Trust and Faith

We often use the terms trust and faith interchangeably. Trust is the belief in something or someone that you have had direct or physical experience with. Faith is belief in something that you have never had any physical contact with, nor there is any scientific proof that it exists.

Faith is a more commonly used in a spiritual context while trust is an important foundation of relationships. Trust reaffirms the human value.

Trust would actually mean that a person places complete confidence in dealings with another person. The person believes that the person he/she is trusting will not harm him/her in any way.

Trust in business relationship is built over a period of years and in some businesses trust is a part of tradition.

Have you heard of the Angadias? The word angadia means courier in Hindi. These couriers act as a parallel banking system for businessmen. They charge a commission of around 0.2–0.5% per transaction from transferring money physically from one city to another. The Angadia system works on mutual trust and there is no documentation of any kind for the transaction. Even today, they are the conduit to the transfer of millions of rupees belonging to traders and rich people. Their area of operation is mainly between Mumbai and Gujarat in India.

Trust grows over time. For example, initially a businessman sells his goods to his new customer with less credit because of lack of trust. If the customer does not default on payment over a period of time say one year, the credit is enhanced. If the customer defaults on payment, then the credit given is withdrawn completely. Today credit card companies use your timely repayment as means to rate their trust in you and give you a higher score and enhanced credit limit.

As I said earlier, Faith is more commonly used in spiritual context. For example: you may have complete faith in God although you have not seen him. Faith comes from our belief system and is therefore stays unshaken. Losing faith is generally rare.

Faith is the surrender of the mind, it’s the surrender of reason. In the trying times of COVID-19, people must be surviving or fighting the battle because of faith.  Faith is also called “the substance of hope.” But faith does not have to be religious.

Faith is something you may or may not have. But trust is something you do or in fact have to do. People who don’t trust anyone live through hard times.

I remember when I was getting wheeled to the Operation Theatre in the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, Dr Rajani, my cardiac surgeon tried to cheer me up saying “Dr Modak, don’t worry. It will be OK”. And I said “Dr Rajani, I trust you. I know you will do your best”

When I was on the table, the anaesthetist held my hand and said, “You look pretty calm Dr Modak”. I said “Doc, I have full faith that I will be alright”.

I didn’t realize that I was speaking about both trust and faith in those trying times.

My father trusted everybody he worked with. Many cheated him and he lost lot of money and faced difficult times. But his faith remained unshaken.

In business, research by PwC has revealed that trust could be boiled down to three key elements. Competence, experience and values.

Competence – Does the organization do what it says it will?
People expect companies to be reliable and transparent. A fast-food company should be upfront about the possibility their delivery will be delayed, for example. In cases of major delay, companies should be forthright about not even accepting the customer’s order. Fast food is supposed to be “fast”, after all. I have been running Environmental Management Centre LLP (EMC) over last 25 years. At my company, we say no to our clients if we feel we are not either competent or overloaded as we are not confident about the quality and timely delivery of our services.

Experience – Does the organization keep its promises?
Companies are expected to be responsive, to listen to public feedback, to make the necessary improvements and treat customers as individuals. Every year I send emails to my clients asking whether we kept our promises and these emails are direct and not shared with my colleagues. This helps me to act on the feedback and continue to build the trust.

Values – Do you believe in the organization?
People want brands to understand their needs, to hold the right sort of principles and to care about their impact on society. Clothing retailers that source their cotton from fair trade suppliers are increasingly in demand because they are not seen to be exploiting cheap labour and because their products will benefit small-scale agricultural workers. Over years, our profit and loss statements are transparent and our commercial quotes reveal how we arrived at our fees.

Building trust does matter. We see its evidence in both small companies and large corporations. You lose your “brand” when you lose trust. Think of scandals on vehicle emissions and contaminated soft drinks as examples. On the other side, we also see examples of positives when the trust stands valid against time and circumstances. Building trust should therefore be on the business agenda. But don’t you think it should be considered as part of your business ethics?

Faith also has a role to play in the business. For example, entrepreneurship is not possible without faith. It’s just not possible to be in control of a situation of chaos and still be confident of getting towards the outcomes. It does not necessarily have to be faith in God, but it is a faith in something that keeps entrepreneurs going. And if you put ten entrepreneurs in a room to discuss miracles in their business; one story will follow another, and a number of stories will show the power of faith. When I was in the times of trouble, my father used to say “ it will all be fine, one day”.

Have you heard about the Jakhoo Temple of Lord Hanuman (Monkey God) in the hills of Shimla in India?  It is situated on Jakhoo Hill, Shimla’s highest peak. ]According to the Ramayana, Lord Hanuman stopped at this location to rest while searching for the Sanjivani Booti to revive Lakshmana.

I was in Shimla to advise the Government of Himachal Pradesh on Environmental Master Plan of the State. I finished my meetings late noon and was free. I expressed my wish to the Additional Chief Secretary that I would like to visit Jakhoo temple. She promptly arranged a vehicle and an officer to accompany.

Jakhoo Temple

This is a story of 2002. At that time there was no rope way to go up the hill as it is now today.

Our car reached the foot of the Jakhoo hill. When I looked up, I realized that it was going to be a daunting task for me to reach the temple given my heart ailment. There were at least 200 steep steps to climb. The area was forested and there were wild monkeys jumping around making shrill sounds and showing their teeth. The time was close to the sunset, getting dark and a bit scary. Perhaps the temple was going to close as we were the only ones there.

The officer who knew my heart condition advised that we do not risk climbing and do prayers from the foot of the hill. He was right I thought. But somehow, the urge to reach the temple beat the rationality. I told the officer that I will climb, and we will go up slowly and stop as needed so that I can catch my breath. The officer reluctantly agreed and warned me that there was not going to be any medical help available should an untoward incident happened. I told him “Don’t worry. I have faith that it will all be OK”. I don’t know why but the officer trusted me.

It took time for us to reach the temple. The temple’s door was closed. I was disappointed. I still thought I should check out and so pushed the door.

There were 10 people sitting inside along with the Priest. They welcomed me as if they were waiting for someone.

The priest said “Gentleman, we were about to chant Hanuman Chalisa (a prayer to Lord Hanuman) and were waiting for the 11th person to step in. As you know Hanuman Chalisa is best performed by a group of 11. So, you were destined”

Trust me that it was perhaps my faith that was the reason for that destiny.

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