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Smart Cities, The Future of Sustainable Infrastructure: PRME 2018, IILM

After a highly educational first session on the 2nd Day of the PRME Conference at the IILM campus in Lodhi Road, it was time to dig deeper into the issues plaguing sustainable development, resolution of which could accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. One of the major issues that needed to be addressed before implementing educational reforms was sustainable infrastructure, an aspect often overlooked in the scheme of things. Coordinated by Prof. Anirudh Luthra, the speaker panel of the session on Infrastructure Through The Lens Of Sustainability consisted of stellar personalities bringing in immense knowledge and experience for the eager young audience from top MBA colleges in Delhi.

Grow Smart, Be Smart:

Colonel Prakash Tewari, Executive Director at CSR wing of DLF Foundation, took the stage to shed some light on practices and knowledge needed to grow ethically and responsibly with sustainable infrastructure. He took the enraptured audience through the journey of building a smart city by elaborating on the evolution of Gurugram with DLF, rising from a barren land to a hub of housing offices of major Fortune 500 countries and contributing 3% to India’s total GDP. He also acknowledged that every resolution needs to be well-informed, after considering social, ecological, economic, and political factors that can be impacted by the resolution.

Needed Focus on Resource Longevity:

The second speaker for the session was Mr. Pranshu Gupta from Accenture Strategy India, who led an interactive session with the audience on their perception of Sustainable Infrastructure. He emphasized on the resource longevity as one of the core aspects of sustainable infrastructure that needs more focus. He illustrated his concern with the concept of Day Zero, a condition affecting Cape Town on a large scale. With 60% of India’s population posed to reside in cities by 2030, huge pressure on natural resources is anticipated. Such incidents, he said, would slowly snowball into the much-feared 2 centigrade worldwide temperature rise. Grim realities of global warming were also brought to the forefront, indicating that starting and implementing changes for sustainable development at the earliest was extremely critical. Mr. Gupta then proceeded to identify the challenges and opportunities associated with building smart cities – from ecological to financial as well as legal, along with the execution that plays a big role in determining the success of sustainable infrastructure development.

Benchmark & Performance Metrics much needed:

The final speaker of the session was Mr. Ajay Tyagi, Managing Partner, Lex Terrae who held a conversation with the audience and other speakers about maintaining a uniform standard and accountability for building every smart city unit across the country. He highlighted the importance of indulging in critical analysis of the solution before the actual execution of the tasks. Mr. Tewari elucidated with a real-life example of canal-building in the desert area of Rajasthan that eventually led to much-bigger ecological problems, thereby emphasizing the need for a thorough evaluation considering everything that could be affected by the move.

During the Q&A session that followed, the impact on and contribution to rural areas was brought to the surface where the speakers highlighted the effective and very often ingenious solutions the rural folks had for sustainable infrastructure around them. This affirmed their views that drawing knowledge from the local population can be extremely beneficial in creating solutions that can be applicable everywhere. The extremely enlightening session ended with a thunderous round of applause, all students from top MBA colleges in India invigorated and knowledgeable about the huge potential that came with building sustainable infrastructure to save the future.

4 Things I Learned at PRME 2018 Session on Impactful Innovations for Sustainable Development

For three eventful days, IILM, one of the best MBA colleges in India, was buzzing with the 5th International Conference on Resolution to Resolve: Sustainability Practices in Industry and Education. And what a spectacular learning experience it turned out to be.

Amongst its many plenary sessions, the most awaited one was on Innovation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage that was pegged for post-lunch on Day 2. The agenda revolved around expanding the scope of innovation to include not only creating something entirely new but coming up with novel ideas to solve existing problems in the society. Over 90 minutes, four experts shared their experience and their respective organization’s impactful innovations bringing about a positive sustainable change.

Here are the four lessons I learned after attending the same:

MBA colleges in India

Management and education are two different languages:

In her talk, Dr. Shalini Lal focused upon the challenge of understanding innovation at management institutions, and integrating it at every level with purpose. Dr. Lal also differentiated the two languages of management and education on various points, such as failure, which is often viewed negatively in management, while being conversely true in innovation labs.

“There need to be enough people at the highest levels of an organization who understand and are able to speak the language of innovation for them to be able to see potential in ideas that get generated,” she remarked.

Block-chain technology is the next big thing in sustainable development:

Mr. Ravi Chamria, CEO, Block Chain Enthusiast and Fintech Expert, was the next speaker in the session who enlightened the audience on the history of block-chain technology and Bitcoin, its components, and how his organization has used it as a game-changer for sustainable innovation in fields such as food supply chains and mining.

Commenting on the complete transparency and sustainability of a blockchain process in businesses, Mr. Chamria said, “Through a smart contract on the blockchain, it is ensured that whatever has been authorized through a sustainability certificate, it is being adhered to.”

The purpose of every business should be innovation

 Next, Mr. Ravi Bhatnagar, Head External Affairs & Partnerships, Reckitt Benckiser, spoke about the various collaborations of his firm with the UN and its Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the various innovations that the company has introduced, like the Rexbot AI for queries on sexual health or Augmented Reality for delivering education. Another interesting topic which he touched upon was the need to encourage B-school and PGDM students to come up with innovations of their own, something which Reckitt Benckiser’s Mavericks Challenge does by creating an innovation pipeline and platform for the brightest management minds of the country.

“If we are not purpose-led, and if we are not thinking about innovation and sustainable competitive advantage, there are good chances of failure. The purpose should come before business. If you are not investing in the future, which is the next 10 years, in terms of your consumers, it will be too late,” he concluded.

Sustainable development from the perspective of work-life balance:

The final speaker at the session was Prof Holger Briel, Dean, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, China, who discussed the concepts of co-living and co-working spaces and read his paper on the findings of both practices in Europe and India. Interestingly, Prof Briel was not an endorser of the practices as he called for inclusion of employee happiness as an important factor in the sustainability of businesses and organizations. Towards the end, he gave three recommendations at a personal, organizational and government level that can enable organizations and individuals to create perfect work-life balance.

To sum up, the future of management and organizations is intricately tied to innovation which takes into account sustainable development goals set by the UN. For aspiring students of business, this was a great lesson in the importance of sustainability and the need to think out of the box.