Indian School of Business (ISB) – Non-standard Essay on “River Zumba” (2010 Application)

You have been appointed to head the team to build a dam across the River Zumba. Success in this project is critical for your company and would earn you a promotion. Failure would mean that your company would be bankrupt and will take along with it, its investors and its employees. Building a dam across the river would result in deforestation of a portion of the rainforests and would mean relocation of the tribals and destabilization of wild life at Zumba. There is resistance from environmental groups against your project. You are meeting the head of the resistance movement in one hour wherein you would have to explain your decision. Describe what you would do and why? (You will be evaluated on the creativity and practicality of your solution).  (300 words max)

I believe that the current stand-off related to the Zumba River Dam Project is due to a Win-Loose situation. The resistance movements (tribals and environmentalists) foresee an environmental damage and destabilization of life – which is a “loss” for them. Unless the other side does not sense a “win”, it will lead to a “loose-loose” situation whereby the project would have to be terminated.

My action plan would be based on an honest intent of creating a “Win-win” situation for all stakeholders. It would involve (a) Winning the resistance’s trust and bringing in the vision of planned, advanced ecosystem after the dam has been built (b) Therefore, bringing in an afforestation plan (alongside the river) which would provide employment to tribals and at the same time generate profitable “Carbon Credits” for a newly formed sister concern of the company. The concern would be accountable to a third-party organization (e.g. The UN) that would act as a neutral facilitator. It would employ the displaced tribals and divert a portion of profits towards development/funding of a hospital and schools in the area over time. Such an arrangement would have a minimal impact on the company’s bottom-line when compared with project termination. (c) I would also highlight the other parallel benefits from the project – clean water supply, energy production, tourism and tremendous economic opportunity. The collective benefits for the affected persons would thus outweigh the “losses”.

My opening conversation with the head of the resistance would be mainly focused on highlighting my company’s integrity. Since the issue has escalated to such a point, I would be aware that either – the developmental benefits (c) alone have not found favor with the resistance – or they are concerned with the company’s integrity or both! I would thus focus on the “win-win” mainly from point (b) above and then move on to point (c). This two pronged approach with a vision about sustainable, planned development would provide a firm negotiating ground and subsequently a resolution of conflict.

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