revolutionized online travel business; Mirchi Radio, which dramatically changed the scene of radio programming; MittiCool, which revived among the urban classes the use of eco-friendly clay products for cooking and storage. All these start-ups and many others like these began with a seed-idea to bring innovative products and services to the marketplace. But a common psychological factor driving these organisations was to create their own unique identity, their own niche in the big and competitive world of business. This deeper need “to be ourselves,”[ii] “to feel the difference between themselves and others,”[iii] and to seek their own individuality by working on some completely radical ideas (at the time) provided them the necessary subjective collective or communal sense of identity.

Newton’s law of inertia, namely, “an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a net force” can help us understand some of the psychological tendencies found among individuals and collectives. More often than not, an individual tends to make major lifestyle changes only when faced with some kind of existential issues. Same may be true for organizations. Consider the case of Microsoft as discussed earlier. Or any of the organizations studied by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” in which he finds that in all organizations transitioning from being laggards to leaders the common threads generally included a process of deep soul searching, of discovering or rediscovering their core purpose and mission, and accordingly making appropriate changes to the organisational structure and work culture.

Let’s take another example of how companies may be forced to take a deeper look at themselves because of an emerging threat to their business. Patanjali Ayurved, which started only ten years ago has now become a formidable force in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) market. During the year 2009-10 it had a modest turnover of Rs.163 crore. During 2015-16 financial year it reported a whopping turnover of Rs.5,000 crore and aims to double it to Rs.10,000 crore during the current fiscal year. The 5,000-crore revenue in FY15-16, which is a 150 per cent growth from a year earlier, is in line with estimates drawn up by some foreign brokerage firms that analysed the company’s products and business model.[iv] Its spectacular success has generated ripples across the FMCG market and has been a super destructive force to “the business as usual” attitude of its competition. This gives the old well-established brands in FMCG market a much needed jolt to introspect and identify their unique ‘identity.’

 “To be ourselves” rather than to become like others is a move toward greater subjective sense of what is an individual, what is a nation or any collective or any organisation. In this seeking of the “deeper being, its inner law, its real self” and in this quest to “live according to that and no longer by artificial standards” [v]  necessary attention must be paid to the dangers and errors on the path.




[i] Sri Aurobindo. CWSA, Vol. 25, p. 38

[ii] p. 39

[iii] p. 38

[iv] Will double turnover to Rs 10,000 crore in 1 year: Patanjali.

[v] Sri Aurobindo. CWSA, Vol 25, p. 39

Have you read Parts 1, 2, 3?

About Suhas Mehra

An agricultural engineer and food technologist by training and education. Many years of experience in food technology research and development, in international research organisations as well as big multinational corporations. Personal interest led me to study business management as well. Presently working as a part-time consultant for a socially responsible business organisation in Auroville. Other interests include studying Sri Aurobindo's social and cultural thought, photography and lazying around.

2 comments on “In Search of Organisational Soul–II (Part 4)

  1. Pingback: In Search of Organisational Soul–II (Conclusion) | matriwords

  2. ashokbhatia
    October 11, 2017

    Much before Patanjali, we had Nirma. We also had the Cavin Care initiated sachet revolution. Surely, these are inspirational cycles which keep coming from time to time.
    I believe the culture of an organization manifests itself in many ways. One of these is the kind of operating culture it cultivates.


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