Godrej’s Culture Lab brings people and ideas together to build a better world

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It is an alternative intellectual hub for India, which will facilitate dialogical engagement with the academia, the creative industries, the corporate world and not-for-profit sectors.

Culture defines the social behaviour of people and is at the core of how people come together to form groups that can benefit businesses, societies and even the entire existence of humans on the whole.

This is why, culture cannot be ignored, as it has the power to influence thoughts, people and how they look at the world they live in. When it comes to workplaces, corporates have as much a part to play in conserving, creating and developing unique cultures as the creative industries.

In line with this thought, Godrej set up a cultural lab seven years ago. The Godrej India Culture Lab is a fluid experimental space that cross-pollinates ideas and people to explore what it means to be modern and Indian. Based in Godrej One, the Company’s new headquarters in Mumbai, the Lab works on the idea of culture with a small ‘c’. That is, in its everydayness, beyond the narrow definition that confines it to the domains of the visual, performing or fine arts. 

It is an alternative intellectual hub for India, which enables dialogical engagement with the academia, the creative industries, the corporate world and not-for-profit sectors, positioning it at the confluence of creativity and change.

Parmesh Shahani, head-Godrej India Culture Lab, who is also an author, venture capitalist, entrepreneur, ethnographer, curator and a cultural catalyst, says, “When we set up the Culture Lab seven years ago, the idea was to create meaningful public conversations around contemporary changes in the world around us.”

Parmesh Shahani

Organisations need to re-imagine workplaces as spaces where people get to learn and see meaning in things around them. It is high time organisations up their commitment towards culture, society, people and issues that concern all of us. It is a call to action for more companies to set up similar platforms for stimulating conversations and activities that are meaningful to humanity.

 

He shares that it has been a great journey so far as they have been able to create stimulating conversations around issues that matter to people, societies and businesses as well. While one would wonder what a business has got to do with global warming and other societal and environmental issues, there’s a lot to be thought about here.

“Will there even be any businesses over the next few decades if the whole planet gets drowned due to the effects of global warming on our environment? We all need to have these conversations collectively and work around it,” Shahani opines. The ideas that are triggered and generated through these conversations and activities, open up people’s minds.

When we asked Shahani as to why a business should care to invest its time and resources into something like this, he counter-questioned, “Why should a business not?” He is of the view that a workplace is not some place where someone comes to just work towards earning a living, but it is where people learn, gain perspective and form opinions about themselves and the world around them. It is an established fact that organisations play an important role in shaping people’s thoughts.

He feels that, “Organisations need to re-imagine workplaces as spaces where people get to learn and see meaning in things around them. It is high time organisations up their commitment towards culture, society, people and issues that concern all of us. It is a call to action for more companies to set up similar platforms for stimulating conversations and activities that are meaningful to humanity.”

Although the Culture Lab is an open forum for people from varied walks of life, it engages Godrej employees in a unique way as well.

Some of the themes that the Culture Lab at Godrej has explored so far include reimagining the use of urban spaces, the negotiation of gender and sexuality, the varied impacts of the digital age and how desi innovations are inherently jugaadu. Through the Lab, Godrej is able to create a certain kind of atmosphere that encourages new ideas and opportunities. The Lab’s insights and inputs have shaped several of Godrej’s group efforts, including the Godrej LOUD Campus Challenge, the Godrej Leadership Forum, the Diversity and Inclusion initiative, the GPL Design Studio, and BBlunt.

In addition to these, the Culture Lab just introduced a Leadership Programme, which is an internship with a difference. Aimed at giving students of humanities a chance to know what it means to work in the cultural sector of India, it is a month-long paid intensive internship.

Such recruitment drives are generally limited to business-school campuses. However, there is a wealth of talent from humanities that is often left to find its own way, stumbling into jobs they might not like as they search for the right career. The leadership programme fills this gap and aims to shift the needle on recruitment in the cultural industry.

For the selection process, the Culture Lab spoke to students of architecture, design, political science, history, media, and so on from six different institutes. The top 15 were called in for personal interviews, of which the final seven were selected. Through the programme, the students had an opportunity to dive deep into the various aspects of culture making. It is a radical new approach to hiring for the cultural industry and the possibilities of the programme are limitless.

Together, the Culture Lab and the Leadership Programme team, co-curated an event around the final idea, which is Urdu Culture Now—an exploration of the different expressions of Urdu in contemporary India. By the end of this programme, the students will have met leaders from the cultural industry, built a strong base of contacts, and will have knowledge of hosting fabulous cultural events.
Additionally, the Culture Lab is open to hiring from the Leadership Programme too.

 

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