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Beginning at Belu

By Aaima Ali   My first month at Belu has been an eye-opener in so many ways. I’ve joined the company at a very exciting time. The role that I’ve taken up is a new one within the company. One which has allowed me to work with people handling different domains, getting a holistic understanding of the business. What I’ve been learning is the kind of knowledge that you would not just want to keep to yourself but spread around, for everyone to know about the importance of doing meaningful business (and I find myself doing quite a bit of that now, especially with friends and family). First and most important learning: Profits and consciousness can go hand in hand and should, go hand in hand. It’s been an interesting year for me, I moved countries to start my MSc in the UK, a much-awaited milestone that was delayed due to the pandemic, and travel restrictions.  A year later, while I was finishing up my dissertation and applying for jobs, I came across a role at Belu. I have always known that my interest lies in the framework and workings of sustainable and meaningful businesses. Knowing little about the scale of operations, I started researching Belu, the contributions they have made to WaterAid and how they have collectively changed the lives of so many people. I also ended up discovering that their impact has stretched towards some of the disadvantaged desert communities (void of basic access to water and toilets) in my home country (Pakistan) as well. I had read up so much about the company, its offerings, its mission to do good and change perceptions, that I knew it was where I wanted to be. The deeper I dug, the more I wanted to be a part of this small team, making such a big impact. Not knowing how it would work out for me, I had a series of interviews with the wonderful Nat, Charlotte and Claire, before finally getting selected for the role. To say that I was overjoyed, would be an understatement. It was the right opportunity at the right time, and I know that they don’t come about easily. While we have a virtual team setup, my 3rd day at work was an extremely insightful team meeting where I got to meet everyone in person. We started with a small team-building exercise on the MBTI, learning more about each other’s personalities, the aim of which was to understand and respect individual differences within a team, and how to work around them. This was followed by a presentation and discussion on Belu’s financial position for the year 2021, and targets and objectives, for the coming year. The company has emerged even stronger through the pandemic, offering a new product range altogether (the tonics and mixers), and still managing to meet the contribution targets towards WaterAid (over £5 million so far). The second week of work was a very exciting one. In celebration of a colleague (Micky) birthday, and me joining the team, we had lunch at a fabulous Thai restaurant called Plaza Khao Gaeng (Located inside the Arcade). They also happen to be new customers of Belu collective.  Along with this, I had the chance to visit some of our existing customers, and hopefully new ones. I observed, heard, asked questions, and absorbed. I have been learning about the company’s CRM software, witnessing the effort and hard work that goes into recording and maintaining elaborate customer databases, researching, and familiarising myself with the workings of our team and company. It’s been amazing to see how people want to do things differently these days. Doing good business and making profits is not a one path destination. I’m excited to be a part of the change that Belu continues to bring about! Everyone in the team has been super, and immensely supportive in helping me understand how the company works. There has been constant support from everyone, regardless of their role within the company. Belu does not have a rigid organisational structure, the information is free flowing, and guidance has come from all directions. A contemporary and conscientious business setup is best suited to the world we live in today. It offers freedom, flexibility, and transparency. Main takeaways from the past month:
  • Being sustainable is harder than it may seem. The market is a complicated place, raw material is hard to source, and establishing a supply chain that incorporates environmental goals is a tough task.
  • Transparency in business operations is not only doable, but imperative in running a business that prioritises people and the planet in the way that profits are made.
  • The basic necessities that we take for granted (clean water and sanitation), millions of people around the world are deprived of them. However, this is a problem with a cure. WaterAid’s efforts are a constant reminder of how this does not have to be the case, we can help improve the lives of all these people.
  • In the famous words of Steve Job’s, “Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” I feel grateful to be a part of such a strong one.
  Some parting words of wisdom: Words sound fancier when they are abbreviated. Do NOT get intimidated by them. If you don’t know something, just ask. Apprehension hinders success.

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