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Rahul Malhotra

Rahul Malhotra

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TRENDSETTERS: Shell's Rahul Malhotra Proclaims, "Purpose is Dead, Long Live Purpose."

The Internationalist Trendsetters is written by Deborah Malone, founder of The Internationalist.

As Head of Brand Strategy and Stewardship at Shell, Rahul Malhotra understands how to champion purpose within an organization.  His provocative phrase "Purpose is dead. Long live purpose" borrows from the traditional proclamation hailing the continuity of monarchy: "The king is dead, long live the king."  He believes that prior to COVID-19, purpose was a statement for many organizations.  "Going forward," he says, "purpose must truly become part of an organization's DNA to instill value and trust.  Purpose is not a desktop exercise; it has to start with why you exist."

Rahul Malhotra recognizes that there are elements of purpose that will evolve, while other core aspects must remain the same. "More than ever before, COVID-19 has triggered organizations to reset and rethink their purpose and role in the socio-economic eco system of our planet."

He finds there are essentially three types of organizations that are looking to evolve their efforts to become purpose-led:

  1. Those that have no expression of purpose or just a superficial articulation.  They need to reset and reactivate their work with purpose so they can be responsible today to be consistent for tomorrow.
  2. Those who articulate purpose but have not yet embedded into their culture.  His advice is that they find experts who can help facilitate this.
  3. Those who are well ahead in becoming a purposeful organization.  Their role is to find business models that can help with larger issues for the benefit of society and the planet. These companies can make business different and better through their optimism and innovation.

To hear more from Rahul Malhotra, tune in to our Trendsetters podcast as he discusses the importance of a purpose-led organization and how to make it an organic part of a company's culture.   CLICK HERE.

In our conversation, we discuss the following:

  • How notions of purpose changed since COVID-19. 
  • Ways in which any company should go about finding its purpose.
  • Who in the organization needs be the champion of its purpose-led efforts?  Who actualizes those efforts?
  • In the aftermath of COVID-19, some companies may feel that they cannot afford to organize for purpose given new economic pressures. What do they do? 
  • Many organizations—large and small—have been both generous and responsible throughout this crisis.  Should this be considered purposeful actions or do these organizations have more work to do to become truly purpose-driven?
  • Does Marketing (and the role of marketing) make a difference to purpose?
  • What is the next evolution of purpose?

Rahul Malhotra is responsible for global brand strategy and architecture for the Shell brand family, valued at $42 billion. In addition to overseeing brand identity, brand stewardship, and employee ambassadorship, he leads Shell's successful program to embed purpose deep into the DNA of employee behavior, strategic choices, and value propositions to all stakeholders. His prior roles at Shell include general manager of the company's global Styrene business and GM of the LPG business for the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Southern Africa.

Before his 12 years at Shell-- based in Singapore, and then London, he also spent 12 years at Procter & Gamble throughout the Asia region.  His roles included Marketing Head- Asia for the $150 million OTC healthcare busines in the region and Head of Marketing for P&G India.  His earliest role while based in Japan was Pampers Global Brand Manager for emerging markets.